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Des Moines Art Center features first video project by artist Jeffrey Gibson


On Friday, May 24, the Des Moines Art Center will open Jeffrey Gibson: I Was Here, which runs through Sept. 22, in the Pamela Bass-Bookey and Harry Bookey Gallery.

For the past two decades, artist Jeffrey Gibson has been producing work that addresses themes such as race, gender, sexuality, and religion. At first, Gibson resisted the notion that his art reflected his multifaceted identity. He grew up in Europe, Korea, and the United States. He’s a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and is half-Cherokee. And he identifies as queer. But recently Gibson has admitted, in reference to these cultures and identities, “I’m finally at a point where I can feel comfortable being your introduction.”

In I Was Here, the artist explores “how the representation of one’s subjective narrative is complex, valid, and never didactic.” The work is Gibson’s first video project, and is a hybrid of documentary and invented narrative. It features Macy, a transgender woman living on the Choctaw reservation in Mississippi. It starts by following an ordinary day in Macy’s life, which includes applying make-up and a trip to the Piggly Wiggly. Halfway through, the plot twists and the film becomes more fantastical. We observe Macy traversing an ethereal, wooded landscape and donning garments designed by Gibson, eventually baptizing herself in a body of water.

Accompanying the piece is an original soundtrack composed by Canadian (Inuk) throat singer Tanya Tagaq. One of the oldest forms of music, throat-singing in Canada is native to the Inuit, and is traditionally only performed by women. Tagaq’s short, sharp, rhythmic inhalations and exhalations add rawness and emotion to the video.

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