CATALYST: Art and Social Justice

Works by New York Artists and Activists since 1960, celebrating the power of art to spark change and spur progress.
Closing September 8, 2021

 

A Teenager with Promise, 2018

Alexandra Bell (1983-)
Digital Print
Courtesy of Nina Chanel Abney and Jet Toomer

 


 

ALEXANDRA BELL is a multidisciplinary artist who examines media coverage to expose bias against marginalized groups. Bell’s graduate degree in journalism taught her a fundamental lesson: journalists should be objective. However, daily newspapers offered her article after article to the contrary: bias was everywhere. In Counternarratives, Bell edits, redacts, and reformats New York Times articles to highlight their subtle or explicit
assumptions about race.

GOING TO WORK, 1980

Perla de Leon
Inkjet Print
Courtesy of the Artist

 


 

PERLA DE LEON was born in Harlem. She received a B.A. degree in art history from Fordham/Lincoln Center, an M.F.A in photography from Brooklyn College, and then studied at Columbia University’s Graduate Film Directors Program.

When arriving at her first assigned school in the South Bronx in the late 1970s, she was shocked at the neighborhood’s physical decline yet was determined to record the resilient African-American and Puerto Rican residents. The vital spirit of the Bronx she knew from childhood survived despite the violent urbanist slash of the Cross Bronx Expressway and the arson-illuminated flight that followed in its destructive wake.

Going to Work shows a fashionable woman whose daily agency belies the depressed environment she strides through.

The artist’s social awareness and activism have involved her in an important non-photography project providing solar lights to many communities in Puerto Rico that have been without electricity since Hurricane Maria struck in fall 2017.

“I wanted to show more the life that was there…for me, it was just resilience.”

— Perla de Leon

Link: For a video interview of Perla de Leon on the Smithsonian website, click here.

Link: For a link to the movie Decade of Fire, click here.

 

UNTITLED, 1982

David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992)
Spray Paint on Plexiglass
Courtesy of Beth Rudin DeWoody


 

A victim of the AIDS crisis at age 37, DAVID WOJNAROWICZ was a prolific gay writer, painter, photographer, poet, printmaker and activist. His 1991 memoir Close to the Knives about loss and rage in the face of official denial empowered other artists to follow his lead. Beth Rudin DeWoody is recognized as a career-maker for emerging artists in her Florida gallery, The Bunker Artspace.

“There’s a thin line, a very thin line, and as each T-cell disappears from my body, it’s replaced by 10 pounds of pressure, 10 pounds of rage, 10 pounds of pressure, 10 pounds of rage, and I focus that rage into non-violent resistance, but the focus is starting to slip, the focus is starting to slip.”

— David Wojnarowicz reading from his work in 1992 at the Drawing Center as a benefit for Needle Exchange

Link: For an article about David Wojnarowicz from Visual AIDS, click here.

Link: To watch a video comparing the work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres and David Wojnarowicz, click here.

Link: For the New York Times obituary for David Wojnarowicz, click here.

Note: Peter Hujar was a friend and mentor to David Wojnarowicz. Shortly after Hujar died from complications due to AIDS, Wojnarowicz discovered that he was HIV positive.

Note: The main motif in Untitled, a man injecting himself, was used in another painting by David Wojnarowicz in collaboration with John Fekner. Fekner had created a mural on the Lower East Side of New York City for Lorraine O’Grady’s Black and White Show (1983) that was a simple black ground with TOXIC JUNKIE in white LED-style lettering. In the collaboration painting (1983) after that show, David Wojnarowicz reuses the motif from Untitled to fill the canvas and the words TOXIC JUNKY are superimposed in yellow LED-style lettering.

Link: For information about John Fekner’s TOXIC JUNKIE mural, click here.

Link: For additional information about the collaboration between David Wojnarowicz and John Fekner, click here.

Note: David Wojnarowicz showed his art at the Gracie Mansion Gallery of Joanne Mayhew-Young in 1984. This is NOT Gracie Mansion, the Mayor’s house!

 

KING MISSION, 2019

Nari Ward, (1963-)
Hydrocal Medallion
Courtesy of the Artist and the Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul


 

NARI WARD, a Jamaican-born artist, has gained recognition for a broad body of work, which includes sculptures, large-scale installations, paintings, and videos. He explores such contemporary social issues as gentrification, democracy, historical memory and racism. King Mission is a replica of a plaque depicting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, from a school near the artist’s Harlem studio. Every buyer of this multiple piece must sign an agreement that resale profits be donated to the Bowery Mission, which has served New York City’s homeless population since 1879.

Link: For Nari Ward’s art at Lehmann Maupin, click here.

Link: For Nari Ward’s art at Galleria Continua, click here.

Link: For a look at Nari Ward’s We The People at the New-York Historical Society, click here.

Link: To watch a video about Nari Ward’s We the People exhibition, click here.

 

FRUIT OF DOOM, 1969

Unknown Artist
Offset Lithograph
Courtesy of the Whitney Museum of American Art
Purchase, with funds from the American Contemporary Art Foundation, Inc., Leonard A. Lauder, President


 

Artists have long been inspired by the brutality of war to protest and create protest art. Stop BS was designed by artist RICHARD SERRA. The designers of Fruit of Doom and Help End Demonstrations are not known. All three posters are part of the Daniel Wolf Collection of Protest Posters at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

“In contrast to the patriotic, colorful war propaganda posters of the first half of the 20th century, the 1960s and 70s gave rise to another type of political advertisement — the simply drawn, sometimes sobering protest poster. Decorating the bulletin boards of college campuses, these posters served as rallying cries for peace, defamations of Nixon and the federal government, and tributes to the martyrs of the civil rights movement.”

— Brian Resnick, The Atlantic

Link: For the article Posters in Social Protest, click here.

Link: For the article, Six Posters from the 1960s and 1970s, click here.

Link: For the article, Protest Posters from the Vietnam Era, click here.

Link: For the article, War Posters of the 20th Century, click here.

