Cornerstone #2 - Ashley Ortiz-Diaz
11 3/4" x 12 3/4"
This piece is part of a series called “anyway, I love you and I wish you weren’t dead,” about Keystone Memorial Cemetery in Hillsborough County, Florida. Keystone was founded in the early 1900s by Tony Lewis, a formerly enslaved Black man, and “disappeared” in the 1950s when new owners didn’t allow the church that maintained the cemetery to continue using the land. Remnants of the cemetery, cornerstones that mark the boundary of a grave, were found in Lake Twitt on Bay Tree Farm in early 2020. It is believed that up to 75 bodies remain in the land, their markers having been removed and, over the years, dumped into the lake for sport by college students. Keystone is one of several “lost” Black cemeteries uncovered in the last two years under buildings, parking lots, schools and other developments in Florida.
The rows of black headstones across the top third of “our Black still bleeds” are painted with India ink on water-soaked cotton rag paper and allowed to bleed and grow into the paper. Several layers were built up to create a rich and deep black on each headstone. On top of the cotton rag paper is a sheet of frosted mylar, a translucent plastic that curves over the paper, revealing some parts of the black underneath and obscuring others. The work is meant to be touched so that viewers can reveal the missing headstones, but the entire picture is never fully visible.
The violence inflicted on Black bodies and communities has historically continued long after death, when even “at rest” we are disrespected and defiled. And yes, we’ve found different and beautiful ways to remember and honor our ancestors because that’s what Black people always do. But the purposeful erasure of Black cemeteries takes away the physical space to mourn that is so important in many cultures, and our ability to trace our lineages.
Source on Keystone: https://www.tampabay.com/news/hillsborough/2020/01/22/sheriffs-divers-pull-grave-markers-from-lake-near-forgotten-black-cemetery/