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Review of Jayde Gibbons' 'MNFR'

Kings are amongst us. Jayde Gibbons sees them and wonders if you see them too.

A barber is seen serving a young patron (‘Get Fresh Friday’). A senior walks with his feathered sidekick (‘Birdman’). The current premier is making a public address (‘Perception vs Reality’). These instances appear in Gibbons’ present exhibition, MFNR (My Negus for Real). It is a photographic treat with a commanding presence in the sanctuary of Masterworks’ Rick Faries Gallery.

Gibbons dedicates this exhibition to the memory of Reginald Furbert. His portrait opens the exhibition. For her, he is an iconic inspiration and an overseeing presence. Widely known as ‘Sonny’, this man was an individual easily ignored, but someone she came to know as intelligent, kind and sweet. He looked out for her. His image is immortalized and future plans are for his name to be attached to tangible support that will assist the endeavors of community-invested black males.

A particular favorite photo of mine is ‘Big Throw’, a profile portrait of a young boy. The puckered lips on his uplifted face is a random expression that is preciously childish and fearless. With its surrounding solid whites and blacks, the photo can be appreciated aesthetically for its combination of abstracted and representational qualities and as a documentation of innocence.

The Exhibition title, unlike its homophone, has historic authenticity as a positive reference to Black Royalty. Its use by Gibbons is then more than a term of endearment. It provides a teachable moment, an affirmation, a diaspora connection that pre-dates western expansion and is her outpouring of respect. Most importantly it is Gibbons’ expression of kinship and ownership.

Jayde Gibbons is proving that her accolades to date are deserving. She is increasingly known and recognized for her vision and accomplishments. These include winning the 2019 Charmin Prize and being selected for the 2020 Bermuda Biennial. She has declared what to expect. Her moniker ‘Queendom Heights’ boldly states her path and place; non-compromising high quality. Sovereignty. Richard Saunders would be proud.

A strength of Gibbons’ work lies in the installation. The variously-sized works, hung in a tight salon style, are appreciated simultaneously as individual works and as a photographic unit. Her grouping contributes to an intimate appeal and was effectively used previously with her ‘Neighborhood Kids’ (2019), and her ‘All the Kings Men’ (2020).

A popular complaint by art audiences is that the Black person, particularly the Black male, has been overlooked or underrepresented in visual art. Is this true? If so, who is responsible? Gibbons has chosen not to rely on the perspectives and choices of inclusion made by others. As a result, her compositions are fresh, presenting a reality largely different from expected characterization. Gibbons supersedes stereotypes and misinformation. She is at home; a sister with genuine interest and care. She is no pushover but travels with a heart- and a camera. Her works reveal no typecast, no sexualization, no criminalization, and no militants. Rather, there are individuals and environments. Workers. Family. Friends. Ace boys. Colleagues. Handsome men. Beautiful humans. Kings.

Dr. Edwin M. E. Smith

September 2021


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