Photographer Zakkiyyah Najeebah is interested in how people construct their lives and identities through day-to-day intimacies. Reaching a place in her career where she has the conviction and confidence in her artistic voice, she has unapologetically made the lives of black women and femmes, especially queer women, central to her work. Her most recent exhibition, “A Different Kind of Love Story: For Us” at ADDS DONNA, centered on a series of Polaroid diptychs that juxtaposed images of these candid moments to formal portraits of the same subjects. Even the formal portraits contain a touch of the personal, created in the homes of the pictured women and femmes. Najeebah took Nan Goldin’s work as inspiration for thinking about documenting intimacy and like Goldin, she brings her camera to her day-to-day moments in a way that has become naturalized in her social circles. Najeebah’s artistic practice and life are deeply intertwined.
The exhibition also incorporated types of art-making that Najeebah has taken up more often: moving images, video, films and collages of found video work. This work stems from her thinking about the ways black women’s bodies are consumed on the internet and especially through social media and historic films. She has collected film clips and videos and reworked them into video collage and montage that questions and reframes this consumption.
Najeebah is a working artist, an art teacher and recently, a curator. She sees the relationships she nurtures through collaborations with her subjects, her teaching and curatorial practice as coming together in her artwork. All of this helped her rethink how to listen to people and her ideas around gender and queerness. A lot of her work these days comes out of thinking about love and desire in ways often not given space in the academic conversations that she looked to earlier for answers. At this stage of her career, Najeebah has found ways to combine her scholarship with this willingness to engage these “feminine” qualities in her work allowing her, as both artist and curator, to bring her deliberate style of care, vulnerability, and belonging to her audiences. (Alisa Swindell)
Elliot J. Reichert is a Chicago-based curator, critic, and editor. He is a currently Curator of Contemporary Art at the Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana Unversity, and Hatch Projects Curatorial Resident at the Chicago Artist Coalition. Formerly, he was Art Editor of Newcity and Assistant Curator at the Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University. His writing has been published in The Brooklyn Rail, the Journal of Visual Culture, and Newcity.