Jessica Soares: Who We Are When The Glory Is Gone?

What does it mean when we do not possess the aesthetic markers of belonging? How do we perform through these expectations and how do we reconcile with our realities?

by GRIOT - Published on 27/09/2023
Jessica Soares, Is-my identity unstable,2023. Acrylic iridescent acrylic-and-paper collage on-canvas. COURTESY Rele and the artist

Who We Are When The Glory Is Gone is artist Jessica Soares’ debut exhibition of paintings, journeying through her own experiences with alopecia; a condition characterised by hair thinning and hair loss. The exhibition’s title is spurred on from the reference of a woman’s hair as crowning glory.

This body of paintings is an exploration of the in-between, the oscillation from how we present ourselves to the world against our actual realities. A kind of sense making of being void of said glory.

The works in this series play with wigs and scarves as objects of masking, figures adorned in brightly coloured Victorian dresses in performance of hyper femininity along with etchings of plants half dying and part blooming. The frames inside the frames become a symbolism for our preoccupation with image and the omnipresent hand mirror serves in duality as both confrontation and distortion.

Jessica Soares, Make Believe , 2021. Acrylic and acrylic markers on canvas, 72 x 72inches. COURTESY Rele Gallery and the artist

Embedded inside the paintings are collaged stories and testimonials moving the work from the individual to the collective. A reminder of beauty as a collective burden. In the end, the artist produces a vivid, confrontational, and intimate spectre of paintings. A figurative yet surreal invitation into this state of limbo.

Though the works are inspired by the artist’s lived experience, the journey of hair loss becomes a point of departure into the larger themes of perception, the value of material aesthetics and the difficult task of making peace through iterations of being.

Belonging is fundamental to human desire. But to be seen as our full selves can sometimes be hindered by arbitrary markers. Soares’ work is also a provocation that asks us to see and allow for others to be seen without being burdened by these arbitrary standards.

Jessica Soares, Lady mantle, the rebirth and the revival , 2021.
Acrylic and acrylic makers on canvas
72 x 84inches. COURTESY Rele gallery and the artists

Who We Are When The Glory Is Gone is a navigation of loss, a grieving if we must and reconciliation with self in a world that often doesn’t make room for us when we cannot meet its expectations.

The exhibition is curated by Wana Udobang.

Jessica Soares (Lagos, Nigeria) is an artist working primarily with paint. Mixing drawing and painting techniques, her works stem from personal experiences in questioning the complexities and social notions around women’s hair in contemporary society. Featuring elaborately detailed figures swathed in colourful fabrics, her works also apply Adire fabric in exploring issues of legacy and familial bond.  In 2021, she was selected to be part of the Rele Arts Foundation Young Contemporaries Residency and has gone on to take part in the group exhibition Good Things Come In Threes, (2022), Rele Gallery, Los Angeles, as well as the current solo exhibition Who We Are When The Glory Is Gone (2023) Rele Gallery, Lagos.  She holds a BA degree in Marketing from Redeemer’s University. She lives and works in Lagos, Nigeria.

Who We Are When The Glory Is Gone?
10 Sep 2023 – 21 Oct 2023
Rele, Lagos, Nigeria

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