Amber Doe (b. Washington DC) currently lives and works in Tucson, AZ. She holds a BFA from Sarah Lawrence College and is a recipient of the 2021 Abbey Awards Fellowship, 2021 Connect the Dots Fellowship, and a recipient of 2017 and 2016 Lyman Fund Grant. Her work has been included in exhibitions at the Museum of Museums, Seattle, the Amarillo Museum of Art, Amarillo, The Irwin House Gallery, Detroit, The LeRoy Neiman Art Center, New York, Gabriel Rolt Gallery, Amsterdam, La Ira de Dios, Buenos Aires, MCLA Gallery, MA, and a solo performance exhibition at The Thief Hotel, Oslo.
I am a multimedia artist who uses sculpture and performance to bear witness to the experiences of black women even as American society aims to render us and our lives as invisible and meaningless. Despite the prevalent “urban black” narrative, my experience is tied to the natural world, and I use materials that reference my desert environment and my lived experience as a black woman with Indigenous roots: palm leaves, branches, flowers, hair extensions, and cotton rope all give form to my sculptures, installations, videos, and performances.
Self Portrait, 2002, 61″ x 34,” Organic cotton rope, metal hoops.
Self Portrait is a reaction to not feeling at home in my own home (country). In an attempt to transmute my outsider status I looked to the spider. A fearsome, magical creature that can create its home anywhere. I made my own home/reflection. Cotton a cash crop, my ancestors a cash crop. Lynching rope. American wealth as rope. Unraveled and reshaped into my image.
Photo by Jeffry Scott
Ho! For Shame! S.S. All of history is in my body, printed linen, dried flowers, kanekalon, shaved wood. 192cm x 134cm.
Ho! For Shame! S.S. All of history is in my body is the main sail.
“Are black women still the beached whale of the sexual universe, un- voiced, misseen, not doing, awaiting their verb” (Spillers 1984, 74). These words from Hortense Spillers’s famous 1984 essay “Interstices: A Small Drama of Words” continue to resonate in our twenty-first-century moment. What Spillers articulates in this phrase is the persistent connection drawn between black women, animality, and sexuality that has long troubled feminist scholars. Spillers argues that slavery and its legacy produce black women as an animalistic other, “the principal point of passage between the human and non-human world. In this way, black women have traditionally been situated as repositories of the natural and unevolved.” – Christine Sharpe, In the Wake
In the work here in Rome I am interrogating my own liberation. Am I natural or unnatural? Who came before me struggling in the wake? Saartjie Baarman, my ancestors that actually came to live and work in Rome, Anarcha, Betsy, Lucy and Aethiops. I am liberating and caring for Saartjie. I am creating a womb for the lost wombs of Anarcha, Betsy and Lucy whose reproductive lives were stolen and uncredited for modern gynecology. I am liberating the baby version of myself that was not allowed on the church bus for being a “nigger.” In conjunction with this sail, Noah and I created an audio collaboration with my marine mammal kin, the dolphin, the whale. They sing to their babies in the womb so they will know their names, recognize their mom’s voice, the voices of their family. My mom sings to me, I sing to Ruby, my grandfather sang to my mom. We are traveling home.
Open Studio Tour
About the Process
My work springs from ancestral and environmental connection - natural and societal. As a descendant of American slavery I look at black experience, mythology, relationships, and rituals. Working from a space of interconnection relates to subject and material. Natural elements like branches, leaves and animals sounds are integral to the work. Material as metaphor is essential, I often end up using myself in my work to increase visibility.
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