Kathia St. Hilaire explores identity through reduction Relief Printing the Unconventional

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For Latinx Heritage Month, Cultivated spotlights a roster of contemporary artists who are reimagining Latinx identity in the ongoing Mundo Makers series.

Growing up in a predominantly Caribbean and African American part of South Florida, Kathia Saint-Hilaire observed the nuanced differences between communities of African descent, becoming keenly aware at an early age that there is no singular experience of blackness. “Race is understood on a superficial level in this country. It’s very black and white,” says the daughter of Haitian immigrants. “Our skin is what people see first. It completely covers us and becomes this flat image.

Kathia St. Hilaire photographed in her studio in Brooklyn, New York.

A trained printmaker, St. Hilaire has developed a practice that pushes back the idea that identity can be constructed through well-defined categories. Her work is concerned with mobility and how it complicates racial, historical and cultural relations. Using a reduction relief printing technique, the artist transfers designs onto sheets of linoleum which she then meticulously sculpts in slices. This is followed by prints on unconventional materials – like rubber tires, industrial metals, beauty product packaging and fabrics – giving way to layered, richly textured planes whose surfaces reflect the complexity of diaspora experiences. black.

While the imagery in the works has been central to reflection in St. Hilaire’s practice, it is perhaps his material and formal investigations that most challenge what we know about identity. Glued, woven and assembled, the works reference Haitian voodoo flags, but also southern US quilt making practices and indigenous weaving traditions. Intentional materials testify to the consequences of colonial projects and how exchanges shape disparate places in similar ways. What emerges from St. Hilaire’s works is a breakdown of geographies that sheds light on the interconnectedness of people, places, and histories, making it clear that our sense of self is constantly evolving and never tied to fixed grounds.

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