A main reason people are drawn to works of art is the chance to see themselves reflected in them. So it was for dancer/choreographer Jasmine Hearn, whose blue, sable, and burning took inspiration from a few other artists’ works.
Fueling Hearn’s spirit and imagination was poet Robin Coste Lewis’ triptych poetry collection Voyage of the Sable Venus, as well as imagery from Hearn’s own ongoing collaboration with local visual artist and activist Jennifer Meridian. Hearn says she was particularly struck by the title poem in Lewis’ book, a narrative made up entirely of titles of artworks from ancient times to the present that speak to the black female figure in Western art. In that poem, Hearn says, Lewis was “mapping out this kind of body, this kind of vessel where a spirit can live.” With blue, sable, and burning, Hearn feels she has conjured a similar character, and by embodying this character she is mapping yet another journey. She performs the new solo work Jan. 26, in the gym of The Braddock Carnegie Library.
Hearn calls blue, sable, and burning “a deeply rooted investigation and conversation with myself from a place of darkness and deep feeling,” says Hearn. With the work, the Houston native and Point Park grad says she is inviting others to witness this cathartic conversation.
The 40-minute piece, funded by The Pittsburgh Foundation, grew out of Hearn’s solo work CINDER, which was made while she was an artist-in-residence at Dance Source Houston’s The BARN. It has been developed in residencies at Pearlann Porter’s The Space Upstairs, in Point Breeze, and at New York’s Movement Research through a 2016 Van Lier Fellowship.
Set to a mostly original recorded soundscape created by Hearn and Pittsburgh’s slowdanger, blue, sable, and burning is a mix of dance, theatrical monologue, personal narrative and song, all performed live by Hearn. And like Lewis’ poem, which in part seeks to reclaim negative connotations of the Sable Venus as a symbol of the rape of slave women, Hearn seeks with this solo work to reclaim painful symbols from her own life’s journey.