Conversatio Divina

Part 2 of 2

Cultura Fellows Feature: Artist Dea Jenkins

Michael Di Fuccia

In his newest book, How to Inhabit Time, James K. A. Smith calls our attention to a growing cultural realization: as temporally bound individuals we live with our collective histories. Whether we like it or not, Smith is adamant that we cannot escape history. In the same way our parents and their parents have left indelible marks upon our souls so do we bear the past of our collective forefathers. Our collective pasts live with us and, indeed, within us.

But for Smith, this is nothing to shy away from. Christ teaches us to embrace our humanity. For in the acceptance our limitations we are transformed by grace. And as Smith implies the same holds true for our collective transformation. As we learn to be present with our past (the beautiful and the tragic) we behold the healing grace of God. When we inhabit time this way, we discern the Spirit of God at work in the present and hope for the future.

In this latest piece we are honored to feature the work of Martin Institute Cultura Fellow Dea Jenkins. Dea models “spiritual formation in context” in her person and work.

Dea is an interdisciplinary creative, independent curator, Director of Inbreak, and founder of Dea Studios. Though originally from Houston, Texas, she and her family began moving cross-country when Dea was 10 years old. She has lived in seven states and numerous cities since then. Dea didn’t begin her journey with the arts until she moved back to Houston from Chantilly, Virginia after graduating high school. Through a series of life twists, including deciding not to pursue a career as a professional track runner, Dea “accidentally” discovered an interest and a talent for art making.

As she discovered the world of painting, drawing, and graphic design, she ultimately chose to pursue an undergraduate degree in filmmaking from The Art Institute of Houston. Filmmaking taught her the value of producing. As a producer she discovered that she could create spaces to share her own work, but also generate opportunities for other creative minds to journey with her on these projects.

In 2017, Dea moved to Pasadena, California to pursue a dual masters degree in Theology and Intercultural Studies. Her emphasis in Theology and the Arts has grounded her artistic practice, helped her connect her film studies with theology, and prepared her to continue creating spaces for individual and collective healing. Post-graduation, she is currently engaging questions on spirituality, collective consciousness, and social healing through multiple mediums.

Last night in Pasadena, CA Dea hosted the Opening Reception for her “BLK Halos” Exhibit.

Conceived and presented as a performance art piece in 2019, “Blk Halos” is an expanded exploration of contemporary Black identity built on and in honor of Black ancestral legacy. “Blk Halos” is an amalgamation of textile art, photography, poetry, and song. In its current form, the project seeks to honor contemporary cultural thought leaders like Dr. Cornel West and Dr. Willie Jennings while also weaving ancestral thought and creative practices into new forms. Through the acquisition and creative exploration of natural materials relevant to the African diaspora’s broad-reaching history, “Blk Halos” wrestles with the question Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. posed over seventy years ago: Where do we go from here?

“Here” implied a racist-tinged reality for Dr. King and his contemporaries. In the 21st century, we are still grappling with similar, though distinct, challenges as we struggle as a nation to acknowledge and heal from our collective history. Rather than proposing diluted solutions, “Blk Halos” aims to honor the rich cultural heritage of Black America, to offer a space of both lament and celebration for people of color, and to invite the broad public into healing dialogue and collaborative making.

The “BLK Halos” exhibit is now open to the public. For opening hours and updates please visit: https://www.deastudios.com

From the Opening Reception, Thursday January 19th

Footnotes

Michael Di Fuccia, PhD, is the Director of the Cultura Initiative and Theologian-in-Residence at the Martin Institute for Christianity & Culture.