Work in Progress: Ashleigh Smith

A look at student projects as they develop

THESE IMAGES are from the beginning stages of my final project for my Duke in New York program. The goal of the final project is to both academically and creatively engage with the city of New York. My project focuses on memory, history, and contextualizing images as they relate to my familial ties to Harlem.

My project specifically pertains to my relationship with my grandmother, who passed away in September of last year. She was a Harlem native, and this part of the city shaped who she was and her outlook on the world. Growing up in the midst of the prolific cultural production during the Harlem Renaissance and surrounded by the influential political leadership of Reverend Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Marcus Garvey influenced her sense of self, the way she looked at the world, and the values she instilled in me.

My goal is to re-contextualize images through collage and visual reinterpretation (as illustrated through these sketches) to tap into the nostalgia and memory so intrinsic to Harlem. This nostalgia is used as a link between my grandmother and me and our differing experiences with Harlem—given our different historical/sociopolitical contexts and engagements with the neighborhood. These sketches are only the beginning of a larger project that will work to bring both the Harlem of then and the Harlem of now into one place (and as an extension of that, my grandmother and me as well).

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