NEW YORK.- For three weeks this past June, multimedia artist Xaviera Simmons transformed the streets of the Bronx into an outdoor portrait studio as part of Public Art Fund's program for emerging artists, In the Public Realm. The project, Bronx as Studio, was equal parts sidewalk games, classic photographic portraiture, and performance art. Simmons invited passersby to participate and to be photographed engaging in various activities ranging from chess, hopscotch and three-card Monte to soapbox speaking and Double Dutch. Using both large and medium format cameras, she documented almost 200 people on various street corners, in parks and in front of backdrops she created. Simmons employed assorted props and masks as well as found objects and personal items to engage participants in the construction of each image. Simmons has hand printed each color portrait, and will mail a copy to each of the participants. In this way, Bronx as Studio not only engages residents and visitors to the Bronx in the art making process, but also documents their participation in a photographic portrait for them to keep.
Xaviera Simmons initially trained as a photographer, and has since expanded her art practice to include video, installation, performance and music based works. Simmons studied at Bard College (BFA, 2004) and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She has exhibited her work at The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum and Zacheta National Museum of Art, Poland, among other locations.