By Sean Yoes, AFRO Baltimore Editor, [email protected]
How women of Color move through this world can be a precarious odyssey; they are often forced to navigate paths where they are not loved.
For them, self-love is a powerful elixir.
Nicoletta Darita de la Brown, a national multidimensional artist based in Baltimore, is intentional about imbuing her work with that elixir for herself first, then others.
Earlier this month, the Baltimore native, birthed her latest solo installation and performance “Banera de Flora” at The Walters Art Museum.
“It was conceived over a year ago, through a series of self portraits,” said de la Brown. “I was exploring this concept of what I do spiritually for self, which is ritual bathing. But, that’s a very private intimate thing. How do I as an artist and as a healer show those intimate moments…” she added.
“It isn’t just flowers in a bathtub, it is a spiritual awakening, it is a rebirth and it should feel ethereal. So, it started with these ethereal photographs, which then turned into an installation where I was thinking about the concept of me specifically, as a woman, as a Black LatinX woman caring for myself first and making that a priority…being the guardian of myself.”
The spiritually and culturally expansive dynamic of de la Brown’s Banera, may seem like a challenge or even antithetical within the walls of the venerable Walters. But, the artist said the museum was really a perfect fit for her.
I explained (to the leadership at the Walters)…the importance of Catholicism in my life. I grew up going to Catholic school. So, ritual and ceremony and these gilded golden spaces….these boxes and these altars were something that I saw as a very young child,” said de la Brown who has Panamanian roots. “I’ve danced in the pews of cathedrals. I spent a lot of time figuring out who I was as a being, when I was first learning what this world was about in Catholic spaces,” she added.
“So, when I was in those spaces at the Walters, the 15th century gallery specifically, it felt like home to me. And it felt a little bit like why doesn’t everyone know how close this is to something bigger? It’s not about religion to me, these objects are about connecting you to something bigger than yourself and so, that was important to me for that reason.”
The Walters also felt like home to de la Brown, because after spending her youth in New York City, her family returned to Baltimore where she attended high school and college. “…I went to the Baltimore School for the Arts, which is around the corner from the Walters. I spent so many hours lying on the floor of the Walters, sketching, daydreaming, thinking about art. So, that space specifically was important to me as a being, as an artist and also because it’s a neighborhood that I live in,” said de la Brown, a mother of four. “So…it felt like the perfect place for me to give birth to this concept of caring for myself…about loving myself on purpose in public space, in a space that folds and overlaps in so many ways for me in my life.”