Yvette Rock was born in Paramaribo, Suriname in 1975 to Humphrey and Catalina Amstelveen. Her family fled from Suriname in 1983 and became political asylees in the United States, landing in Miami Beach, Florida. At the age of 17, she moved to New York City where she attended Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1997. She then moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan where she graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in Painting from the University of Michigan in 1999. During her time at U of M, she conceived of a course called Detroit Connections, an on-going program that connects U of M students, staff and faculty with Detroit schools. Rock began working as an artist-in-residence for InsideOut Literary Arts Project in Detroit in 1999, teaching art to children in grades K-12. In 2001, she moved to Detroit, where she has dedicated the past two decades of her life to bringing art to Detroiters of all ages and stages of life. She is the founder and CEO of Live Coal Gallery, a small business transforming lives and neighborhoods through the Live Coal Collective (an annually selected group of creatives she collaborates with); the Live Coal Arts Mobile (an 18’ red trailer that functions as a traveling gallery and a creative play/workshop space; The RED (a children’s art museum); and Detroit rePatched (an arts-infused green space and art hub in Detroit’s Brightmoor neighborhood). Live Coal is a 2017, 2019, and 2021 Knight Arts Challenge Detroit Winner. Rock is also a 2019 Facing Change: Documenting Detroit Fellow.
Yvette Rock is a visual artist currently focusing on creating mixed media works and photography on paper, canvas, and wood. She is not locked-into one type of style; instead, she fosters a dialogue between the concept and process. She desires to make moving pieces layered with meaning; art that is ambitious, technical, and experimental; art that is bold, detailed, and unpredictable. Rock explores topics such as human conception (from a biological, aesthetic, and spiritual perspective); motherhood (often reflecting on her own journey as a mother of five children); identity and racism (wrestling with personal and societal ideas about self, blackness, and multiculturalism); and the collision of worlds (exploring the relationship between life and death, light and shadows, materialism and the ephemeral). She often employs the power of the figurative form (whether representational or abstract) to reclaim a vision of people whose bodies or histories are neither accounted for, nor treated with care and attention. Rock is also inspired by the power and beauty of nature to convey these ideas through colors, textures, contrast, and found objects. The use of symbols and images such as circles, dolls, birds, leaves, the colors red and gold, are often a part of her visual language.
Video by Nathan Clark, Christianity Today, 2012
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