STOP BS, 2004

Richard Serra
Offset Lithograph
Courtesy of the Whitney Museum of American Art
Purchase, with funds from the American Contemporary Art Foundation, Inc., Leonard A. Lauder, President


 

Artists have long been inspired by the brutality of war to protest and create protest art. Stop BS was designed by artist RICHARD SERRA. The designers of Fruit of Doom and Help End Demonstrations are not known. All three posters are part of the Daniel Wolf Collection of Protest Posters at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

“In contrast to the patriotic, colorful war propaganda posters of the first half of the 20th century, the 1960s and 70s gave rise to another type of political advertisement — the simply drawn, sometimes sobering protest poster. Decorating the bulletin boards of college campuses, these posters served as rallying cries for peace, defamations of Nixon and the federal government, and tributes to the martyrs of the civil rights movement.”

— Brian Resnick, The Atlantic

Link: For the article Posters in Social Protest, click here.

Link: For the article, Six Posters from the 1960s and 1970s, click here.

Link: For the article, Protest Posters from the Vietnam Era, click here.

Link: For the article, War Posters of the 20th Century, click here.

HELP END DEMONSTRATIONS, 1960-1970

Unknown Artist
Offset Lithograph
Courtesy of the Whitney Museum of American Art
Purchase, with funds from the American Contemporary Art Foundation, Inc., Leonard A. Lauder, President


 

Artists have long been inspired by the brutality of war to protest and create protest art. Stop BS was designed by artist RICHARD SERRA. The designers of Fruit of Doom and Help End Demonstrations are not known. All three posters are part of the Daniel Wolf Collection of Protest Posters at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

“In contrast to the patriotic, colorful war propaganda posters of the first half of the 20th century, the 1960s and 70s gave rise to another type of political advertisement — the simply drawn, sometimes sobering protest poster. Decorating the bulletin boards of college campuses, these posters served as rallying cries for peace, defamations of Nixon and the federal government, and tributes to the martyrs of the civil rights movement.”

— Brian Resnick, The Atlantic

Link: For the article Posters in Social Protest, click here.

Link: For the article, Six Posters from the 1960s and 1970s, click here.

Link: For the article, Protest Posters from the Vietnam Era, click here.

Link: For the article, War Posters of the 20th Century, click here.

THE RED RIBBON, 1991

Visual AIDS Artists’ Caucus
Grosgrain and satin ribbon and safety pin
Courtesy of Visual AIDS


The red ribbon is a symbol of AIDS awareness created by a collective of artist activists responding to ignorance and official indifference. Inspired by the yellow ribbon then common in support of Gulf War troops, the group felt the war against AIDS was equally deserving of a symbol: one of hope that “one day soon the AIDS epidemic will be over, the sick will be healed, and the stress upon our society relieved.” For what was first called The Ribbon Project, the artists chose red to represent the “connection to blood and the idea of passion—not only anger, but love…”

“The Red Ribbon was created in 1991 by the Visual AIDS Artists’ Caucus as a meaningful symbol of awareness and to show support and compassion for those living with AIDS and their caregivers…Highlighted prominently at the 1991 Tony Awards, the ribbon came to be worn widely by celebrities and was taken up internationally as a symbol of AIDS awareness, eventually being included on a US postage stamp and entering the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art as a design icon. As an artist/activist project, the ribbon has never been copyrighted so that it can circulate widely as a consciousness-raising symbol, and as the first wearable ribbon it has led the way for many other color ribbons and awareness projects.”

— Visual AIDS

Link: To read an article about the creation of the Red Ribbon on the Visual AIDS website, click here.

Link: To read an article from Visual AIDS about the addition of the Red Ribbon to the MoMA Design Collection, click here.

Link: To read an article and listen to a podcast from 99% Invisible about the history of the Red Ribbon, click here.

TOUCH SANITATION PERFORMANCE, 1979-1980

Mierle Laderman Ukeles
July 24, 1979-June 26, 1980. Citywide performance with 8,500 Sanitation workers across all fifty-nine New York City Sanitation districts
March 24, 1980
Sweep 7, Staten Island 2
Photo: Deborah Freedman
Courtesy of the Artist and The Ronald Feldman Gallery


 

MIERLE LADERMAN UKELES speaks with a group of uniformed Department of Sanitation workers, “New York’s Strongest,” during her milestone performance Touch Sanitation. This work was her first as the newly-engaged “artist in residence” with the City of New York and the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) in particular. It is a position she holds to this day. In an unexpected unification of art, essential public service, and large-scale municipal systems, Ukeles worked with DSNY to map the pick-up route of all 8,500 sanitation workers. From July 1979 to June 1980, she traveled to all fifty-nine DSNY community districts, shook each uniformed worker’s hand, and thanked them, one-by-one, “for keeping New York City alive.”

Ukeles arrived at the DSNY through a bold feminist declaration made in 1969, when as a new mother and housekeeper she realized that child-rearing had cast her aside from a patriarchal art world.

The Maintenance Manifesto declared how she would continue her everyday work in the home and declare it as art. She succinctly juxtaposed the invisibility and life-sustaining labor of family care with the “action” of new creation when she asked, “The sourball of every revolution: after the revolution, who’s going to pick up the garbage on Monday morning?” From garbage barge ballets to sanitation parades to street-washing performances, Ukeles has worked with DSNY on large-scale performance pieces to lend dignity and respect to well-deserving maintenance workers across the five boroughs and beyond.

In 2015, the City’s Department of Cultural Affairs established the Public Artists in Residence program, so far embedding ten artists in nine City agencies as inspired by Ukeles’ pioneering career.

Link: To read the Maintenance Manifesto, click here.

Link: For a Hyperallergic article about Mierle Laderman Ukeles, click here.

MUNICIPAL ART SOCIETY PENNSYLVANIA STATION PROTEST

June 29, 1988
Steven Tucker (1955-) Inkjet print
Courtesy of Steven Tucker


New York-based photographer STEVEN TUCKER has documented the preservation and planning activism of New York’s oldest advocacy group dedicated to a livable city: The Municipal Art Society (MAS). Here, Tucker records a demonstration, led by the then MAS president Kent Barwick, against a proposed weakening of landmarks protection. It fell on the 25th anniversary of the first such protest in 1962, fighting what proved to be a losing battle to save the original Penn Station. Its destruction spurred the landmarks law signed into legislation in 1965 by Mayor Robert F. Wagner Jr.

