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Jova Lynne's majestic portraits on display in Midtown

Michael H. Hodges
The Detroit News

Stroll down Midtown's Willis Street some October evening, and you might be surprised by the huge, illuminated photograph hanging in the window of what was formerly the Simone DeSousa Gallery - now Eugenie, a women's retail shop slated to open next year.

The striking work in question, 10 feet by 6 feet, is "The Empress" by Detroit artist Jova Lynne. It features a magenta-haired Jamaican woman in white, regally framed by tropical plants and two enormous concrete pillars, all alone in a rural landscape. 

"The Empress" in "Spotlight by Eugenie: Jova Lynne," on view through Oct. 31.

Indeed, the suggestion of industrial decay in an empty field almost looks like something lifted out of Detroit, but this classically composed portrait was actually shot in Kingston, Jamaica, where part of the artist's family comes from.

Properly titled "Spotlight by Eugenie: Jova Lynne," the month-long window display is the second of two window installations by Detroit artists curated by DeSousa in her old space. The September exhibition was by 2011 Kresge Eminent Artist Carole Harris. In November, the window will spotlight Tyanna Buie.

But while the COVID-19 economic downtown led DeSousa to close her gallery, half her Midtown operation, she's happily holding onto the part next door, Edition, her retail outlet that also has a limited amount of space for exhibits. (She plans opening a new Detroit gallery space sometime in the near future.)

At Edition, you'll find five more images by Lynne from her "Soft Thrones" series, the outgrowth of workshops the artist, who got her MFA in photography at the Cranbrook Academy of Art,  conducted in Kingston two years ago with "queer-identified, female-spectrum Jamaicans," focusing on the nature of power and identity.

Jova Lynne's "The Magician" at Simone DeSousa EDITION in Midtown Detroit.

Lynne, who's the Susanne Feld Hilberry Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, is currently working on a project in Denmark, and couldn't be reached for this article.

But what DeSousa admires about the "Soft Thrones" photo series, part of a larger body of work Lynne calls "Sites of Power," is that while the five women on display -- each shot individually, surrounded by tropical foliage -- are very specific individuals, there's a universality to the portraits that casts a much wider net than you might imagine.

"There’s something very human about Jova's portraits," DeSousa said. "They transmit this sense of themselves – of knowing themselves – that’s really empowering, both to the subjects and the viewer as well."

Indeed, Lynne -- whose work has been shown at institutions ranging from the Brooklyn Museum to the Stroboskop Art Space in Warsaw, Poland -- is intrigued by the parallels between fictional, historical and personal narratives.

Her photographs, DeSousa said, boil down to "the empowering of the ordinary – each of us being seen for who we are. It is," she added, "a beautiful thing" -- as are Lynne's lush, majestic portraits.

Jova Lynne's "The Empress (Sits)" at Simone DeSousa EDITION in Midtown Detroit.

(313) 815-6410

Twitter: @mhodgesartguy

'Spotlight by Eugenie: Jova Lynne'

Through Oct. 31

Eugenie, 444 W. Willis, Unit 112, Detroit

More works by Jova Lynne:

EDITION, 444 W. Willis, Unit 111, Detroit

(313) 833-9000