February 23 – March 25, 2023
That Day, We Looked Happy is a series of kiln-formed glass “album pages” created from the collection of personal photos and documents the artist inherited after their father’s death in prison. Through the artist’s recomposition of these images, which span their father’s three marriages from the 1940s to the 2000s, they call attention to the dissonance between the nostalgic scenes depicted, and the undercurrents of intergenerational trauma that are not visible. By retelling their family history to openly acknowledge family secrets, Renee envisions the artistic process as an important tool for processing complex grief, and forging new pathways to healing.
Rowan Renee (b. 1985, West Palm Beach, FL) is a Brooklyn-based artist who explores how queer identity is mediated by the law. In their research-led practice, they collect imagery, text and documents that address the intergenerational impact of gender-based violence and incarceration from State records and family archives. They use analog techniques – including darkroom photography, printmaking, loom-weaving, and stained-glass – to engage their genderqueer body in labor that materially transforms histories of trauma. Installed as immersive installations, these artifacts become counter-archives that complicate official narratives of truth and justice.
This exhibition was originally shown at Five Myles (Brooklyn, NY) in 2021. It was supported, in part, by the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant.