A new exhibit series at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) celebrates and uplifts Black artists from Detroit and the works they have created. MOCAD’s spring/summer 2022 exhibit series features exhibitions from Dream Hampton, Nep Sidhu, Sterling Toles, Stableheed Art Collective, and artists from the collection of James Dozier.  

Producer Eden Sabolboro tells the story of Detroit-native Sterling Toles, whose creative works can be seen on display at MOCAD’s spring/summer 2022 exhibit series. 

Full Transcript:

Sterling Toles, Detroit Artist: My Process is, doing whatever I have to do in the creative process to fully return to a space of love. I always tell people my work is not the work, but the work it does to my humanity is the true work. My name is Sterling Toles. I am a cross-pollinating creative. So, we are in the Mike Kelley mobile homestead at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and I have an exhibition going on here called “S[H]ELVES?”.

Sterling Toles: So, I was brought into this project by curator Javelin. Javelin was aware of like the work that I’ve been doing in the community for a long time, which was kind of using art as a tool to create community and also collective healing. This work was informed by many community conversations. I was really fixated on this idea of the relationship between trauma and identity. All of us have experienced pains, and hurts, and traumas, and regrets, and guilts, and doubts, and we try to evolve past those. But how do you do so when the identity that you refused to let go of was borne out of those things?

Sterling Toles: This exhibition is an exploration of a lot of different materials and mediums. I thought it would be interesting to use news materials that have derived from industrial spaces, and so a lot of those materials are used in the transference of energy, thinking about the true nature of our humanity, really. We are not these static things; we are the constant transference of energy. Having a solo exhibition for the first time has been very interesting because I never anticipated ever having one, never pursued having one. My creative practice is always centered around intimacy.

It’s interesting to be thrusted in positions where there’s greater visibility because so much of what I’m doing is just about internal introspection. I wanted to do a few paintings as a representation, or portraits, as a representation of identity. But when I started to think about identity and thought about the quandary of how identity doesn’t allow us to see others fully, oftentimes we can only see the parts of people that support the perspective that our identity holds. And so, there’s often a partition between us where we don’t fully see people and we aren’t seeing fully. And so, I think it’s just an interesting relationship to each other as we see only bits and pieces when we make eyes, or when we engage, or when we make contact.

Sterling Toles: You know, it means everything to me to have my first solo exhibition in Detroit because everything that I think I’ve done creatively in some way has something to do with Detroit. What got me interested in being an artist, I think, was the realization at a very early age that I could transform how I felt inside by me making things. I think MOCAD’s goal for me during this exhibition was to have somebody that is really in the trenches and community, kind of create things that hopefully recharge and revitalize the people that really hold the city up.

You know, I think the diversity of exhibitions and art in a particular space is so important, because it allows people to see parts of themselves in and an experience to where now they can engage in a way in which their internal power joins a collective force that hopefully is about change in justice and resolution and revolution, you know. I think we’re in a time now where we realize that, or hopefully beginning to realize, that if we are a tree, that sustenance that the tree means involves the energy of everybody to participate for it to be nourished adequately.

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