Justyne Fischer (American, b. 1971)

Justyne Fischer examines the legacy of racism and memorializes pivotal figures and events in American history. Working between woodcut printing and using wood-burning (Pyrogravure) on live-edge wood panels, Fischer’s socially-conscious images offer graphic indictments of systemic racism and ask us to remember both the victims of injustice and those who have fought against oppression.


Fischer’s recent print collections including “Social Memorials”, “Bad Asses from History”, and her newest series “Burned in History.” The woodcuts making up the "Social Memorials" series shine a light on the myriad of unjust events involving unarmed Black men, women, and boys. “Bad Asses from History” (2020) honors the legacies of Frederick Douglass, John Lewis, Harriet Tubman, and John Mercer Langston. “The Root” (2020-22) explores the origins of systemic racism and white supremacy in America which is rooted in slavery, explicit police brutality and our biased criminal justice system.  “1921” (2021) was the first work in the series “Burned in History”. This wood-burning created on the 100-year anniversary, reframes the buried atrocities of the Greenwood Race Massacre. 


Without the aid of a press, Fischer’s woodcuts often depart from the usual associations we make with traditional printmaking processes. She burnishes, and hand pulls large-scale compositions onto sheer fabric. As light passes through the image, the layered fabric creates intentional moirés, optical movement, and illumination. 


For “Burned in History” (2022), the most recent series, Fischer uses medium of Pyrogravure, or woodburning in combination with dry and wet pigment, oil, and wax on live-edge wooden panels to memorialize influential figures such as John Brown, Harriet Tubman, Bass Reeves, Sarah Rector, Robert Johnson, and Angela Davis. The works celebrate these leading figures’ inner light, wisdom, and tenacity. She deliberately chose the act of burning to create the portraits, in reference to the burning of the Greenwood community of Tulsa Oklahoma by white supremacists in what is known as the “1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.” The process also recalls the horrific practice of branding flesh during chattel slavery. By inscribing these heroic likenesses in heat, literally burning them in, Fischer conceptually connects these figures and their struggles for liberation with the atrocities and daily degradations that Black people endured during slavery, Jim Crow and that continue in many forms today.


Disillusionment with current divisions and hatred in American society has caused Fischer to look back at moments in history that shaped our systems and beliefs. She is interested in questions such as: How do oral and written histories shape our perceptions of the truth? Is the truth even valued anymore? Likewise, the artworks in the work exhibit, ask the viewer to interrogate their own understanding of history and recent events, and hopefully begin the work of reframing the narrative.