From August 4 to 24, New City Arts presents shade is a place: relief is my form, an exhibition by member artist MaKshya Tolbert.

The culmination of MaKshya’s Spring 2023 New City Arts Research Residency, this installation includes poetry and pottery, and extends beyond the gallery walls with ongoing Shade Walks. At our Book Arts Studio in Charlottesville, we assisted MaKshya in printing fifteen individual poetry broadsides along with collateral material for her exhibit.

Exhibition Statement

Member artist MaKshya Tolbert prints poetry broadsides at our Book Arts Studio.

Dear all of us in need of relief:

Shade is a place: relief is my form is a dwelling, a provision of relief. A clearing-in-training, where gathering is our only charge. A rendering of ecological attention and poetics, with shade as my compass.

These poems and threads are the confluence of ecosocial attention and black interiority amid shifting climate and unsteady atmospheric ground that jumps the scales of our interior, communal, and state-sanctioned lives. The Mall’s trees and their conditions gave me a language to navigate shared livability and self-recovery in the wake of slavery and ecological disaster, anti-blackness, and extractive capitalism.

Shade is a place: relief is my form interrupts the duress at the pace of relief. Shade offers a place where I can try, a place to “begin again…to find out again where I am and what I must do. A place where I can stop and do nothing in order to start again.” (1) Poetry, pottery, shade walks, mutual relief. These are my instruments, my way of wearing both language and the ground.

At the root of the word ‘tree’ is *deru–, meaning solid, steadfast. Shade is a place: relief is my form gave me the time, space, and sociality to both build an intimacy with our city’s trees and seek poetic forms for my ecological practice, at a steady pace.

Our time here is made of material. Wood, bark, clay, fire, water, leaves, paper, ink. Language, relief, the time between us. My time with all of you, our shade walks, writing, coiling pots as a contemplative practice, rewriting, hand-tearing the paper for these poems, shading the gallery floor in English Ivy so we might wear our city for a while.

I wanted to put up a four-week tent, a green canopy that could hold us all as the trees turn and as we turn, too. A place to let life live. Two years trying to wear the ground and this is my note on method. (2)


MaKshya L. Tolbert

  1. James Baldwin
  2. Saidiya Hartman

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