To The Organizers of Corniolo Art Patform,
My name is Ashley Jane Lewis. I’m a Canadian artist and scientist studying in New York City to obtain my masters from NYU’s ITP program, a combination of interactive art, technology and human engagement. My practice focuses on the creation of new media art by utilizing food and biocultures to articulate and explore afrofuturistic stories of the black diaspora. My dedication to these matters has landed me on the Top 100 Black Women to Watch in Canada list of 2016. My work creates opportunities for community engagement and connectivity. I’m interested in the futuring of storytelling, rewriting the past to empower marginalized voices and focusing on untold histories of women and people of colour. (Link to resume) (Link to social media)
I’m extremely interested in this opportunity to learn and share together through the medium of food. I have a diploma in Baking Arts with a specialization in fermentation from George Brown Culinary School in Toronto, Canada. Through this educational environment I was able to learn about the ways we can tend to our bodies, our biocultures (in the process of making kombucha, ginger beer, kimchi, sourdough, etc) and our histories. I was fascinated by the identities who refined these probiotic accelerating techniques. Further research led me to discover the women who swapped pickling recipes as a guise for their meetings about voting revolution. I learned about the legacy of black woman as botanists for their communities. Mostly importantly, I learned that food is the thin thread through which we can reweave our narratives.
I believe that food is a portal. It acts as a tunnel into other dimensions, timelines and histories. In a simple sense, a mouthful of food can nostalgically bring you back to a time you had once forgotten or conjure up the memory of a person long since past. Food opens the portal and pulls you into dimensions you have yet to unpack. Food can act as a portal to your heritage, to your lineage and can relink you to your ancestry.
I have spent my first year in my masters program exploring the ways in which food and biocultures can help us imagine the future or step into portals of the past. The knowledge I gained in my fermentation classes set the foundation I needed to acquire a summer internship at Genspace, New York’s first community bio art lab. Here, as their Science Communication Ambassador, I’ve been using bacteria to map patterns of immigration and teaching people how to work with living organisms to empathetically connect with stories of the diaspora. I have also spent the summer working for Universal Solvent, a studio run by afrofuturistic artist extraordinaire Ayodamolo Okunseinde. We have been collaborating to design a series of artworks that discuss the nuanced way in which food helps navigate us in the direction of our unearthed past. We’re currently working towards the completion of a poignant piece on okra, positioned as a slave ship that floats through time dimensions and space.
At Cultural Fermentation, I’d like to further develop my fermentation skills. There’s no doubt in my mind that there is much to learn from traditional methodologies and practices. I’d also like to use this opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the ways food can connect us to community, sharing, culture and the preservation for the future. My hope is to bring this new knowledge back from Cultural Fermentation and into my artistic practice in order to help unite people of colour with their histories through food.
Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you,
Ashley Jane Lewis