For this series, she took text supplied by poet Michael Joyce, which had been inspired by Buddhist sutras, and did a visual riff on them. She refers to them as "portals," so large that perhaps the viewer might enter them and meditate upon six different realms of perception.
The subject of "First Portal (mind)" is consciousness. "How do you show thinking?" Grant asks. "So there are these gray, ambiguous areas of language in the back out of which these spectrums of ideas are bursting through." The theme of the "Second Portal (eye)" is sight, with contrasting bubbles containing words such as "read," "place" and "image" emerging from the dark background.
"I like the fact that anyone can look at my work and understand that it's about language," she says. "It's available to anyone even if you couldn't read it, it's also very specific text, so it has this wonderful both/and."
"I'm from South Carolina and a lot of the work I've done previously references that," Pressley says. As a child, her family visited Charleston, and there she was introduced to the Gullah language and culture — the Gullah are descendants of African slaves who settled in the Sea Islands, and to this day they speak an unusual dialect influenced by African languages.
In "Word," Pressley has made a two-sided work on paper. On one side are the first three verses from the Book of John from the Gullah Bible, which begins, "Fo God mek de wol, de Wod been dey. De Wod been dey wid God, an de Wod been God." Pressley has written the verses around the paper, turning it and continuing it repeatedly until the text covers the surface. The text, says Pressley, who was raised as a fundamentalist Christian, "is basically about Jesus coming down and the word becoming flesh," and is a cornerstone of Christianity. The slaves adopted the English language and Christianity as part of their survival strategy.
On the other side of the paper she has embossed part of the story of Anansi, a spider-like character from African folklore, in which he is collecting tales from the Sky God. "I'm putting these two texts in the same conversation. It speaks to the complexities of these communities trying to survive, of how communities try to negotiate a space."
In working with verses from the Bible, Pressley says, "maybe I'm trying to enliven it for myself."