In sharp, angular, geometric shapes and forms, the brightly colored paintings—created with spray paint, acrylic, tape, and stencils—focus on the daily activities of Black people living in a fictional oasis based on the idea of Black queer social utopias. The show explores the relationship between Black people and nature, property, and land, a theme itself fraught with a painful and complex history in America. But in Abney’s visual world, male, female, transgender, and nonbinary characters are reaping the benefits of their intentional Black community. In her works, we see figures feeding chickens, horseback riding, catching prize fish, canoeing on a river, cutting flowers from a field, cooking pies, watching TV, roasting marshmallows around a campfire, or riding bicycles alongside a forest.
Abney shared that the idea for these works came to her while she was spending significant time in upstate New York during quarantine. She was reminded of how relaxing and rejuvenating nature can be. But even in the midst of these beautiful, natural spaces, she still encountered Trump signs and other reminders that someone like her could never feel fully free from toxic ideologies against her personhood. “It led me on a deep dive, to think about buying all this land, and what would it mean to do something like that permanently, by yourself or with friends,” Abney said. “Because I’m Black and queer, I was thinking about my community, and so initially I thought of this imaginary place as a Black, queer, and trans arcadia, because those individuals have even less opportunities for these sorts of spaces. But ultimately, it’s a space for everybody. I wanted to recognize the importance of naming the absence of these spaces of safety and belonging for us. We come close to having that feeling when we’re in spaces with people that feel like family, and that can look like many different things. But I wanted to imagine that kind of place that perpetually feels that way.”