Creative Mind: Vanessa German
The Pittsburgh artist’s experimental practice combines assemblage, mixed media, and performance art to foster change in her community
Artist vanessa german’s diverse practice comes from an internal place of healing. Whether it’s sculpture, performance, or installation, there’s something much deeper in play. “It’s not just a studio practice,” german explains. “It’s a way I found to be alive that’s therapeutic, restorative, and regenerative.”
Using assemblage and mixed media, she crafts artworks she calls “Power Figures,” which emerged from a period of darkness in her life 17 years ago, when she felt “a real dissonance in the world.” During that time, she gave herself “permission to be with my own ideas without anxiety and feel my life, my body.” Out of that experiment came these beautiful, otherworldly figures she made using materials found around the rowhouses where she’d been squatting in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Homewood. “I would do really labor-intensive handwork,” she explains. “Fully committing myself to those objects saved my life.”
“It’s not just a studio practice; it’s a way I found to be alive that’s therapeutic, restorative, and regenerative”vanessa german
Included in an exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art, those original “Power Figures” earned her a gallery show; her career has steadily built from there. Last year, german signed with Kasmin, which is planning a gallery debut for her in the fall. Even with her new level of recognition, she remains deeply rooted in her community of Black, queer women, buying houses in Homewood to host an artist-in-residence program and kids’ art workshop. Next, german plans to transform the local funeral home into a center for art and wellness, the Museum of Resilience.
A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2022 Spring Issue under the headline “Creative Minds.” Subscribe to the magazine.