The unacknowledged labor of Black women is at the core of Holly Bass’s American Woman, presented here as both a video and a day-long performance. Bass draws on the history of her family, especially those who were sharecroppers and domestic workers, and on the broader context of Black work throughout the civil rights movement.
The resonating speeches of leading activists, such as Shirley Chisholm, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Angela Davis, bring attention to the changing constructs of Black womanhood, labor, and beauty. Bass interprets their messages through movement as she repositions and folds a scarf that has been imprinted with the stars and stripes of the U.S. flag. Songs by Nina Simone, Rihanna, Aretha Franklin, and others reinforce the themes of American Woman. Together, these distinct voices celebrate and comment on the overlooked contributions of Black women in the country’s history.