Steffani Jemison

A Rock, A River, A Street

Followed by a talk with the artist Sam Vernon.


Steffani Jemison, Photo: © Nottingham Contemporary, 2018

Steffani Jemison, A Rock, A River, A Street, Cover, New York: Primary Information, 2022.

Sam Vernon, Photo: Jasper Kettner

In her experimental debut novella, A Rock, A River, A Street (2022), artist Steffani Jemison moves deftly across narrative genres and styles as she interrogates the boundedness of the self, the possibilities of plurality, and the limits of performance. Titled after Maya Angelou’s poem “On the Pulse of Morning,” the book is punctuated by gestural drawings that point to questions of repetition and difference.

Where does your body end and the world begin? How do you locate the limit between yourself and others? A Rock, A River, A Street follows a young Black woman who lives at the hazy border between Brooklyn and Queens in the not-so-distant present. As she rides the subway, walks around her neighborhood, visits the doctor, watches movies, attends dance class, and tries to heal her body, she recalls formative experiences from her childhood and absorbs the world around her; in the process, we are brought into her conflicted relationship with language. Acutely conscious of the soft, responsive nature of her physical self, and pushed and pulled by forces she cannot control, the narrator is vulnerable, terrifyingly open. Everything and everyone leaves an impression.

During the reading + listening session at CCA Berlin, Jemison will share published and unpublished writing from her journals and her novella A Rock, A River, A Street, along with selected sound and music from her recent works. The reading is followed by a conversation with artist Sam Vernon, who shares Jemison’s interest in repetition and reproduction, continuity and endlessness, echoes and origins.


Untitled (Stroke 1-10), 2022. Courtesy of the artist, in: Steffani Jemison, A Rock, A River, A Street, New York: Primary Information, 2022.

Steffani Jemison is an artist in Brooklyn, New York. Jemison has presented solo exhibitions and commissioned performances at JOAN Los Angeles, Greene Naftali, Mass MoCA, Jeu de Paume, CAPC Bordeaux, the Museum of Modern Art, LAXART, and other venues. Her work has been included in significant generational exhibitions, including Greater New York 2021 and the Whitney Biennial 2019. Her work is part of many permanent public collections, including the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum, Kadist, and the Stedelijk Museum. Jemison is the author of A Rock, A River, A Street (Primary Information, 2022). Her publishing project, Future Plan and Program, published books by Harold Mendez, Martine Syms, Jibade-Khalil Huffman, Jina Valentine, and Szu-Han Ho. With Quincy Flowers, she co-founded at Louis Place, a platform for writers.

Sam Vernon earned her MFA in Painting/Printmaking from Yale University in 2015 and her BFA from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in 2009. Her installations combine xeroxed drawings, prints, photographs, paintings and sculptural components in an exploration of personal narrative and identity. Sam has exhibited with many public institutions including G44 Centre for Contemporary Photography, Toronto, Canada; Seattle Art Museum, Olympic Sculpture Park; California African American Museum in Los Angeles; San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, Brooklyn Museum and Queens Museum. Vernon's latest solo exhibition, Impasse of Desires, was on view at the Museum of African Diaspora in San Francisco, California 2021 and 2022. Sam is an Assistant Professor at Bard College in Studio Arts, former co-Chair for the Painting discipline of the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard, and teaches printmaking and graduate courses at California College of the Arts (CCA). Sam recently moved to Berlin, Germany for a year-long residency with the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program.