vanessa german: …please imagine all the things i cannot say…

February 11–June 25, 2023

vanessa german: …please imagine all the things i cannot say… is a large-scale, immersive, site-specific installation of mixed-media works by vanessa german (b. 1976)–a self-taught sculptor, painter, poet, and performance artist residing in Pittsburgh. german calls herself a citizen artist and is interested in art as a form of healing and protection, especially for African-Americans. Her primarily female power figures explore themes of strength, love, and justice while engaging with the complicated history of race in the United States.

Linked to her identity as an activist, german's creative practice has its roots in Indigenous and West African folk practices, as well as Black Arts movements from the 1960s onwards. She works primarily with assemblage as she sculpts wood and plaster, which she adorns with a vast range of objects and materials—some found in her community, others sourced from around the country. Prayer beads, doll parts, handmade patterned quilts, skateboards, rope, silk flowers, cowrie shells, coke bottles, vintage porcelain bells, and astroturf are among the array of objects that adorn the artist’s figures. german credits her earlier power figure sculptures, created from materials found at vacant lots and abandoned homes in her neighborhood, as saving her from depression brought on by hardship and poverty.

Through her powerful work and presence, german offers a redemptive space for visitors. They are invited to identify, experience, and begin to address any feelings of anger and grief brought about by both historical and ongoing racial violence in our society, to which german's humanistic vision responds forcefully and compassionately.

This exhibition is german's first solo museum show in the New York City area and will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog available for purchase in MAM's shop. The catalog will be the only publication in print on the artist.

Can't wait until February to experience vanessa german's work in person? Check out german's Untitled (2020), currently featured in MAM's exhibition, Transformed: Objects Reimagined by American Artists.


Installation view at Flint Institute of Art with Miracles and Glory Abound, 2018. Mixed-media assemblages. Dimensions variable. Courtesy of Kasmin Gallery, NYC.

oh for the healing of the blues, 2016. Mixed media assemblage. 73 x 26 x 44 in. Collection of the Figge Art Museum, Davenport; museum purchase with funds provided by the Friends of Art Acquisition Fund and Linda and Randolph Lewis, 2017.27.1.

The Blood & The Animals, The Mirror & The Sky; An ode to the unlanguage-able truth of is-ness, 2017. Mixed media assemblage. 77 ½ x 36 x 35 in. Courtesy of Kasmin Gallery, NYC.