In the Belly of the Serpent
Los Angeles State Historic Park
1245 N Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
September 14 - December 8, 2023
In the Belly of the Serpent is a sculptural work meant to invoke our collective imagination, to envision the abolishment of existing global systems of exploitation. We’re tasked in helping the healing of the Great Mother, often represented by a serpent in the Taino culture. The center point of the mud-built earth mound is an engorged stomach; new opportunities for world-making have been obstructed within this belly of creation by the insatiable extraction of natural and biotic resources for economic gain. In tandem with the same water which flowed through the historic Zanja Madre, as well as Afro-Arawak power plants and mystic symbols studied and employed by the artist, the serpent emerges as an activated force of rebirth.
By utilizing this form, and connecting it to the rehabilitating power of earth and water, Feliz aims to create a sacred space for park visitors to reflect on the potentialities of the future, and then dream them into reality. Conceptually informed by postcolonial feminisms, Caribbean folk healing traditions, and prehistoric earthworks, the mud material references both the mudbrick architecture of West Africa and Southern California. For Feliz, building with materials from the surrounding environment is root medicine for connection, belonging, and remembrance for diasporic populations.
Star Feliz (b. 1992, Lenapehoking, New York, NY) is an artist and healer living and working on Tongva land (Los Angeles, CA). Feliz illuminates the processes of world-building as they braid back together the strands of life within their Afro-Taino lineage of the Dominican Republic and the wider Caribbean diaspora that were so violently fragmented since the onset of European colonization. Working across media, their conceptual installations take the form of maps, songs, dimensions, and talismans. Through the exploration of the twinned histories of humanity and the earth, a unique visual lexicon emerges that embraces the mundane and the unknowable as sacred. Often functioning as wayfinding tools, these interventions bring an inter-dimensional perspective to the forefront and make manifest the transcendent possibilities between the scientific, the intuitive, and the fantastical. While investigating universal phenomena like loss and desire, they engage with the theoretical touchstones of feminist thought, the queer radical tradition, contemporary Black liberation movements and land rematriation. Under the moniker of Priestusssy they create experimental devotional music with the earth through intimate narratives of transformation.
Feliz’ artistic practice has developed in tandem with their healing practice within movements for radical change. After more than ten years of intensive study and community practice, they currently steward their ancestral Indigenous knowledge-ways under the independently-run project of Botánica Cimarrón. Born of Afro-Taino traditions of the Caribbean, Botánica Cimarrón is a brand focused on healing marginalized people’s relationship to the earth through innovative tools and imaginative experiences that ensure the thriving futures of all living systems. In the past, they co-founded initiatives such as Abuela Taught me, an Afro-Taino Two-Spirit decolonial healing space; Homecoming, a QTBIPOC birth justice collective and Lenapehoking Herbalists Collective, an herbal mutual aid hub.
Feliz has performed and exhibited nationally and internationally including The Kitchen, New York, NY; The Oregon Contemporary, Portland, OR; The Horse Hospital, London, UK; The Latinx Project at NYU, New York, NY; Articule, Montreal, Quebec; and others. They have been awarded fellowships, residencies, and grants at ACRE, Steuben, WI; Summer Forum for Inquiry and Exchange, Kaneohe, HI; Mohn LAND Grant, Los Angeles, CA; Printed Matter Emerging Artist Publication Grant, New York, NY; International Center of Photography Community Fellowship, New York, NY. Their work is part of the collections at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture / NYPL, New York, NY; The Joan Flaschs’ Artist Book Collection, Chicago, IL; The Library at the International Center of Photography, New York, NY. They are a graduate of the MFA program at UCLA’s department of Interdisciplinary Studio.
In the Belly of the Serpent by Star Feliz is supported by the Mohn LAND Grant.
The Mohn LAND Grant is funded through the generosity of Jarl and Pamela Mohn. Over a five year cycle (2022-2027), this initiative directly invests in emerging Los Angeles based artists, providing them with a platform to present site-responsive, transdisciplinary work across LA County. Support through this program is awarded annually to a cohort of emerging artists, giving them their first opportunity to present a large-scale commissioned public project.
LAND’s 2023 exhibitions are made possible with lead support from the Offield Family Foundation, the Jerry and Terri Kohl Family Foundation, and The Perenchio Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Fran and Ray Stark Foundation, the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Department of Arts and Culture, the LA Arts Recovery Fund, Brenda Potter, the Wilhelm Family Foundation and LAND’s Nomadic Council. Special thanks to Artist Sponsors Karen Hillenburg, Liana Krupp, Abby Pucker, Stacy and John Rubeli, Ben Weyerhaeuser, and the Poncher Family Foundation. LAND is a member of and supported by the Los Angeles Visual Arts (LAVA) Coalition.
LAND is a member-supported organization. Support LAND’s free, public programming by becoming a member today at nomadicdivision.org.
Special thanks to Irina Gusin, producer
Image: Dogon House, Mali, google