Yvette Rock received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Cooper Union in New York City and a Master of Fine Arts in painting from University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She spent one year as a Visiting Scholar during her post-graduate stint at U of M. It was during this time that Rock conceived of Detroit Connections, a program that fostered collaboration between U of M and Detroit schools and organizations. She has worked as artist-in-residence with InsideOut Literary Arts Project, founded a local after-school program, is a community activist, and collaborates with artists of various disciplines. Rock has exhibited throughout southeast Michigan, including the Carr Center, Detroit Artists Market, Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center, Ellen Kayrod Gallery, and National Conference of Artists. She is the founder and CEO of Live Coal Gallery, a social venture whose purpose is to foster a passion for art, community, and learning. In 2018, she opened The RED, a children's art museum in Detroit. Rock lives in Detroit with her husband and four children.
I am a visual artist who uses a variety of mediums to explore issues surrounding the human condition. For twenty years, I have been exploring these issues in the context of the city of Detroit. I have created pieces such as “Plague of Racism,” “Plague of Poverty,” and “Plague of Violence” to share the stories of people I know, have photographed and interviewed. I often employ the power of the figurative form to reclaim a vision of people whose bodies or histories are not accounted for, nor treated with care and attention. These themes are also present in my “Battle for Life” series in which I photograph myself in fetal-like positions and create mixed media pieces dealing with gender and race, particularly as it relates to eugenics, discrimination and the African-American experience.
In 2017 I began a new staged photographic series called “Money Head” in which I confront myself and my viewer with the role money plays in our lives – whether the lack, accumulation or power of it. Money Head’s appearance can be seen in various contexts, including vacant land, development in progress, an empty gallery, or a home. As the artist, I do not stand as judge, but as participant in this materialistic culture. I am confronted by the role of money in our everyday lives and how our decisions involving money impact other human beings around the world, whether we are conscious of it or not. I am also especially impacted by the current development happening in Detroit where gentrification has clearly made its mark. I highlight this truth with the photograph, “Money Head (Spiraled Out)” where the African-American gallerist Dell Pryor sits in her former empty gallery that was being replaced by a white-owned bar. It was important to capture this moment in Dell’s and Detroit’s history.
Two years ago, through collaborating with a performance artist for the first time, I discovered the power of using my body, sound, and video to tell stories. I have created short videos and added sound as another element to one of my “Money Head” photographs. As I continue my explorations and conversations around the human condition, it is vital to challenge myself and be able to convey my visions to my viewers by creating relevant, interactive, and compelling work.
Video by Nathan Clark, Christianity Today, 2012