During her month as Light Work Artist-in-Residence Sonya A. Lawyer worked on three different series. Among them, Southern Roots: Black Madonnas-Black Magnolias, a three-part series that explores and preserves places and memories from her father’s home state of Mississippi. This series includes three distinct bodies of work: The Absence/Presence, Rupture/Rapture/Rest, and A Folk Modernism.
She also developed a new part to her series Searching for Beulah (limit of disturbance), which transforms vintage images of African Americans into colorful abstract fabric pieces (referencing quilt patterns used in The Underground Railroad). The newer addition to this series uses vintage images of children and is called Searching for Beulah (and the illusion of our separateness). When Lawyer was not working in our labs, we steered her toward area antique shops to help in her quest for more vintage photographs.
By representing images of people of color that appear fastidiously dressed, coiffed, and determined, she works to efface negative stereotypes—such as the lazy inept “Beulah” figure—still used as historical references in popular culture. She believes her imagery can empower others to search, find, and preserve familial images that are uplifting and empowering, and therefore, speak to our collective histories.
Lawyer holds a BS in Biology from Howard University and an MFA in Creative Photography from the University of Florida. She has exhibited in Baltimore, MD; Washington, DC; and New York City. She currently lives in the Baltimore-Washington corridor of Maryland.