Beyond Black and White

Jessica Tifase portrait

Digital storytelling major Jessica Tifase won runner-up for her presentation “Caged Birds” at the 2020 Visual Art and Design Showcase.

Jessica Tifase won a 2020 Visual Art and Design Showcase (VADS) award as runner-up in the artistic expression category for her digital photography presentation “Caged Birds.” The piece was inspired by American conceptual artist and collagist, Barbara Kruger, and it takes a contemporary approach to her black and white photographs with red text.

“It’s a celebration of Black culture and my Black amazing friends, showing that we are not OK with being society’s ‘caged birds,” Tifase says. “We never were, we never will be.”

Tifase, a junior digital storytelling major from Kansas City, Missouri, started the project as a class assignment. Her professor and mentor, Desireé Moore, assistant teaching professor of digital storytelling and film studies production, encouraged Tifase to submit it.

VADS 2021 submissions are due Feb. 10, and the virtual event begins March 22 to be hosted online by MU Libraries. Join us for an information Zoom at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.

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View the outstanding work of past Visual Art and Design Showcase participants, and find all the necessary information to participate in VADS 2021 yourself!

Tifase’s artwork includes six panels with an introductory photo, a dark shot representing Black love, another with text stating “not a statistic,” another with an African beauty queen and the last with a man in a do-rag in front of flowers with text stating “not a police threat.”

Tifase captured her friends in their natural elements. The photo of the man in the do-rag, Tonio Tatum, contrasts beautifully with his undershirt. The white petals behind him emphasize his soft, beautiful smile.

“Our oppressors have clipped our wings, kind of like a caged bird,” Tifase says. “We’ve been talking about this for years and nobody wants to listen. I’m going to put the power of the narrative in my hands and my friends’ hands and let us control the narrative and force you to listen.”

Tifase’s advice to future participants considering submitting their work for VADS 2021?

“Just do it,” she says.  “You never know, you might win something.”