Section: Arts

Black Women/Black Lives show encourages viewer solidarity

Black Women/Black Lives show encourages viewer solidarity

Shane Canfeild Photo

By Claire Preston

Walking into the Black Women/Black Lives exhibition at the Gund Gallery, I found it hard not to be captivated by the bright oranges and yellows of the protest posters displayed on the walls. I was engrossed by the images of defiant and motherly black women, and my enthusiasm seemed to be mirrored on the faces of the other visitors at the exhibition.

From Jan. 14 to Feb. 5, Gund Gallery is providing students with an exhibition that Jessica Lane ’20, a Gund Gallery associate who worked on the educational aspect of this exhibition, described as “very relevant to the current social climate.” The Meier-Draudt Curatorial Classroom, in the back of the first floor of the Gallery, is filled with politically charged art, all brought together under the topic of Black Women/Black Lives.”

This exhibition, curated by Gund Gallery Associates Rose Bishop ’17, Natasha Siyumbwa ’17 and Jenna Wendler ’17, explores topics of segregation, solidarity, maternity, female relationships and many more, all through the lens of black women. The works range from photography to a tapestry to music played through headphones attached to the gallery wall, providing an all-encompassing view of the struggles these women face and the many different ways they used art as a form of protest in the modern world.

“The inspiration for this show was a proposed gift from David Horvitz ’74 H ’98 and Francie Bishop Good, composed of three civil rights photographs, a Romare Bearden collage and a Jacob Lawrence painting. Additionally, Horvitz loaned the gallery a Faith Ringgold quilt, “Dancing in the Louvre,” which will later be gifted as well. It’s a really prominent piece, so I’m ecstatic that we have it here,” Wendler, one of the curators of the exhibition, wrote in an email to the Collegian. When she was asked about the exhibition,  she also brought up her enthusiasm about having this specific piece in the collection. “Faith Ringgold is famous for protesting galleries that don’t show enough women/women of color,” she wrote. Lane also spoke about the piece. “It’s so hard for women and artists of color to get gallery space and to get their art exposed” Lane said. All the pieces mentioned here are owned by the Gund Gallery.

Running alongside the art exhibition, is the Black Women/Black Lives film series, which focuses on the same theme of viewing racism through the lens of femininity. The film series began on Jan. 24 with the film American Violet. The next installment in the film series will be on Feb. 2 in the Gund Gallery’s Community Foundation Theater and will feature Cimmon Seed and Sandy Bottom, a film by Moira Fett ’17 that focuses on the way white artists and consumers have appropriated black women’s experiences, and Marian Anderson in Mount Vernon, a film by Harrison Kalish ’18 that explores grassroots efforts of women in Mount Vernon.

Visitors may leave their responses to the Black Women/Black Lives exhibition in a book placed on a podium next to the final piece of art. One note, left by Morgan Harden ’17, reads: “Such beautiful and thought provoking work! Thank you for bringing this out to the Kenyon community. I’ll definitely be back to see it/experience it again.”

Wendler’s goal for the exhibit is for “people to walk away from this seeing the movements we engage with, and therefore one another, with more complexity and more empathy,” she wrote. “I hope we can encourage more open dialogues so that people can start to understand each other rather than creating an us/them dichotomy, especially given the current political climate.”

Bishop, Siyumbwa and Wendler will discuss their work curating Black Women/Black Lives today at common hour in Gund Gallery. The films Cimmon Seed and Sandy Bottom and Marian Anderson in Mount Vernon will be shown on Thursday, Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. in the Community Foundation Theater.

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