Loving Viola

This project explores the enigmatic relationship between the artist and Viola McCoy, an unrelated woman whose 1930s photograph came into her possession and captivated her several years ago.

November 6 – December 17, 2019

Collaborators: Shawnee Becker

About the Project

Loving Viola is a multimedia project based on a photograph Shawnee Becker encountered in 2013. This portrait of a woman has fascinated Becker ever since. “Viola McCoy is unrelated to me, but in possessing her family’s photographs for several years, she has come to be the driving force behind my practice,” explains Becker. “She has been a muse, an extension of myself, and a grandmother, mother, and daughter to me all at various points.” Becker’s conversation with Viola takes place through the lens of the Brownie No. 2. The Brownie was one of the first cameras intended for use by everyday Americans and the impetus for the kinds of pictures we know as “snapshots.”

Becker’s artwork combines genealogy, image sequencing, speculations and imaginings, and experiments with cyanotypes and other alternative process photography techniques. Loving Viola engages with issues of gender, memory, and the archive, with the snapshot at the center of it all.

About the Artist

Shawnee Becker is an artist in Durham who primarily works with photography. She is presently earning her Master of Arts in Liberal Studies at Duke University. Her work is process-based: the final product is of equal importance to the experience it was born from. She is especially interested in the materiality of the snapshot, image sequencing, narrative, the archive, and the album. Previously, Shawnee worked in public art as the programs director for Cary Visual Art, Inc. She has also written, exhibited, and led workshops both independently and as an arts professional.