Shaving cream, an electric guitar, a tarred-and-feathered watermelon, and the spoken word are among the miscellaneous components of the theater-based work Aunt Jenny Chronicles, which Pope.L performed at various experimental venues in New York City. The central monologue, excerpted in this video, is based on Pope.L’s childhood relationship with his Aunt Jenny, whom he remembers as a 114-year-old “friend, grandmother, and great, great ancestor all rolled into one.”
Autobiography becomes material and metaphor in Pope.L’s rhythmic script, which is peppered with raw anecdotes and reflections on feelings of shame, alienation, and admiration that characterize the artist’s evolving attitude toward his relatives. Through the figure of Aunt Jenny, Pope.L references both private and cultural histories, from the Freedom Rides and race riots of the civil rights era to the black patriarchy modeled by The Cosby Show. Excavating the complex family dynamics of his youth, Pope.L meditates on gender roles, generational rifts, and his conflicted memories of Aunt Jenny, depicted as a mythological matriarch from the Old South.
Gallery label from October 21, 2019–February 1, 2020