With a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Lish Atchison-Roeder is a Black, multi-racial, queer, U.S.-based interdisciplinary artist. Born in Philadelphia and raised between the city and the suburbs, Atchison-Roeder finds much of their practice reflecting and critiquing the traditional social constructs and expectations learned and practiced in the contemporary United States regarding race, gender, and sexuality. Their contemporary works strive to highlight the juxtaposition of protection and self-hatred that stems from YT-washing and CIS-washing for non-white/non-CIS bodies and the importance of critiquing suburban YT-Amerikkka.
Their contemporary practice leads their artistic career but, Atchison-Roeder has also been present in multiple curatorial and creative-direction positions throughout the city, looking to combine the High Art World and DIY scene. Community organization and creating safe spaces for black/LGBTQ+ individuals to showcase their artistic skills is central to Atchison-Roeder's beliefs and practice.
Atchison-Roeder has most recently curated Water Becomes Blood at Woman Made Gallery in Chicago (2021), been featured on BRAVO Magazine’s August 2020 cover, interviewed by Side Street Studio Arts (2020), and shown in For the Time Being at ACRE Studios (2019). Previous shows include work in the SAIC BFA Exhibition (2019), work in Projections on Loop hosted at SAIC’s Columbus Building (2019), work in the VomitHouse fashion show (2016), and work in SAIC’s annual fashion exhibition (2016).
The binary is an intangible construct that begs to be acknowledged in our contemporary social realm. It creates boxes centered around identity that are checked off and limits individuals to social expectations. I refuse to acknowledge these binaries and these expectations in the forms of historical preservations that have been afforded to me. Whether it pertains to my gender, my race, my ethnicity, or my artistic practice; the conversation I choose to present around the binary lies in the in-between. The in-between is ever fluid. It identifies itself as other because social definitions refuse to allow it space and history refuses to acknowledge its presence.
As a Black, multi-racial, queer, interdisciplinary artist, I have come to understand that the binary and all of its rules were not made for, do not, and will never apply to me. As a Black, multi-racial, queer interdisciplinary artist I am hyper-aware of my identity relying on my self-proclamation as other. My duty in art is to record my personal narrative as a means to radicalize and challenge the white-washed, CIS, and hetero history that makes up the binary. Through fiber & material, new media, sound, and writing I create encompassing spatial installations and new records of history.
The Tangible: Fibers & Materials
My work exists in the tangible world so that my narrative can be explained and explored through process and self-immersion. In this way, knitting, crocheting, patchwork, and drape and sew techniques become essential to my practice. Many of the spaces I create, whether they be wearable-art or large-scale installations rely heavily on creating each cloth from its beginning, giving me full control of its story. This allows my free-hand to work as spontaneously as possible. These knotting techniques allow my eye and hand full control of color-story and texture for the entirety of the cloth. Ever-changing color is always present in my practice. Having control over structure, texture, and color parallels my need to control and produce my own narrative.
The Intangible: FVNM & Sound
The intangible digital world plays an equal role in criticizing social expectations of the binary while also allowing for the rewriting of my history. Appropriation of found and personal videos and images breaks the tradition of historical and cultural documentation via intimate and considerate production. This process includes careful cut-editing and layering of imagery so that I produce my own narratives. These narratives are then complimented with my sound pieces. Through creating new sound, sampling sound, and combining the two; I distort the canonized historical and repetitive messages that center around racial and gender identity. Installation presentation and social media presentation of these videos and sounds have become my preferred platforms for displaying these works. With installation, I am able to create collaged video with sound that demands interpretation and critical thought rather than naïve acceptance. On social media, I create everlasting installations that will always exist in the digital realm and take up space in history.
Writing fosters the space to combine tangible and intangible worlds while also allowing for my personal narrative to become a universal conversation. A universal conversation is essential to my practice and essential to breaking social constructs around gender and race. Broken thoughts, poetry, and prose allow for interpretation amongst viewers through singularity in my language. I control the communication of my thoughts and feelings but have no control of their interpretation. These chosen writing techniques usually find their content in personal histories combined with researched histories, similar to my work with Film/Video/New Media. The use of this collaged source material allows me to re-write my own narratives and create stories that are not centered in either the fiction or non-fiction realm. When the writing is complete, time is taken to print these words with the intention to solely be read aloud. I actively do not leave my writing work in the digital world so that access to copy and paste techniques is minimized. My historical narrative is preserved in this way.
The decision to allow this vulnerability when sharing personal narrative becomes a radical form of redefining social practice and redefining what the binary means for all peoples. It forces my audience to understand my identity and fosters room for conversation, consideration, and critique of what identity can be defined as. In order to stimulate social change, the documentation of histories must be critiqued. The role that projected definition plays in social constructs must be critiqued. My interdisciplinary practice challenges these definitions and creates the space to start anew.