Link: To see the Steven Tucker website, click here.

Link: To see the Municipal Art Society website, click here.

Link: To read an article from the Museum of the City of New York about historic preservation, click here.

Link: To read a history of NYC Landmarks Law from the New York Preservation Archive Project, click here.

Link: To read an interview with Kent Barwick regarding landmarks preservation, click here.

Link: To see photos from Untapped Cities of a new subway tile mural of old Penn Station, click here.

RAISE UP, 2014

Hank Willis Thomas (1976-)
Bronze
Courtesy of the Artists and Jack Shainman Gallery


HANK WILLIS THOMAS searches archives and vintage periodicals for photographs that he transforms into print, sculpture, and video works that explore black identity in mass media and popular culture. Thomas digitally alters his source photos, adding, deleting or masking features that reduce black bodies to cultural commodities. Raise Up is based on an Ernest Cole photo of black South African prisoners preparing for an invasive medical examination. In Thomas’ sculpture, the men’s naked bodies are no longer on view, protecting them from further intrusion, but their upraised hands continue to signal their vulnerability in the face of systemic racial injustice.

The full size Raise Up sculpture is a memorial within a memorial. Raise Up is installed on the grounds of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, and is reflective of the American legacy of slavery and lynching as well as today’s mass incarceration. The repeating hands-up gesture reflects the vulnerability of African American men in the face of systemic racial injustice. Coincidentally, Thomas designed and completed Raise Up just months before Michael Brown, an unarmed teen in Ferguson, Missouri, was killed by a white police officer and the phrase “Hands up. Don’t shoot.” became the slogan of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“My interest, and the work that I do, in sculpture and photography, is looking at historical images and trying to bring history forward…to put elements of historical record that are overlooked into public space and galleries and institutions so that people have to confront it and think about the present moment in the context of the past.”

— Hank Willis Thomas

“It’s often people in the weakest positions who choose to put themselves on the line. And they are so easily erased—some might say whitewashed—and written over.”

— Hank Willis Thomas

“All of the projects I’ve been focusing on of late are the fascinating experiences of elevating the voices of everyday people, getting them invested in telling their stories and learning from them. So often we look at artists and art as being a process where we put out something for the world to consume and I’m really interested in creating platforms for the world to offer wisdom that I can learn from.”

— Hank Willis Thomas

“Growing up in the archive [of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture where his mother was a curator], I just became hyperaware of the missing images in our society—the images that aren’t shown, the stories that aren’t told.”

— Hank Willis Thomas

Link: For Hank Willis Thomas’ website, click here.

Link: For an article about Hank Willis Thomas in Time magazine article, click here.

Link: For the For Freedoms website, click here.

Link: For an article about Raise Up, click here.

Link: To watch a video of Hank Willis Thomas’ discussion of a daguerreotype button for the Met’s Artist Project, click here.

Link: For an article about Hank Willis Thomas’ Unity at Tillary and Adams Street, near the Brooklyn Bridge, click here.

Note: This photograph by Ernest Cole is the basis for Raise Up by Hank Willis Thomas.

During a group medical examination, the naked men are herded through a string of doctors’ offices. Courtesy of the Hasselblad Foundation. © The Ernest Cole Family Trust. This photograph is the basis for Raise Up by Hank Willis Thomas.

S.O.S. (SUSTAINABLE ORGANIC STEWARDSHIP) FREE SEEDS LIBRARY, ongoing since 2012

Tattfoo Tan (1975 – )
MDO plywood, paint, nails, acrylic sheets, seeds
Courtesy of the Artist and Hudson Valley Seed Co.


The artistic practice of TATTFOO TAN spans ecology, health, and climate change. For each new artistic endeavor, he masters a new set of skills — like horticulture, ancient health remedies, or nutrition — then designs an artistic project to teach those skills in his community and inspire the public to take local action. Modeled on the “Little Free Library” system, these totemic public sculptures provide free seeds for edible or flowering plants to New Yorkers, especially those in underserved neighborhoods. The results provide a healthy, natural, and accessible food supply.

“I hereby pledge to make the following changes in my life. My actions will be small, but their collective impact will be great. I promise to consume fresh and local produce. I promise to reduce, reuse, recycle, compost, and conserve energy. I will walk, bike, or ride public transportation as much as I can. I will set an example for others as a Sustainable Organic Steward (S.O.S.).”

— Tattfoo Tan

“My art-making process is learn-practice-teach. First, I learn things that intrigue me. Then, I practice what I’ve learned in the studio. Finally, I teach it to embody the philosophy.”

— Tattfoo Tan

“Responding to issues of health, ecology and climate change, I work across social, cultural, and artistic practices. My unique art making practice focuses on learning and mastering new skills and forms of knowledge, developing effective replicable teaching systems, and inspiring the public to take action. Learn-Practice-Teach… My multi-faceted project Sustainable. Organic. Stewardship. is a horticulture and cultivation enterprise fostering stewardship of the environment.”

— Tattfoo Tan

Link: For Tattfoo’s website, click here.

Link: For the SOS Action Guide, click here.

Link: For the article about Tattfoo Tan in Change Food, click here.

8095 DAYS, 2019

Sable Elyse Smith (1986-)
Digital c-print, suede, artist frame
Courtesy of the Artist, JTT, New York and Carlos Ishikawa, London


SABLE ELYSE SMITH is a multimedia artist whose work explores the damage caused by mass incarceration on imprisoned individuals and their families, including her own. Smith’s artistic reaction to the American prison system is personal: she has regularly visited her father in multiple prisons for over two decades. Her work explores the emotional toll of maintaining family connections in spite of prison bureaucracy, facilities, and regulations. In 8095 Days, Smith eclipses her face in a family photograph, taken in a prison visiting room, alluding to the shadow of incarceration on her family.

