Addoley Dzegede: Art of the gesture

An artwork can be an object. But for Addoley Dzegede, who will receive her Master of Fine Arts from the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts May 15, it is more like a conceptual approach, one that informs sculpture, audience interactions and environmental interventions alike.

You employ a range of different media and artistic strategies. How would you define your practice?

Addoley Dzegede: Visually, my work can seem like it wasn’t made by the same person! (Laughs.) But it is linked thematically. Mostly it has to do with home and belonging. It’s about questioning spaces where I don’t feel I belong, and where other people might not feel they belong, and saying, “It’s okay to be here!”

Last fall, you installed “Shul,” which consists of 175 hand-cast hypertufa bricks, on the border between St. Louis City and County. What drew you to that site?

It’s where the sidewalk ends! A sign says “Begin St. Louis County Maintenance,” and the road is darker and fresher on the county side. But the county side doesn’t have a sidewalk, so people in the area, including me, had worn a pathway with their feet. I thought, “Why don’t I make a gesture here?”

How did people react?

At one open studio, a woman told me that it’s great on muddy days because she doesn’t have to walk in the street. That was pretty nice.

Now they’re disappearing. Grass is growing over them. But that’s part of it too. They’re not meant to be permanent.

For “Foundations,” currently on view in the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, you’ve transformed an old art history slide catalog into a kind of metaphorical autobiography. Can you describe the piece?

Addoley Dzegede

“Foundations” as installed in the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum — part of the “2015 MFA Thesis Exhibition.” The show remains on view through Aug. 2.
Photo by Katherine Bish.

Addoley Dzegede

Dzegede at work on “Foundations” in her Lewis Center studio. Dzegede will speak at the Graduate School of Art recognition ceremony.
Photo by Stan Strembicki.

It has to do with identity and identity construction. It’s about building spaces of belonging for myself and for other people.

There are 26 drawers, as well as eight windows and a door. The drawers contain small objects: a shell, an American flag, the Ghanaian game oware. One drawer, called “Genesis,” has a video of a baby floating in darkness. Another drawer has a crossword puzzle I made about the intersections of race, class and gender. The answer key is on the back.

The windows aren’t meant to be opened, but they have tiny window coverings. Behind the peephole is a flickering candle, letting you know that someone is home.


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