Lakela Brown
From Scratch: Seeding Adornment

June 28 – October 4, 2024


Image credit: LaKela Brown, African/American Bouquet, with Five Collard Leaves, Two Corn Cobbs, and Five Okra Pods, 2024.

LaKela Brown’s inaugural solo presentation, From Scratch: Seeding Adornment, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), offers an exploration of nourishment practices across the African diaspora to cement Black culture as a conduit of liberation. From Scratch: Seeding Adornment celebrates the nature in which Black ancestral and cultural legacies have permeated across generations despite incredible odds. For this presentation, nourishment is embodied as a practice where plants, food and amulets are recognized for providing sustenance to and of a people. Across literal and conceptual frameworks in this exhibition, nourishment is a means to foster the growth and health of generations. Curated in two segments, Seeding and Adornment, the exhibition serves as a testament to the power of cultural signifiers to produce dialogue, reflection, and collective memory across contemporary Black life. 

Brown is the creator of intimate objects that evoke the rich legacy of Still Life, an art historical tradition that reflects the mortality of individual life in contrast with the permanence of material culture towards building a legacy. From Scratch: Seeding Adornment highlights Brown’s practice as a dialogue with the Still Life art genre, wherein her works are cultural relics that suggest the presence of the Black body through seemingly ordinary objects. In segment one of this presentation, Seeding, the process of planting seeds in the soil to grow crops–is visualized through sculptural assemblage (still lifes) that serve as an ode to Black folks as stewards of the land. The works presented are ethnobotany studies, which address broader legacies of migration and are an homage to how memories are planted across generations within the African Diaspora. Seeding underscores the significance of plant life in the formation of Black identity.


Image credit: LaKela Brown, Composition #2 with Doorknocker Earrings, 2023.

In Adornment, the second segment of the exhibition, the body is assumed to be a vehicle for Black cultural production. Brown approaches this work as an archivist taking care of recording how the ornamentation serves as an expression of Black freedom and cultural agency. Door-knocker earrings, rope chain necklaces, and gold-capped teeth are treated as ancestral artifacts that surpass time and space. Exhibited works approach the heirloom as a vessel for hopes, dreams, and imagination passed down from generation to generation. Adornment uplifts the sacred nature of archiving Black cultural iconography.

From Scratch: Seeding Adornment illuminates the interconnected threads of ethnobotany, fashion, cultural adornment, and historical consciousness, offering a multifaceted exploration of Black identity. This exhibition is curated through a practice of reconciliation and reclamation to recognize Brown’s commitment to archiving the continuity of memory amidst the Black diasporic movement and culture.


Image credit: LaKela Brown, African/American Still Life Composition with Three Corn and Okra, 2022.

About the Artist


Image: LaKela Brown in her studio. Portrait by Kyle Knodell.

LAKELA BROWN (b. 1982) is from Detroit, Michigan, where she attended Detroit Public Schools and graduated from the College for Creative Studies in 2005. Brown has participated in solo and group exhibitions globally, including at Reyes | Finn, Detroit; 56 Henry, NY; Swiss Institute (SI), NY; WE BUY GOLD, NY; Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA), NY; and Lars Friedrich Gallery, Berlin, and has presented a solo installation of her work at Rockefeller Center in partnership with Art Production Fund and at The Armory Show in 2023 with 56 Henry. Brown’s work resides in the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY; Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC, and Smart Museum of Art, Chicago, IL.


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Press + Media

APRIL 25, 2024


Exhibition title  in Publication, Month Day, Year

Exhibition title  in Publication, Month Day, Year

Exhibition title  in Publication, Month Day, Year

From Scratch: Seeding Adornment is curated by Jova Lynne, MOCAD’s Artistic Director with support from Abel Fernandez Gonzalez and Isabella Nimmo, MOCAD’s Associate Curators. This exhibition is made possible with generous support from Art Noir, the Mellon Foundation, Leslie Etterbeck, Carl Gambino, Zach Kingsley, Jeff Magid, Terese Reyes, Ellie Rines, Kathy Rines, Anastasiya Siro, Caroline Summers Taubman, and Rocky Xu.