Since late 2016, Smith and two artist-collaborators, Melanie Crean and Shaun Leonardo, have worked with Recess (a non-profit partnership for artists and their surrounding communities), and the Brooklyn Justice Initiatives to create an arts-based diversion program for young people whose lives, like Smith’s, have intersected with the New York court system.

“Violence can be quotidian, like the landscape of prison shaping itself around my body. The images are made so that I can see me. I am haunted by trauma. We are woven in this kaleidoscopic memoir by our desires to consume pain, to blur fact and fiction, to escape.”

— Sable Elyse Smith

“Smith focuses on the ubiquity of the murals found in penitentiary visitation rooms. These are often painted by inmates, and form the backdrop for the Polaroid photos taken of inmates with their visitors. These portraits must be purchased for the equivalent of more than 20 hours of inmate labor, on average. Two photoworks, 7665 Days (2017) and 7665 Nights (2017), tell the story of this microeconomy and the unspoken negotiation embedded in these images, by emphasizing how the intimate moments they capture are choreographed by the strictures of the visitation and the agents that enact them, including the muralist and the roomful of spectators: guard, photographer, inmates not receiving a visit, inmates receiving a visit, and their visitors.”

— from the Queens Museum Ordinary Violence exhibit

Link: For Sable Elyse Smith’s website, click here.

Link: For Sable Elyse Smith’s work at the JTT Gallery, click here.

Link: For the Ordinary Violence exhibit at the Queens Museum, click here.

Link: For a Hyperallergic article about Sable Elyse Smith, click here.

Link: For the MoMA PS1 exhibit featuring work by Sable Elyse Smith, click here.

Note: 8095 days = 22 years, 2 months, and 1 day

UNTITLED (A LIE IS NOT A SHELTER), 1989

Lorna Simpson (1960-)
Gelatin Silver Print
Courtesy of the Artist and the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York


LORNA SIMPSON is a Brooklyn-based photographer, whose conceptual work tackles stereotypes of race and gender with emphasis on African American women. She is widely recognized for her photo-text installations, collages, and films. First displayed at bus stops, this image focuses on the model’s body instead of her face with text overlaying it. Combined as a whole, Simpson confronts the lack of accessible health care for many Americans, especially women of color.

“…the way that they’re interpreted out in the world—they’re racialized first. Regardless of whether I’d shown the face or not in those photographs from the 1980s, or if an actor performed a particular character in a film piece fifteen years later, all this baggage about race becomes an interpreter by which your work gets read.”

— Lorna Simpson, Artspace

“…her face is cropped out, rendering the woman anonymous and enhancing the unsettling mood. Simpson compels viewers to realize that any judgment about this woman will be based on incomplete information, on assumptions rather than on a true understanding of this individual.

The four phrases printed on the image reveal even more complex ideas. Each claims that something—a lie, discrimination, isolation, or a promise—is not something else—a shelter, protection, remedy, or prophylactic. As a series of negations, these paired phrases echo the image’s revelatory tone, which becomes clear when the phrases are read as retorts. For example, when Simpson writes, “a lie is not a shelter,” it is as if she is responding to the claim, “I lied to protect you.” Thus, her simple line contradicts and exposes assumptions.”

— Smithsonian website

Link: To see Lorna Simpson’s website, click here.

Link: To read an interview with Lorna Simpson on ArtSpace, click here.

Link: To read an article about Lorna Simpson on the Smithsonian website, click here.

Link: To see a video about Lorna Simpson from Hauser & Wirth, click here.

SILENCE = DEATH, 1987

The Silence=Death Project
Avram Finkelstein, Brian Howard, Oliver Johnston, Charles Kreloff, Chris Lione, and Jorge Socarrás
Archival Print
Courtesy of Avram Finkelstein


This iconic poster lent enduring identity to the battle against AIDS and the failure of so many to take action in combating it. The newly formed group ACT UP deployed it as a central image in their fervent activist campaign. Taking the collaborative lead from artists Finkelstein and Socarrás, the Project used the title phrase and a pink triangle, which during the 1970s had become a gay pride symbol reclaimed from its association with the persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany.

“The origins of Silence = Death, which stands alongside We Shall Overcome, Sí Se Puede, We Are the 99%, and #blacklivesmatter as a touchstone of social justice movements, can be traced to a New York diner in 1985.”

— Theodore Kerr for The Village Voice

Link: To read an article about the men who created the Silence=Death poster from the Village Voice, click here.

Link: To see the ACT UP website, click here.

Link: To see the website for the Leslie-Lohman Museum, click here.

Note: Each year, the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art curates an “ART & AIDS” exhibition.

REVEL IN YOUR BODY, 2019

Alice Sheppard
Medium: dance short film, shot for video. Includes audio description. Camera and Videographer: Shimmy Boyle, Safety Third Productions Videographer: Katherine Helen Fisher.
Performers: Alice Sheppard, Laurel Lawson
Producer: Lisa Niedermeyer
Audio Describer: Cheryl Green
Original Score Composed by Jacob Bloomfield-Misrach
Performed by Jacob Bloomfield-Misrach, William Sammons & Bijan Sharifi
Post Production Sound: IMRSV Sound
Sound Design by Bijan Sharif
Courtesy of Disability Dance Works


“Working in the disciplines of art, technology, design, and dance, Kinetic Light creates, performs, and teaches at the nexus of access, disability, dance, and race. We see disability as more than the deficit of diagnosis. In our work, intersectional disability is an aesthetic, a culture and essential element of our artistry. Through rigorous investment in the histories, cultures, and artistic work of people with disabilities and people of color, Kinetic Light creates transformative art that advances the intersectional disability arts movement.” — Alice Sheppard

In Revel in Your Body, ALICE SHEPPARD dances alongside artist Laurel Lawson on an empty parking rooftop on the Georgia Tech campus with the Atlanta skyline in the background. Director Katherine Helen Fisher continues her experimentation with flight and slow motion filmography as Laurel and Alice leap, dramatically, into the blue sky.

This video includes an audio description for blind and non-visual visitors by Cheryl Green.

