Shug Avery’s Kiss, 2018


On March 6, 2018, Tiona Nekkia McClodden began work on a Shug Avery’s Kiss, a project that turned the physical space of Recess into a juke joint.


McClodden’s project created a suite of works comprised of audio, image, video, and objects dedicated to the fictional character Shug Avery from Alice Walker’s 1982 novel The Color Purple with consideration of her character’s representation in the 1985 film by the same name.


The foundation of the project was an examination of the juke joint as a historical site of Black artistic creation and social engagement. McClodden activated the space with a range of programming, including letter-writing workshops with fellow Black womxn; intimate conversations on love, religion, sisterhood, and friendship; as well as an ongoing series of commissioned jukes, featuring live collaborations that she staged throughout the Session with invited artists, musicians, vocalists, painters and dancers.


Shug Avery’s Kiss manifested as a hybrid reading of the character Shug Avery’s bedroom and the juke joint featured within the film and the novel, The Color Purple, presented alongside McClodden’s personal collection of ephemera and memorabilia from the film. A host of films, videos, and curated playlists related to the character of Shug Avery, by women close to McClodden as well as blues singers from throughout the history of the juke joint were featured within the space. 


Shug Avery’s Kiss offered an invocation of desire, healing, and spirituality centered on the lived experiences of a Black, queer womxn from the South.


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