Filmed on location in the gardens of Claude Monet’s home in Giverny, France, and on the streets of Harlem, New York, The Giverny Suite (2019) is a three- channel cinematic tapestry that considers the bodily autonomy and performance-based labor of Black women. The installation uses a variety of techniques and materials, including direct animation on archival 16- mm film, woman-on-the-street interviews, and montage editing, to further delve into Black feminist theory and to interrogate the bodily autonomy and performance-based labor of Black women.
Gary is shown performing in each location, rooting herself in a tradition of Black femme performativity that is often employed as a means of survival. The Giverny segment is movement based, with a focus on the artist’s physicality as it both relates to and contends with the natural surroundings. Through various poses, she becomes her own muse, at times positioning her body to mimic classic images of the Western female nude. Gary’s appearance, however, challenges the Eurocentric painterly tradition of such depictions, which she toys with by taking up space in the garden—stretching out her body and pacing around in her bare feet, eventually belting out a rage-filled scream. In Harlem, Gary’s performativity is housed in her voice as she conducts interviews on the street. Donning a wig, she stands on the corner of West 116th Street and Malcolm X Boulevard calling out to Black women of all ages and backgrounds to ask them a simple but loaded question: “Do you feel safe?” Their answers vary, but the question looms throughout The Giverny Suite as a larger understanding that Black women are hardly ever guaranteed safety and that it is often met with a negotiation that compromises other aspects of their lives. By pairing these opposing spaces— the pristine, manicured French garden and the tireless, bustling American city—Gary not only accentuates the range of her performance but also highlights how each environment responds to her Blackness, reinforcing deeply rooted cultural and social constructs.