My work is neither educational nor transformative for others.  It does not reiterate or confirm familiar stereotypes of disability. I am driven to create art that connects to the beautiful complicated histories and cultures of disability, race, gender, and sexuality. I do not work in a vacuum; I am part of a complicated, contentious, exciting community. I want my work to continue our conversations, honour our pasts, and open a vista to our futures.”

— Alice Sheppard

“Disability culture and aesthetics are bound up with access, but not in the sense elucidated in the law. We are accustomed to thinking of accessibility as being about an accommodation that bridges the gap between the disabled and the nondisabled worlds. But activists… and disability justice communities…emphasize access as a process and a way of creating connection between disabled people, a way of knowing and being in the world.”

— Alice Sheppard

Link: For Alice Sheppard’s website, click here.

Link: For the Kinetic Light website, click here.

Link: For a New York Times Op-Ed written by Alice Sheppard, click here.

Link: For an article about the Axis Dance Company, click here.

Note: Alice Sheppard started dancing after a dare. Disabled dancer Homer Avila challenged her to take a dance class, which so inspired her love of movement that she resigned her academic professorship to become a professional dancer. Now a choreographer and founder of the Kinetic Light dance company, a disability arts collective, Sheppard’s work creates movement that subverts presumptions about disabled and dancing bodies. The result is dance that uses the wheelchair as an extension of the body and promotes disability as a creative force enabling new understandings of the moving world.

SHOP OCCUPIED BY WOMEN CLERKS IN DISPUTE OVER PAY. RÚA PRINCIPE. VIGO, GALICIA, SPAIN. May 1992.

Allan Sekula (1951-2013)
From the Series Fish Story, 1989-1995
Cibachrome Print
Courtesy of the Allan Sekula Studio


ALLAN SEKULA revitalized documentary photography in the 1980s by highlighting the debilitating effects of deindustrialization and globalization on local economies. The first of his two photographs, Shop Occupied, is the result of a protest against government cutbacks on employment benefits. The second, US Army VII Corps, features a subtle comparison of growing global capitalism, represented by the heavily loaded container ship in the background, and disappearing local economies, captured in the foreground poster of traditional village life.

“In one way or another, together with the rest of us and separately, Allan helped devise, develop, and think through new ways of using photography, film, video, and writing to renegotiate the meaning of documentary, to return the question of politics and geopolitics to the image.”

— Martha Rosler

Note: Martha Rosler and Allan Sekula were students together at UC San Diego in the 1970s.

Link: To watch an interview of Martha Rosler about Allan Sekula from the Whitney Museum, click here.

Link: To read an article about Allan Sekula from the Getty Research Institute, click here.

Link: To read an interview with Allan Sekula from BOMB magazine, click here.

US ARMY VII CORPS EN ROUTE FROM STUTTGART TO PERSIAN GULF. PRINS JOHAN FRISOHAVEN. ROTTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS. December 1990.

Allan Sekula (1951-2013)
From the Series Fish Story, 1989-1995
Cibachrome Print
Courtesy of the Allan Sekula Studio


ALLAN SEKULA revitalized documentary photography in the 1980s by highlighting the debilitating effects of deindustrialization and globalization on local economies. The first of his two photographs, Shop Occupied, is the result of a protest against government cutbacks on employment benefits. The second, US Army VII Corps, features a subtle comparison of growing global capitalism, represented by the heavily loaded container ship in the background, and disappearing local economies, captured in the foreground poster of traditional village life.

“In one way or another, together with the rest of us and separately, Allan helped devise, develop, and think through new ways of using photography, film, video, and writing to renegotiate the meaning of documentary, to return the question of politics and geopolitics to the image.”

— Martha Rosler

Note: Martha Rosler and Allan Sekula were students together at UC San Diego in the 1970s.

Link: To watch an interview of Martha Rosler about Allan Sekula from the Whitney Museum, click here.

Link: To read an article about Allan Sekula from the Getty Research Institute, click here.

Link: To read an interview with Allan Sekula from BOMB magazine, click here.

OVERTHROW DICTATORS, 2017

Dread Scott (1965-)
Laser cut frosted mylar
Courtesy of the Artist


Activist and artist DREAD SCOTT makes revolutionary art to propel history forward, working in a range of media including performance, photography, screen-printing, video, installation and painting. His work is confrontational and has been at the center of controversy, lawsuits and arrests. Overthrow Dictators was first shown at an artists’ protest on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017, where Scott reminded his audience that Richard Nixon was removed from power eighteen months after a landslide election and challenged the crowd: “Don’t wait til 2020.” In an effort to achieve wide distribution for both the artwork and the message, Scott has offered Overthrow Dictators to the world as an open source work, available to download, reproduce, and exhibit.

Dread Scott unveiled Overthrow Dictators at the Whitney Museum at an event called Speak Out on Inauguration Day on Jan 20, 2017. There artists, writers, and activists affirmed their values to resist and reimagine the current political climate. Other attendees included Baseera Khan and Martha Rosler, with contributions by the Guerrilla Girls — all artists included in the Catalyst installation.

“I generally keep my art and activism somewhat separate. Typically my art isn’t bringing people to a demonstration or seeking particular demands, which my activism typically is — including when I encourage people to be part of a movement for revolution, a revolution to get rid of this entire system and replace it with one that would meet the needs of humanity as a whole. That said, for much of the last three decades, my work has been addressing some of the big questions confronting people.”

— Dread Scott

“The legal and political framework embodied in the constitution includes slavery. Slavery was not an aberration, mistake or “original sin”, but something that was integral to U.S. democracy. You can’t get to a society without exploitation if your vision of that is bound to a document where the freedom of some necessitated the enslavement of others. So I think that it’s possible to leave the cruelties of the past behind, but only if you make revolution to get rid of a system that needs these cruelties.”

—Dread Scott

Link: For Dread Scott’s website, click here.

Link: For a Vanity Fair article about Dread Scott’s slave rebellion performance, click here.

Link: For a description of the Speak Out on Inauguration Day conference, click here.

Link: For information about Dread Scott’s installation at Socrates Sculpture Park (on view til March 9, 2020), click here.

