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a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

JoAnne McFarland

Selfie With Swiss Chard

painting of an old Black baby doll with white nightgown and red lips and stalks of swiss chard
oil on wooden panel, 40″ × 30″, 2020

Selfie With 45: My Heart Beats Like a Hammer

painting of a Black baby doll with white nightgown, a 45 record ("More than Most; My Heart Beats Like a Hammer") and an old glass bottle with a blue floral background
oil on wooden panel, 24″ × 18″, 2022

Selfie With a Single Word

painting of an old-fashioned Black baby doll and the face of an iron with stenciled text IRON
oil on wooden panel, 24″ × 18″, 2022

My work grows out of my belief that violence and creativity are opposites. Violence, fueled by the past, always seeks to preserve the status quo, while creativity, by its very nature, uses the present to build the future.

I commit to one creative act every day as a way to stay emotionally grounded and connected to my community. I confront violence by making artworks that acknowledge violence’s power while being crucibles of beauty and serenity.

The antique doll in my Selfie paintings has been my muse for almost twenty years. It’s been my favorite subject as I’ve developed my oil painting technique, and clarified my thoughts about self-worth and personal agency.

At the heart of my practice is my desire to live the most vivid life possible, on my own terms. The Selfies radiate complex psychological states, and allude to both traditional self-portraits, and omnipresent meticulously curated digital images. The objects in the paintings are as fully embodied as the doll, because every single thing in the world matters.


JoAnne McFarland is an artist, poet, and curator, and the Artistic Director of Artpoetica Project Space in Gowanus, Brooklyn, which exhibits experimental works that focus on the intersection of language and visual representation. McFarland has artwork in the permanent collections of The Library of Congress, The Columbus Museum of Art, and The Department of State, among many others. Recent shows include Best and Brightest and The Indivisible Spectrum, both at The Painting Center in New York City. Her poetry collections include Acid Rain, 13 Ways of Looking at a Black Girl, Identifying the Body, and Pullman. McFarland’s most recent curatorial project, SALLY, co-curated with Sasha Chavchavadze, is an interdisciplinary, community–centered project focused on using art to activate the public memory of women like Sally Hemings, whose lives have been erased or marginalized.

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