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Keisha Scarville

Published On


Page Range

pp. 25-38

Print Length

13 pages

1. Surrogate Skin

Portrait of Mother (Land)

  • Keisha Scarville (author)
Artist Keisha Scarville spent her childhood raised in Brooklyn where her parents, along with so many other Guyanese immigrants, migrated and settled after leaving Guyana in the 1960s. In her photography essay, ‘Surrogate Skin: Portrait of Mother (Land),’ Scarville reflects on her portraiture series, ‘Mama’s Clothes,’ an homage to her late mother. In the portraits, Scarville embodies her mother’s dresses to evoke her connection to Guyana. In both her prose and portraits, Scarville grounds herself in her mother's place of birth of Buxton (Guyana) and her neighborhood of Flatbush (US). The lush, organic landscapes in these images, shifting between Guyana and the US, hold emotional and geographical significance: they capture the artist and her mother’s dance between transient spaces. Grappling with ‘a sense of displacement and an internal fracturing’ after her mother’s passing, Scarville looked to her ‘mama’s clothes’ of bright colors, strong prints, and long flowing fabrics for meaning. She drapes and layers her body in her mother’s clothing as well as fashions masks and veils to cover her face, which is always obscured. In merging her body with her mother’s clothes, Scarville marries both time and space—two generations, two homelands, and the complexities in between.


Keisha Scarville