VANITAS, from the series HOUSE BEAUTIFUL: BRINGING THE WAR HOME, NEW SERIES, 2004

Martha Rosler (1943-)
Photomontage © Martha Rosler;
Courtesy of the Artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York


Artist MARTHA ROSLER made her first anti-war photomontage images in the late 1960s, a period when the Vietnam War was broadcast to everyone’s living-room television and images of carnage appeared on the same newspaper pages as ads for American home goods. In the early 2000s, Rosler felt compelled to return to this style in response to the ongoing American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. With Vanitas, she confronts and combines the war experience at home and “over there.” Rosler lives and works in her native Brooklyn.

“As far as I was concerned, my photomontage period wrapped up in the mid- to late-70s and I was quite surprised to find myself turning back to it in the early 2000s in response to our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which outraged me as much as the war in Vietnam had and I realized that if I went back to the photomontage medium, I would be making that point. It’s the same message and it has the same politics, which is that we are responsible for this. This is us telling ourselves that life is beautiful here at home and this is what we do abroad.”

— Martha Rosler

Link: For Martha Rosler’s website, click here.

Link: For a New York Times article about Martha Rosler, click here.

Link: For an interview with Martha Rosler by ArtPulse, click here.

Link: For Martha Rosler’s discussion of the Met Cloisters for the Met’s Artist Project, click here.

Note: Martha Rosler and Allan Sekula were students together at UC San Diego in the 1970s.

AIDS, 1994

Kay Rosen (1949-)
Inkjet Print
Courtesy of the Artist


Born in 1949 and presently living between New York City and Gary, Indiana, KAY ROSEN’s language-based paintings, drawings, editions, collages, installations, and videos have been exhibited in museums and institutions for four decades including the Museum of Modern Art; The Drawing Center; the Whitney Museum of American Art Biennials of 2000 and 1991; and the New Museum of Contemporary Art. She has taught at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago for twenty-four years.

Trained in languages and linguistics, Ms. Rosen realized in the 1970s that what most interested her about language were the ways it could be expressed visually. As a result, she left academia and started over as a “self-taught” artist. Drawing on this linguistic background, she began an exploration of the intersection of meaning and structure in language through pictorial means: color, materials, scale, composition, typography, and graphic design. Her investigation into alternative functions of language continues today.

AIDS was created at a time when treatments for the once fatal disease began to offer growing measures of hope and succor for its survivors. The words Rosen deploys in English, Spanish, and French convey such a budding sense of benevolent resilience.

Link: For Kay Rosen’s website, click here.

PEOPLE’S FLAG SHOW, 1970

Faith Ringgold (1930- )
Offset Lithograph
Courtesy of Faith Ringgold and ACA Galleries, NY


FAITH RINGGOLD is a painter, mixed media sculptor, mask maker, quilt maker, performance artist, writer, teacher, and lecturer.  Her large and diverse portfolio as well as her political and social activism are a reflection of her life experiences within her family and community, and the segregation, racism and sexism of the same period.

In the 1960s and 1970s Ringgold’s activism went beyond her art into overt protests.  She organized demonstrations against the Whitney Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art demanding that more black artists be represented in their shows.  When it became obvious that these institutions were beginning to open only to male black artists, she said she became a feminist and led a protest at the Whitney that insisted female black artists must also be recognized.  She co-founded Women Students and Artists for Black Art Liberation, the National Black Feminist Organization, and “Where We At,” a support group for black women artists.

The American flag has always served as a powerful symbol of our country. In 1970, Ringgold was arrested along with artists John Hendricks and Jean Tuche for their desecration of the flag and participation in the People’s Flag Show exhibition at the Judson Memorial Church on Washington Square. In a case that highlighted the need for the protection of freedom of speech and artistic expression, the “Judson Three” were acquitted with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union. The exhibition that had included 100 works invoking the American flag was organized in protest against laws that restricted the use and display of the flag.  Ringgold adapted the design of the “red, white and blue” in this red and black poster used to promote the show.  The name, date and location of the exhibition were placed where the stars are usually seen; a provocative and still timely message was printed on the stripes:

“The American people are the only people / Who can interpret the American flag / A flag which does not belong to the people /to do with as they see fit – should be burned and forgotten-  Artist, workers,/ Students, women, third world people – You are oppressed –  What does this flag mean to you? / Join the peoples answer to the repressive U.S. govt & state laws restricting our use & display of the flag.”

“Most artists were not…telling the story of what was going on in America and I thought I wanted to be that person.”

— Faith Ringgold

Link: To visit Faith Ringgold’s website, click here.

Link: To read an article about the People’s Flag Show from the Hood Museum of Art, click here.

Link: To read an article about the People’s Flag Show by Michele Wallace, who wrote the text on this flag, click here.

WRITINGS ON ACTIVISM A706, 1987

Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008)
Archival document
Courtesy of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation


In addition to environmental issues, ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG was active in civil rights and other humanitarian causes as well as programs advocating overseas cultural interchange and world peace. A fitting legacy to his social engagement is a program established by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Artists as Activists, that provides fellowships and professional support to artists of all disciplines who address global challenges in their creative work.

Link: For a link to the Rauschenberg Foundation, click here.

ART HAS NO BORDERS, NOTES ON THE ARTIST’S ROLE

Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008)
Archival document
Courtesy of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation


In addition to environmental issues, ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG was active in civil rights and other humanitarian causes as well as programs advocating overseas cultural interchange and world peace. A fitting legacy to his social engagement is a program established by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Artists as Activists, that provides fellowships and professional support to artists of all disciplines who address global challenges in their creative work.

Link: For a link to the Rauschenberg Foundation, click here.

WRITINGS ON ACTIVISM A709, 1976

Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008)
Archival document
Courtesy of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation


In addition to environmental issues, ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG was active in civil rights and other humanitarian causes as well as programs advocating overseas cultural interchange and world peace. A fitting legacy to his social engagement is a program established by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Artists as Activists, that provides fellowships and professional support to artists of all disciplines who address global challenges in their creative work.

