In her experimental debut novella, A Rock, A River, A Street, artist Steffani Jemison moves deftly across narrative genres and styles as she interrogates the boundedness of the self, the possibilities of plurality, and the limits of performance. Titled after Maya Angelou’s poem “On the Pulse of Morning,” the book is punctuated by gestural drawings that point to questions of repetition and difference.
Where does your body end and the world begin? How do you locate the limit between yourself and others? A Rock, A River, A Street follows a young Black woman who lives at the hazy border between Brooklyn and Queens in the not-so-distant present. As she rides the subway, walks around her neighborhood, visits the doctor, watches movies, attends dance class, and tries to heal her body, she recalls formative experiences from her childhood and absorbs the world around her; in the process, we are brought into her conflicted relationship with language. Acutely conscious of the soft, responsive nature of her physical self, and pushed and pulled by forces she cannot control, the narrator is vulnerable, terrifyingly open. Everything and everyone leaves an impression.
Steffani Jemison was born in Berkeley, California and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her work has been the subject of solo exhibitions and special projects at JOAN, Los Angeles; Contemporary Art Center, Cincinnati; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Nottingham Contemporary; Jeu de Paume, Paris; CAPC Bordeaux; Museum of Modern Art, New York; RISD Museum, Providence; and LAXART, Los Angeles, among others. Collaborative and group presentations have taken place at the Guggenheim Museum; MoMA PS1’s 2021 Greater New York; the 2019 Whitney Biennial, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; the Brooklyn Museum; the Studio Museum in Harlem; the New Museum, and elsewhere. Jemison is a 2020 Guggenheim Fellow and an Associate Professor at Rutgers University – Mason Gross School of the Arts.