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La Vaughn Belle: Chaney series (a topography of reconstruction)

Winter Garden Gallery at Brookfield Place

Chaney series (a topography of reconstruction) is a collection of eight adjoining paintings by artist La Vaughn Belle, exhibited on the first floor of Brookfield Place. A hybrid word combining “china” and “money,” “chaney” describes small fragments of pottery—often blue and white—found on the surface of the soil in the Virgin Islands. The fragments originate from plates, tea pots, and cups imported from Europe and North America as part of the vast transatlantic trade of the last centuries of the second millennia. Originally, this colonial fine china was a display of the wealth resulting from the plantation economy. Now, the remaining fragments have become detritus, broken down into the soil, just like the traded bodies. “Chaney” serves as a reminder of both the colonial past and the fragmented present of Caribbean societies.

La Vaughn Belle’s Chaney series examines the process of reconstructing the fragments – charting the loss and the imagination required for repair. As the artist takes the petal of one flower and appends it to the stem of another truncated bloom, and connects and expands geometric motifs, she creates a topography that mirrors the process of identity formation of those who are the descendants of the transatlantic slave trade.

Exhibited along with La Vaughn Belle’s vinyl artwork, For Those of Us Who Live at the Shoreline, located in the Winter Garden.

Curated by Kendal Henry for Brookfield Place. Henry is an artist and curator who has specialized in the field of public art for nearly thirty years, and the Director of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs Percent for Art Program.


La Vaughn Belle makes visible the unremembered. Borrowing from elements of architecture, history and archeology, Belle creates narratives that challenge colonial hierarchies and invisibility. Belle explores the material culture of coloniality, and her work presents counter visualities and narratives. Working in a variety of disciplines her practice includes painting, installation, photography, writing, video, and public interventions. Her work with colonial era pottery led to a commission with the renowned brand of porcelain products, Royal Copenhagen. Belle’s work has been exhibited in the Caribbean, the USA, and Europe, at institutions such as Museo del Barrio, New York, NY; the Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, CA; Casa de las Americas, Cuba;  and Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark; among others. Her art is in the collections of the National Photography Museum and the Vestsjælland Museum, both in Denmark. She is the co-creator of “I Am Queen Mary”, the artist-led groundbreaking monument that confronted the Danish colonial amnesia while commemorating the legacies of resistance of the African people who were brought to the former Danish West Indies. The project was featured in over 100 media outlets around the world including The New York Times, Politiken, VICE, the BBC, and Le Monde. Belle holds an MFA from the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana, Cuba and an MA and BA from Columbia University in New York, NY. As a 2018-2020 fellow at the Social Justice Institute at the Barnard Research Center for Women at Columbia University she is working on a project about the ‘citizenless’ Virgin Islanders in the Harlem Renaissance. Belle’s studio is based in the Virgin Islands.


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