Link: For a link to the Rauschenberg Foundation, click here.

WRITINGS ON ACTIVISM A737, 1992

Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008)
Archival document
Courtesy of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation


In addition to environmental issues, ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG was active in civil rights and other humanitarian causes as well as programs advocating overseas cultural interchange and world peace. A fitting legacy to his social engagement is a program established by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Artists as Activists, that provides fellowships and professional support to artists of all disciplines who address global challenges in their creative work.

Link: For a link to the Rauschenberg Foundation, click here.

WRITINGS ON ACTIVISM A730, 1992

Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008)
Archival document
Courtesy of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation


In addition to environmental issues, ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG was active in civil rights and other humanitarian causes as well as programs advocating overseas cultural interchange and world peace. A fitting legacy to his social engagement is a program established by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Artists as Activists, that provides fellowships and professional support to artists of all disciplines who address global challenges in their creative work.

Link: For a link to the Rauschenberg Foundation, click here.

EARTH DAY, 1970

Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008)
Lithograph with chine collé
Courtesy of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation


ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG created the first Earth Day poster, designed to benefit the American Environment Foundation, using his recognizable style of “combines.” The artist’s bold statement places the bald eagle, symbolizing the United States, in the center and surrounds the bird with multiple images of environmental ruination: polluted cities, junkyards, scarred landscapes and endangered species represented by the gorilla.

“It is impossible to have art without a conscience.”

— Robert Rauschenberg

“The artist’s job is to be a witness to his time in history.”

— Robert Rauschenberg

Link: For a link to the Rauschenberg Foundation, click here.

Link: To read an article about Earth Day by Robert Rauschenberg from the Rauschenberg Foundation, click here.

SIGNS, 1970

Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008)
Screen Print
Courtesy of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation


ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG conceived of Signs as a summation of the accomplishments and turbulence of the 1960s. Using his signature “combines” style, he brought together images of many of the most important events of the decade: the moon landing, the war in Vietnam and anti-war activism at home, civil rights protests, the iconic music of Janis Joplin, and the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Rauschenberg said the print “was conceived to remind us of love, terror, violence of the last ten years. Danger lies in forgetting.”

Note: Rauschenberg created and published Signs in June 1970. Joplin died in October 1970. Thus, this combine does not recall her death but rather her life and contributions to 60s music.

“The 60s had turned Rauschenberg into a politically engaged artist, and he probably welcomed the challenge of coming to terms with a decade of searing experiences. Exercising his natural affinity for collage, he would try to make sense out of an explosive arc of events that most observers felt defied all sense. Raushenberg said the print ‘was conceived to remind us of love, terror, violence of the last ten years. Danger lies in forgetting.’”

— Zane Bennett Contemporary Art

Link: For a link to the Rauschenberg Foundation, click here.

Link: To read an article about Robert Rauschenberg’s Signs on Artsy, click here.

Link: To read a blog about Robert Rauschenberg’s Signs by Mike Ettner, click here.

UNTITLED, HARLEM, NEW YORK, 1963

Gordon Parks (1912-2006)
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation


GORDON PARKS was born into poverty in Fort Scott, Kansas and ended his formal education when he was in his teens. Yet this brilliant and ambitious autodidact became a musician, author, poet, screenwriter, movie director and photographer. At age 25, he bought his first camera in a pawn shop and began a career of portrait, fashion and documentary photography. From 1948-1970, he was a staff photographer and writer for LIFE, America’s leading photo-magazine. The first black to hold such a position, he became one of the most celebrated and provocative photojournalists in the country. He used his camera to record the progress of the Civil Rights Movement, highlighting its leaders and exposing the wrongs of racial prejudice and segregation.

Two 1963 photographs capture defining moments of race relations of the period. The first simply features a newspaper headline reporting extreme police brutality against seven unarmed black men in Los Angeles.  The second documents the historic March on Washington where an estimated quarter million gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to support Civil Rights legislation and heard the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. give his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

“I saw that the camera could be a weapon against poverty, against racism, against all sorts of social wrongs. I knew at that point I had to have a camera.”

— Gordon Parks

Link: To visit the Gordon Parks Foundation, click here.

Link: To listen to an oral history by Gordon Parks, recorded by the Smithsonian, click here.

Link: To watch a PBS News Hour video about Gordon Parks, click here.

Link: For Latoya Ruby Frazier’s discussion of Gordon Parks’ Red Jackson for the Met’s Artist Project, click here.

UNTITLED, WASHINGTON, D.C., 1963

Gordon Parks (1912-2006)
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation


GORDON PARKS was born into poverty in Fort Scott, Kansas and ended his formal education when he was in his teens. Yet this brilliant and ambitious autodidact became a musician, author, poet, screenwriter, movie director and photographer. At age 25, he bought his first camera in a pawn shop and began a career of portrait, fashion and documentary photography. From 1948-1970, he was a staff photographer and writer for LIFE, America’s leading photo-magazine. The first black to hold such a position, he became one of the most celebrated and provocative photojournalists in the country. He used his camera to record the progress of the Civil Rights Movement, highlighting its leaders and exposing the wrongs of racial prejudice and segregation.

Two 1963 photographs capture defining moments of race relations of the period. The first simply features a newspaper headline reporting extreme police brutality against seven unarmed black men in Los Angeles.  The second documents the historic March on Washington where an estimated quarter million gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to support Civil Rights legislation and heard the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. give his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

“I saw that the camera could be a weapon against poverty, against racism, against all sorts of social wrongs. I knew at that point I had to have a camera.”

— Gordon Parks

Link: To visit the Gordon Parks Foundation, click here.

Link: To listen to an oral history by Gordon Parks, recorded by the Smithsonian, click here.

Link: To watch a PBS News Hour video about Gordon Parks, click here.

Link: For Latoya Ruby Frazier’s discussion of Gordon Parks’ Red Jackson for the Met’s Artist Project, click here.

