Black In Denver: Meet The Artist Highlighting Authenticity And Healing Among The City’s Black Residents
National news about the Black community this past year has placed a spotlight on loss and struggle, with several high-profile deaths, a summer of protests and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19.
Amid all that chaos, one Denver artist has been working steadily to share nuanced and varied stories of the Black residents she has met in the city.
Narkita Gold started working on the "Black In Denver" project in 2018 when she first moved to Colorado from Nashville. Through a series of candid portrait photography and interviews, she has created a visual ethnography that takes a critical look at Black identity locally.
The project highlights the city's growing Black community and centers around themes of love, unity and authenticity.
Gold said that she wanted to disrupt the idea that the Black community was a monolith.
“We have attached this definition or this idea that at times can be very limiting. Especially if you don’t fit the stereotypical role of what it means to be Black,” Gold said. “So when I moved here I saw all kinds of folks just existing, and I wanted to capture the spectrum that I saw here.”
In every interview the questions vary slightly, but there are a few that show up in each one: who are you, what does it mean to you to be Black in Denver, and how have your experiences in Denver shaped you? The subjects are then photographed in front of one of five solid color backgrounds. She says the rotation of green, blue, orange, pink and yellow colors represent the interdependence of the community.
Since the project began, it’s been gaining steam online and featured in several local exhibitions. Most recently it’s been selected by the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art for their “From This Day Forward” exhibit.
The exhibition will feature the portraits, a word cloud and new prayer flags. Gold said she's translating the work from a digital space to a physical exhibit with a specific message in mind for viewers.
“I always bring out the people who speak to love, authenticity, liberation and healing. Any of those topics. I always pull out those words,” Gold said. “I really want the viewer to walk away seeing this person and realizing — not just realizing but understanding — that I’m trying to say we are all types of things.”
This upcoming exhibition at the BMoCA is focused on exploring questions of systemic injustice and suggesting avenues of moving toward solutions. Gold said this series dives into the larger idea of creating a more thoughtful and inclusive community.
Many of her subjects' reflections on Denver describe the city as their home and a place to heal. She said one of the major themes in her work is healing and interdependence, which means working through the shared pain of slavery, police brutality and the trauma of racism towards Black liberation.
Gold says the greatest thing to come out of this project has been her personal growth and connection with Denver’s Black community.
“Being here has made me so proud of my Blackness," Gold said. “I am going to be me to the fullest. I used to hide myself to try to fit a mold. Here I’m like ‘no, I’m not going to do that’. It’s just being myself unapologetically, and existing in spaces where I’m overlooked or looked at.”
Gold’s art series will be on display at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art from Feb. 11 through May 31, 2021.