Author Roxane Gay on "Bloodlines" at PAMM: It's a Great Way for the Caribbean Community to See Their Story

Pérez Art Museum Miami is so much more than just paintings on the walls. One example of its multidisciplinary reach is the Scholl Lecture Series, which includes talks by artists, scholars, and curators. The first offering of the year will be a conversation between authors Roxane Gay and Jeff Chang, celebrating the Firelei Báez exhibition "Bloodlines."

Born to a Dominican mother and a father of Haitian descent, Báez creates work that deals with the physical and cultural landscape of the two countries, politics, race, and hybridity. Where Báez uses large-scale paintings, sculpture, and multimedia pieces to explore these themes, Gay, who was born in the U.S. to Haitian parents, uses words.

“María Elena Ortiz, a curator at the museum, reached out and told me about this amazing Haitian-Dominican artist, and I was thrilled to learn of Firelei’s work and have the opportunity to make a modest contribution to her exhibit's catalogue,” Gay said in an email interview with New Times.

The author contributed a short story she wrote about a tragedy on the Haiti/Dominican Republic border titled In the Manner of Water or Light. “If I had more time, I would have loved to write an essay about the importance of artists like and including Firelei Báez.” 

Gay and Chang will read pieces and discuss issues and ideas of race, gender, and history that influenced the work of Báez, followed by a book signing. Gay is the author of the books Ayiti (2011), An Untamed State (2014), Bad Feminist (2014), and Hunger, forthcoming in 2016. Chang is the author of Can’t Stop, Wont Stop (2005) and Who We Be (2014) and is the executive director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University.

Although Gay and Baéz work in different mediums, they both grapple with identity, country, and history. For those reasons and more, "Bloodlines" is that much more impactful for a city like Miami.

“'Bloodlines' is a great way for the Caribbean community in Miami to see something of their story being told and represented at a world-class museum like the PAMM,” Gay says. “I really hope people turn out to see the exhibit. It is bound to inspire a lot of conversation.”

Along with the conversation, the event is an opportunity to see the exhibit if you haven't already or to see it from a more nuanced perspective. There will also be a book signing after the conversation. And though Gay isn’t planning on picking up a paintbrush anytime soon, she wouldn't mind delving deeper into the art world.

“I have no artistic skill whatsoever, so I have not considered making fine art, but I would love to collaborate with artists in the future,” the author says. “I would love to work with Alexandra Grant or Thornton Dial, off the top of my head.”

Roxane Gay in Conversation With Jeff Chang
Saturday, January 9, at 3 p.m. at PAMM. The event is free and open to the public, but space is limited. Call 305-375-3000 or visit pamm.org.

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