"Sister Rebecca" by Letitia Huckaby in the upstairs landing. (Photo by Stephen Karlisch)
Overview of the art installation
For her installation at Kips Bay, Letitia Huckaby selected Sister Rebecca, one of her largest works from her series “Bayou Baroque,” which debuted at her solo exhibition at Liliana Bloch Gallery in 2015. The artist wanted to use a piece that would complement the scale of the house and give the homeowners something to look for as soon as they arrive at the bottom of the stairs.
Bayou Baroque is Huckaby’s version of a documentary portrait project on the nuns at the Sisters of The Holy Family Mother House in New Orleans, an African-American congregation founded in 1842 as servants to the youth, the poor, and the elderly. Their foundress, Henrietta Delille, broke with the traditional plaçage system of colored women being placed as concubines to wealthy white men in New Orleans and established this order.
There’s a beautiful contrast between Sister Rebecca’s modest habit and the strength of character that her body and face convey. Sister Rebecca is not looking at us, yet there is an immediacy in her gaze: What is she thinking? What is she looking at? What would she say to us if she could? Huckaby’s signature use of fabrics in her background and as a photography medium is rooted in her inspiration from European Old Master religious painters. Her portrait of Sister Rebecca is beautifully composed: Two delicate flower patterns in the background that complement and swimm around the figure encapsulate a pious nun multiple times; a black fabric line suspends and freezes Sister Rebecca’s moment in time, softened again by white parallelograms and floating bouquets of flowers. A wooden vintage frame that is lean and sturdy speaks of the artist’s desire and consistency of bringing history in all her works. Letitia Huckaby’s work is captivating not only in what we see, but in what we feel and, most importantly, in what we learn about the resilience and beauty of the human condition through her visual stories. — Letitia Huckaby