Moonshine Moanin’

“No time to marry, no time to settle down;
I'm a young woman, and I ain't done runnin' around.”

Bessie Smith

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Moonshine Moanin’ is an exploration of identity and queerness as it relates to my upbringing in the South. In researching black queer jazz singers from the 1920s and 1930s, I connected to the boldness of figures like Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith who spoke openly and impenitently about their queerness in their work. Moonshine Moanin' uses this lens, to create a space for meditating on these figures and the experience of being black and queer in a time when both identities faced scrutiny.

This work exists as public performances inviting viewers to watch me perform each singer’s persona based on my research. The spaces will be dressed to mimic the energy and aesthetic of the clubs and theaters common from the era. The audio from each performance will be recorded and compiled into separate EPs dedicated to the legacy of each singer. Additionally, this work responds to my previous body of self portraits, Dancing with Myself, which was produced at a point when my struggle with identity was the most heightened: Moonshine Moanin’ attempts to rewrite this narrative by photographing myself within these self-made spaces that allow me to be free and queer. The final iteration of Moonshine Moanin’ is the production of my own EP using my research, performances, and personal practice as influences.

Moonshine Moanin’ is funded by The Ellies, Miami’s visual arts awards, presented by ArtCenter/South Florida.

Michelle Lisa Polissaint
Comin’ and Goin’ (2018)
Video, 4:41