2022 Image Equity Fellow: Nykelle DeVivo

Explore this body of work by the California-based artist


Photograph by Nykelle DeVivo

Nykelle DeVivo is one of 20 Fellows who were awarded the inaugural Image Equity Fellowship. Learn more here.

lexicon of the cool (2022) by Nykelle DevivoFREE THE WORK

lexicon of the cool

Tha Crossroads is one part of DeVivo’s ongoing series that explores the different ways Black people throughout the diaspora connect to the spirit. The source of DeVivo’s inspiration comes from the Kongo cosmogram—a core symbol in Bakongo spirituality that depicts the cyclical nature of the physical and spiritual worlds. In this iteration, DeVivo narrows in on the point at which the spirit rises, whereas they describe, “birth and potentiality reach their ultimate point.”

birth of the purple moon (2023) by Nykelle DevivoFREE THE WORK

A reference to the Sun Ra song, "The Night of the Purple Moon" (1970).  Birthing hips usher in a new reality. Here, queer sex operates as a place of birth.

Working with a mix of photographic techniques including Polaroids and burning and layering images, DeVivo is less driven by the representative nature of photography, instead stating, “I’m more interested in the ephemeral or emotional space we connect to through image-making.”

sweet chariot (2023) by Nykelle DevivoFREE THE WORK

A reference to a line in the song "April 7th" by Moor Mother: "And sweet chariots coming to take us home." An image capturing the joy and potentiality in spaces of transition. Mourning for something that once was while birthing something new.

Throughout the photographs, a purple moon births into the world; two bodies intertwined call to sexuality and pleasure as a space of connection; and the recurring motif of sparks offer a visual representation of the spirit’s birth into the physical world. For DeVivo, who has family connections to Southern vodou, Creole heritage, and Hinduism, the creation of these photographs feels tied directly to their lineage.

pour (2022) by Nykelle DevivoFREE THE WORK

Pouring libations as a figure enters the space of death. An image of mourning but also the acceptance of a new world. This is the start of the birthing of that new world.

“I call my art practice my spiritual practice,” says DeVivo. “It’s a place where I can commune with my ancestors.”

Editorial statement by Aperture.

going home (2023) by Nykelle DevivoFREE THE WORK

going home

girl blue (2022) by Nykelle DevivoFREE THE WORK

girl blue

(take me) to the water (2022) by Nykelle DevivoFREE THE WORK

(take me) to the water

tha crossroads (2022) by Nykelle DevivoFREE THE WORK

tha crossroads

(open) the gates (2022) by Nykelle DevivoFREE THE WORK

(open) the gates

black is the color (2022) by Nykelle DevivoFREE THE WORK

black is the color

Nykelle HeadshotFREE THE WORK

Nykelle DeVivo

Click below to see more work from this California-based image maker:


Explore the other 2022 Image Equity Fellows’ final projects and learn more about the Fellowship here.

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