Cleansing the Ills of the Past

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Whitfield Lovell, Restoreth, 2001. Charcoal on wood and found objects. Courtesy DC Moore Gallery © Whitfield Lovell and DC Moore Gallery, New York

This tableaux was originally created as part ofWhitfield Lovell’s installation Visitation, which explored the history of the Jackson Ward historic district in Richmond, Virginia, the first black entrepreneurial community in the United States, commonly described as the Harlem of the South.

Restoreth, as the artist once explained, “evolved . . . out of a need for reconciliation. For me, it bridges the abyss between slavery and the height of Jackson Ward’s heyday. The image is from a tintype of an older black woman. The work includes 33 medicine bottles—pills, powders, ointments, and tonics—that represent the elements of healing and fortification. The juxtaposition of these objects with the image of this powerful woman suggests a kind of protection from, and cleansing of, the ills of the past, while also alluding to Hoodoo practices that came from African customs.”

Whitfield Lovell: The Kin Series and Related Works is on view through Jan. 8, 2017.

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