Visual Artist Zeal Harris was the Arts Alive SDSU Artist in Residence for the 2020-2021 academic year. Based in Los Angeles, she is known for creating what she calls “seductive, caricaturesque, political, urban-vernacular, story paintings” that explore new narratives and ancient mythologies of Black history and culture. Dedicated to art as social practice, Harris is looking forward to forming meaningful relationships with the SDSU community through stimulating dialogue and collaborative artmaking.
Over the course of her year at SDSU, Harris met with various academic units and student centers across campus to share her art, conduct workshops, and discuss the relationship between arts activism and social justice. In February 2021, Zealand delivered “Art, Storytelling, & Everyday Activism: An Artist Talk with Zeal Harris” to discuss her work and the intersection of art and social justice. The talk can be viewed here.
Zeal’s interactions with the SDSU community informed her creation of an original artwork that was recently installed in the foyer of the PSFA Building. Recipe for Acorn Grits depicts some of the first documented African American residents of San Diego County. After gaining freedom from slavery, many Black citizens made their way to San Diego seeking paths of survival, often intersecting with ex-confederates, former slave owners, and others who sought gold, land, opportunities, adventure, and beautiful weather. This artwork also acknowledges the land and the botanical practices of San Diego’s Indigenous Peoples, who formed a bond with African Americans through their shared struggles with manifestations of white supremacy. Although it could be classified as a “history painting,” Recipe for Acorn Grits represents the ongoing task of finding and maintaining peaceful places for the kindred spirits of Black and Indigenous Peoples to thrive together. Research for this project was collected from and inspired by conversations with San Diego State University faculty, staff, students, and local historians.