Doreen Garner was born in 1986 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Since graduating from Rhode Island School of Design with an MFA in glass in 2014, Garner has created corporeal sculptures—that utilize glass alongside silicone, beads, crystals, rubber, synthetic hair, petroleum jelly, and other materials—to explore the frequently suppressed and traumatic medical histories of the Black body. Her sculptures are often incorporated in her performances and video works, examining the links between clinical and medical repulsions alongside sensual and sexual fascinations. Assertively reclaiming power, Garner’s work confronts viewers, challenging them to consider their complacency in systems of objectification, racism, false narratives, and historical omissions while commemorating those who have been subjected to enslavement, medical torture, and racial oppression. Garner has held residencies and fellowships at Recess Art, the International Studio and Curatorial Program, Socrates Sculpture Park, Pioneer Works, and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. She is also a licensed tattoo artist, a practice that extends her acknowledgment of the simultaneous resilience and silencing of African Americans throughout history.
Doreen Garner shares the motivation driving her sculptural practice: to educate viewers about suppressed racist histories. Her recent project at Pioneer Works forced viewers to confront the horrific practices of J. Marion Sims, long celebrated as the “father of modern gynecology” despite the fact that he regularly operated on enslaved Black women without anesthesia or their consent.
“It’s not about creating a gruesome work. It’s about creating subtle nuance where you don’t completely know how to feel. And maybe that’s what stays with you.”