Liz Johnson Artur's Black Balloon Archive
For more than 30 years, the Russian-Ghanaian artist Liz Johnson Artur has been creating photographic representations of people of African descent around the world. She began her Black Balloon Archive project, whose name derives from a song by the American soul singer Syl Johnson, after visiting Brooklyn, in 1986, where she stayed with a Russian family in a predominantly black neighborhood.
Having grown up in Bulgaria, Germany, and Russia, where she had little contact with black communities, the artist was inspired by the experience to use photography as a way to connect with other people across the African diaspora. “Dusha” is the Russian word for soul, and Johnson Artur’s intimate pictures capture the everyday beauty and distinctiveness of individuals that she has encountered on streets, in restaurants and clubs, or at public gatherings during her travels to Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and North America. Liz Johnson Artur: Dusha at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, the London-based artist’s first solo museum exhibition, premiered at the Brooklyn Museum and features photographs, videos, and sketchbooks selected from the ongoing Black Balloon Archive.