Marisa Williamson, J. Soto, Letta Neely, and Judith Leemann
Anthony Romero Curatorial Fellowship
Saturday, February 21st 2015
Video Still from "Hemings in Paris" by Marisa Williamson
Video Still from “Hemings in Paris” by Marisa Williamson


Romero presents a night of performances exploring political voice from Marisa Williamson, J. Soto, Letta Neely, and Judith Leeman.

Artist Statements

“Hemings in Paris” is a short film by artist Marisa Williamson. An evolving work, shot this past winter, it explores Sally Hemings’ experience in the city where she spent two years of her life (and where her relationship with Thomas Jefferson allegedly began), alongside the experiences of Paris’ contemporary black diaspora. In tune with the previous performance works by the artist, “Hemings in Paris” is an attempt to activate public space, image the fantastical and anachronistic, and present narratives (mine along with hers) that facilitate the collapsing of the past and present both in content and form.

J. Soto hails from New York where his choreographic works investigating the queer experience through an interigation of race and class. His experimental works often manifest through his dancers in uncanny ways.

figure/ground: tightrope
navigating the treacherous divine terrain of honest friendship between a black and a white dyke in the united states.
figure/ground is Letta Neely and Judith Leemann in dialogue

Marisa Williamson Video Work Samples

J. Soto Video Documentation

Judith Leemann & Letta Neely Video Documentation


Marisa Williamson is an New York-based artist, originally from Philadelphia. She received her B.A. in visual art from Harvard University and earned her MFA from California Institute of the Arts in 2013. Her project as an artist is to explore and describe through performance, video, objects and images, the ways that soft technologies: ‘problem solving tools’ like narrative, language, and myth, along with hard technologies like the camera, the digital moving image, and the web—facilitate the rendering and surrendering of the physical and psychological body. Williamson has shown nationally in Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, and Chicago. She is currently participating in the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program.

J. Soto is an artist generating work in performance and text. He is also co-founder of ESCAPE GROUP, which includes a rotating cast of project specific collaborators who collectively execute public and print projects, most-notably a contribution to the book, Support Networks (University of Chicago Press). Over the course of his career, Soto has participated in public programs including Crew Leading in the California Conservation Corps within the California State Parks system, which deeply influenced his pedagogy on collaboration and making. His recent dance, The Conviction of Pearl Dakota premiered at Chicago’s SpinOff dance festival. J. Soto received his BA from San Francisco State University in Art and an MFA in Performance from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Letta Neely, originally from Indianapolis, Indiana, is a Black lesbian playwright, performer, poet, mother, teacher and community activist who has been involved in progressive, anti-racist and queer liberation movements all her adult life. Her work focuses on the connections and intersections of queerness, Blackness, and awareness. Letta’s first play, Hamartia Blues, was produced by The Theater Offensive at the Boston Center for the Arts in 2002 and enjoyed great critical acclaim and received two IRNE [Independent Reviewers of New England] award nominations. Letta has written two books of poetry, Juba and Here (Wildheart Press), which were both finalists for the Lambda Literary Awards. Her literary work has been included in numerous anthologies, literary journals and magazines including Through the Cracks; Sinister Wisdom; Common Lives, Lesbian Lives; Rag Shock; African Voices, Rap Pages, Catch the Fire, Does Your Mama Know, and most recently, Roll Call—a Generational Anthology of Social and Political Black Literature & Art.

Judith Leemann is an artist, writer, and educator. She moves her work across the contexts of classroom, studio, activism, and parenting with particular attention to the generative potential of using translated methodologies to breach these contexts. She served as Assistant Editor of the anthology The Object of Labor: Art, Cloth, and Cultural Production (School of the Art Institute of Chicago and MIT Press 2007) and has published work in the Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy; Frakcija performing art journal; Textile: A Journal of Cloth and Culture; and LTTR. With Shannon Stratton she co-curated Gestures of Resistance at the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland, Oregon (2010) and co-authored a chapter in the book Collaboration Through Craft (Bloomsbury Press, 2013). Recent exhibitions include Resonating Bodies (The Soap Factory, Minneapolis, 2013) and Virtually Physically Speaking (A+D Gallery, Columbia College, Chicago, 2014). She serves as Assistant Professor in Fine Arts 3D/Fibers at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.