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Maya K. Jeffereis

2022 Create Change Fellow 

Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn | Visual Artist and Educator

Artist Bio

Maya Jeffereis is a multidisciplinary artist and educator whose work shares the stories and experiences of people who are and have been historically marginalized. Maya Jeffereis’ work has been shown in the United States and internationally, including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Queens Museum, New Britain Museum of American Art, among others.

Jeffereis is a recipient of the NYFA City Corps Artists Grant and the Cisneros Initiative for Latin American Art. She has been an artist-in-residence at Lower Manhattan Cultural Center (LMCC), NARS Foundation, Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity, Vermont Studio Center, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, and SOMA Mexico.

Jeffereis is a current Fellow at A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn and a participant in the Asia Art Archive Leadership Camp. She has taught art and art history at The Museum of Modern Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Shed, and Hunter College (CUNY), among other institutions. Maya received a MFA in Combined Media from Hunter College, a BFA in Painting and Drawing, and a BA in Classics from the University of Washington.

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In Heart Mountain (2017), the artist and her mother repurpose a traditional Japanese Bon Odori Festival dance as an act of remembrance at the Heart Mountain War Relocation Center in Wyoming––a Japanese American incarceration camp where the artist’s maternal grandmother was detained from 1942-1945. Like tens of thousands of Japanese American citizens, Jeffereis’ grandmother, Wakako “Mary” Nishimoto, was forcibly removed from her home in eastern Washington and sent to an incarceration camp by order of the U.S. Government without due process of law. As part of the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist tradition in which Jeffereis was raised, Bon Odori dancing is performed by the community to honor the spirits of one’s ancestors. In the video, the artist and her mother dance to the folk song "Tankō Bushi" (“Coal Miner's Song”), with gestures that are adapted from the labor of mining. The performance of labor relates to the forced labor within the camps, as well as the perceived economic threat the Japanese American farming community posed to white farmers, a contributing factor that led to incarceration. While the dance is at once a tribute to the memory of those imprisoned, it also serves to bring visibility to an overlooked history.
Heart Mountain, 2017. Single-channel video (color, sound), 3:21 minutes

 

In this work, artists Maya Jeffereis and Elliott Katz have collaborated on a two-channel video installation and itinerant library that examines the longstanding history of separating families and incarcerating minorities in the United States. As grandchildren of Japanese American incarceration survivors, the artists have created an experimental documentary that weaves personal, cultural, and historical memories together through a combination of interviews, family photos, and archival images. The artists link the history of Japanese American incarceration with the current practice of separating immigrant families and detaining children in government facilities. One such facility, Fort Sill in Oklahoma, has served as a relocation camp for Indigenous Americans and a residential school for indigenous children in the 19th and 20th centuries, a World War II Japanese American incarceration camp, and a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center today.
Maya Jeffereis and Elliott Katz, They Were Just a Sentence in a History Book, 2019. Two-channel video installation (color, sound), reading room, 12:27 minutes

 

Seeing Water Lilies, 2019. Three-channel video installation (color, sound), 6:18 minutes
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