Jacolby Satterwhite: Virtual World Building

Jacolby Satterwhite’s works are currently featured in the USFCAM exhibition A Family Affair. His works combine 3D animation, objects, performance and drawing, and explore themes including transformation and world building. Within the varied virtual environments that he constructs, Satterwhite uses his body as an avatar and expresses himself through dance club “vogueing” and freestyle movement. According to an interview with Art21, Satterwhite, who had cancer as a child, sees his body as limitless within the virtual environment, where his movements take on a freedom of expression he may not have experienced as a child.

Matriarchs Rhapsody 02The Matriarch’s Rhapsody,, 2012. digital video. Courtesy of the artist and OHWOW, Los Angeles.

This virtual space comes together in many forms throughout Satterwhite’s works. In The Matriarch’s Rhapsody (2012), his inspiration comes from his mother’s obsessive drawings of utilitarian objects. Incorporating 250 of his mother’s drawings into his animation, Satterwhite captures his experience as a child and his mother’s struggle with mental illness. He conveys how his mother’s drawings became a meditative process allowing her to keep her mind contained and focused. In his interview with Art21, Satterwhite explains, “Learning 3D started really because I was obsessed with family footage.”

CountryBall2Country Ball (still), 1989-2012. two-channel digital video. Courtesy of the artist and OHWOW, Los Angeles.

In Country Ball (1989-2012), Satterwhite integrates footage of a family barbeque into his virtual space, re-creating a world of his own exploration of queerness. In the footage, Satterwhite is attempting to dance with his cousins and he explains his frustrations as a child wanting to hang out with the girls but constantly being excluded. He expresses his desperation as a child to perform and be loved—an emotion that he continues to put into his work today.


Country Ball, 1989-2012. two-channel digital video. Courtesy of the artist and OHWOW, Los Angeles.

In Country Ball, Satterwhite focuses more of his mother’s drawings that “deal with recreational American material culture.” In this animation, there is a shift between the objects’ original meaning for his mother and Satterwhite’s playful virtual reality. For example, Satterwhite’s mother’s cakes become skyscrapers for parties. Through this transformation, Satterwhite removes his mother’s intention and replaces it with his own, creating a new form of art.

Jacolby Satterwhite’s work will be displayed at USFCAM from August 24 through December 12, along with work by LaToya Ruby Frazier, Renee Cox, Deborah Willis, Kalup Linzy, Hank Willis Thomas, and Corine Vermeulen.

Jiesha Stephens
English Undergraduate
USFCAM Intern Writer

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