︎ 2020
R is for Racism: How ABC Books Taught Children to Hate

discovery When I was 8 years old, I checked out a group of books from my local library, the Lewis & Clark Branch. Named for its location on the Lewis & Clark trail aka HWY 67 in North St. Louis County, it is a large branch with a decent selection of books. In this group of books was an alphabet book. When I turned to the letter N, I did not recognize the word and I asked my father to tell me what it was. He snatched the book out of my hands and stormed off with it. He never talked to me about what it said but I knew it made him upset. In 2018, I thought about this experience and realized that the word in that book was Nigger.

elements I looked online and found more alphabet books that included offensive and derogatory words and images of not only Black people, but indigenous people and other minority groups. I purchased a few and borrowed others from the library and photographed them. There were many books with many pages with just a small selection of the photographs making it into the show.

exhibition I wanted to imagine what it would look and feel like to have these books be part of a school curriculum (Mrs. Fischer’s Language Arts Class). What is the level of comfort of owning these books privately as opposed to it being a part of the educational system publicly? Would there still remain this nonchalant feeling of casually teaching one of the most impressionable groups of people, children? Or would there be outrage over teaching hate? Today, we have seen homework that asks to list the pros and cons of slavery or history books that intentionally leave out the marred parts of American History. This is still a controversial topic as we work towards racial equity in the United States.

Along with photographs and the classroom installation, the video Self-Care In 2020 played in a separate room. Putting this work together was not only laborous but also mentally heavy. I wanted to culminate my work and break up that energy by burning the books. This was compliclated for many to say the least, but I felt it was necessary. Some people were upset that the books were burned, and others were happy about it.

The final part of the exhibition was The Reflection Space: How Do You Feel? Stacks of paper with this question across the top were assembled on a table with pens. Attendees were encouraged to fill out a sheet before leaving the gallery. Capturing this real-time feedback resulted in over 80 responses. With the myriad of responses received, I am working on a second iteration of this exhibition. 

︎ 2018
Transitions: Food of the Youths, Ripple, Wave, Shadow and Ashes
This exhibition came about during a transitional period in my life. I was working towards closing a business that I had run for 8 years, entering back into a 9-5, and making the decision to prioritize my art practice. I looked at the genesis of my photography career with Ripple, Wave, Shadow and Ashes. A curated selection of a few images from my first solo show, Butter, in addition to some making their exhibition debut. The bulk of these images are in black and white. The absence of color symbolized endings and laying that part of my journey to rest.

Food of the Youths is a photo-documentary that began with a curiosity of the packaging waste left behind by students of the neighborhood middle school. Empty bags of chips, cookies, empty milk cartons, and soda bottles were usually scattered about in the large field behind the school building. Aside from the impact on our environment, I recalled the days of my childhood where you could eat whatever you wanted with it having minimal impact on your size or shape. You usually worked off the extra calories running around and screaming at the sky with your classmates. It felt rejuvenating to me when reminiscing about my childhood in this way. This project is ongoing, however, it has been haulted due to COVID.

︎ Tasha N. Burton 2022