THE FIRSTS - JAMES BALDWIN
In honour of James Baldwin (1924-1987) and his time spent in Switzerland, I portrayed him as part of my ongoing portrait series The Firsts, being the first black guest at the little village of Leukerbad in the Valais Alps in Switzerland at times between 1951-53. His partner at the time, the Swiss painter Lucien Happersberger (1932-2010), invited him to his family house Burg Hüsli there to focus on completing his first novel Go Tell it on the Mountain.
After visiting the village myself for the first time in autumn 2016 to find the chalet he lived in, I met the owner of the house and asked if I could memorialize James Baldwin on one of the wooden window shutters. He agreed! I then contacted the Baldwin Estate in New York City to share my idea and got their blessing, too! I returned to Leukerbad during the last holiday season and was able take the shutter away with me, and I made the work at my studio in Helsinki. I have made a drawing of James based on many of his photos and films – he even bought the woollen pullover he is wearing in Leukerbad.
On February 23, I spoke about and revealed the work at the conference "The evidence of things not seen" – Queering Europe with James Baldwin at the University of Bern, Switzerland, before heading to Leukerbad, Switzerland to permanently install the public artwork on 4.3.2018.
Sasha Huber, The Firsts - James Baldwin (1924-1987), metal staples on window shutter, 49 x 69 cm, 2018
Photo: Siro Micheroli © Sasha Huber