Aziza Claudia Gibson- Hunter Interview via Google Meet on June 19, 2020.
Claudia was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She attended Temple University as an undergraduate, and completed her M.F.A. studies at Howard University. Claudia’s career as an artist has been influenced by her experiences at Howard University. She spoke about the exciting times happening here in Washington, D.C. and the Afri- COBRA art movement was one of those experiences. Afri-COBRA is an art movement, which was conceived in the mid-west by a Chicago-based group of Black artists whose shared aim was to develop their own aesthetic in the visual arts in order to empower Black communities. Additionally, there are artists that have inspired and influenced her such as Jeff Donaldson, Charles White, Valerie Maynard and Sam Gilliam. Claudia named more; but these are the names that stood out as we viewed her art making practice.
At the core of her practice are the acts of gathering, deconstruction and construction for the purpose of expressing aspects of sovereignty. Collage, and the mixing of media help her to offer personal narratives through which she can share her thinking, knowing and being with others. There is a yearning to be free. Compositions jutting, pushing out to form jagged peripheries make visible Aziza’s rejection of containment, and express her need for continual growth,
The move from printmaking to the addition of painting, drawing, collage and even assemblage was a long and arduous process which took place over decades.
This is a longer clip of Aziza taking us through her intimate studio. It is unedited footage via the Google Meet interview.
We begin the virtual interview in her home and continue out into the back of her home, which is lush landscaped greenery to the entry of her converted garage studio.
As we scanned the studio our eyes looked upon a space filled with books; which she described as her library and research area. On her walls are articles and images of artists she is inspired by. Claudia showed us her primary material of paper that she has made into large sheets from which forms the substrates to begin her creative process. In other parts of the studio are tables upon which she makes her work. Her process involves printmaking, paper making, painting, cutting and reconstruction of the varying parts to create a whole.
There were two framed works on easels; which stood out not only because of their size; but mostly because of the shapes and the intense colors and patterns which evoke strong emotional and psychological reactions from the viewer. The two works were from a current series entitled “Playing to Win”. Her intent in creating this series was inspired by “the question of how one wins and why it can be essential to understanding the collective character of a country or that of a single individual.” This series was made during the 2016 Presidential elections. In this work she uses motifs from classic board games, as well as lotto tickets, playing cards and game related quotes. Her training and practice as a printmaker looms large. Her reliance on her printmaking techniques crosses over in painting, and how she handles paper and places one color next to another in a very layered fashion. It is also in this work that you can see the influence of artists she holds in high esteem such as Sam Gilliam. As with Gilliam, Claudia’s work does not fit within a frame.
She shared work that is in progress entitled “Etudes”. Etudes are parts of a complicated musical composition created for practice purposes. These pieces are far smaller and as practice studies, she examines her media combinations, colors, shape and form. The work is evolving and is now taking on many parts, as a form of a Gris-gris. A Gris-gris is an amulet originating in Africa, which is believed to protect the wearer. Claudia is using Gris-gris as a metaphor for the protection of her children. She will be creating 100 of them.
A memorable visual of Claudia’s studio is what I am calling a green door with a view. It is not because there is a physical green door; but it is a space of the open door, which is vivid with lush hues of greenery from her garden.
Claudia is the founder of the Black Artists of D.C. organization. This member based organization is still going strong. For more information on Claudia’s work, visit her website at: http://gibsonhunterstudio.com/