ART IS…(TROUPE FRONT), 1983

Lorraine O’Grady (1934 – )
Chromogenic Digital Print
Courtesy of the Artist and Alexander Gray Associates, New York © Lorraine O’Grady
Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


LORRAINE O”GRADY is a performance and conceptual artist, an art critic, and teacher of art and literature. For two decades after graduating from Wellesley in 1955, she had a variety of careers: intelligence analyst for the U. S. government, literary and commercial translator with her own agency, and for a time a rock critic for The Village Voice and Rolling Stone.  Wherever she went, she was often the only black or, at least, the only black female in the room, which impacted her critical view of the world she inhabited. She was looking for a vehicle to express her observations and ideas when she read Lucy Lippard’s book on conceptual art, Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972, and became convinced that this art form was a means of communicating that she could make her own.

At the age of 45, O’Grady burst upon the performance art stage in the guise of Mlle Bourgeoise Noire, a fictional beauty queen who crashed the opening of an art exhibition at the black avant-garde gallery, Just Above Midtown (JAM).  She wore a gown and cape made of 180 pairs of white gloves representing middle class respectability and internalized repression, and carried a bouquet of flowers attached to a cat o’nine tails, the latter representing external oppression. She entered shouting a poem that ended with the line, “Black Art must take more risks.” Mlle Bourgeoise Noire appeared again, this time at an opening at the New Museum where she believed the white community had ignored black artists. There she shouted a poem that ended with “Now is the time for an invasion.”  Mlle Bourgeoise Noire’s costume was later featured in a landmark exhibition, Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution, mounted in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles 2007 and P. S 1 in New York 2008.

Early on, the consensus of the art community was that avant garde art had nothing to do with the black community. O’Grady disagreed and challenged the idea with her creation of a float to participate in the annual African-American Day Parade of September 1983. The float, with Art is… written on its side, featured a 9×15 foot gold upright picture frame that created a decorative border around everything it passed as it traveled down Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard, thus transforming Harlem into a series of cityscapes. In addition to the self-styled pageant queen Mlle Bourgeoise Noire, the float carried fifteen African-American and Latino performers all dressed in white and holding empty gold picture frames. They eventually disembarked from the float, joined the onlookers and invited them to arrange themselves as living portraits. Forty photographs taken of the event, now in the collection of the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis, document the enormously successful endeavor as many people of color joyously posed within the frames, knowingly participating in the making of art.

“As an advantaged member of a disadvantaged group, I’ve lived my life on the rim — a dialectically privileged location that’s helped keep my political awareness acute. But the main reason my art is ‘political’ is probably that anger is my most productive emotion.”

— Lorraine O’Grady

Link: To visit Lorraine O’Grady’s website, click here.

Link: To read an interview with Lorraine O’Grady for the Lenny Letter, click here.

Link: To watch a video interview with Lorraine O’Grady by the Tate museum, click here.

TINKERBELL, 2014

Aliza Nisenbaum (1977-)
Oil on canvas
Courtesy of Martin and Rebecca Eisenberg


ALIZA NISENBAUM, the child of a Russian Jewish father and a Scandanavian American mother, grew up in Mexico City. From the time she was three years old, she showed an interest in art and was encouraged and taught by her mother to draw and paint. She began studying psychology at the Universidad Ibero-Americano in Mexico, but after two years decided that she was much more interested in painting. Nisenbaum received a B.F.A. and M.F.A. at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she developed her own style that combines figuration and abstraction and the bold colors, flat planes and social awareness of the Mexican muralists Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco and Maria Izquierdo. Nisenbaum currently directs the Graduate Program in Visual Arts, and teaches undergraduate painting and drawing at Columbia University.

Several years ago, she volunteered to teach a class at the Immigrant Movement International in Queens founded by the Cuban-born artist and activist Tania Bruguera, an experience which has greatly influenced her work. An immigrant herself, she endeavors to work with immigrants, many of whom are hiding from visibility while attempting to adapt to a life here.  She has often been welcomed in their homes, enabling her to incorporate their favorite objects and colors on her canvases. In a slight departure, the painting Tinkerbell eliminates the individual and focuses on objects: a Mexican textile, a letter from home, colorful images from children’s books including the little fairy Tinkerbell found in J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. Nisenbaum recognizes that her form of feminist art that focusses on immigrant groups might be considered a political act.

“I’m interested in painting people who might not have entered the canon of art historical portraiture in the past.”

— Aliza Nisenbaum

Link: To see Aliza Nisenbaum’s website, click here.

Link: To read an interview with Aliza Nisenbaum for the Brooklyn Rail, click here.

Link: To watch a video about the Immigrant Movement International with Tania Bruguera and Aliza Nisenbaum, click here.

Link: To watch a video interview with Aliza Nisenbaum for Art Forum, click here.

Link: To see Aliza Nisenbaum in a video for the Vida Americana exhibit at the Whitney Museum, click here.

QUASHIES, ca. 1980 Handcrafted Dolls

Katharine Clarissa Eileen McCray (1925-2008)
Cotton, Linen, Yarn, Fiberfill
Courtesy of First Lady Chirlane McCray


KATHARINE CLARISSA EILEEN MCCRAY grew up in Claremont, New Hampshire and lived in NYC from 2007 to 2008. A daughter of immigrants from Barbados and St Lucia, McCray often lamented the absence of beautiful brown cuddly dolls. From the 1970s until her passing, she designed and handcrafted a stunning variety of dolls of color, which are rare even today. Some of the hundreds of dolls she created were sold, but most were given away. McCray was self taught in the art of embroidery and doll making. She called them Quashies in tribute to her mother, whose maiden name “Quashie” was West African. The dolls shown represent each of her three daughters: Chirlane, Cynthia and Cheryl.

Link: For an article in the New York TImes that includes a photo of First Lady Chirlane McCray with her Quashie dolls, click here.

PRESERVATIONIST JOAN MAYNARD WITH STUDENTS IN FRONT OF THE HUNTERFLY ROAD HOUSES, 1970

Unknown Artist
Inkjet print
Courtesy of the Weeksville Heritage Center


The Hunterfly Road Houses are all that remain of Weeksville, the pre-Civil War, free African-American community in Brooklyn. Artist and activist JOAN MAYNARD worked with community leaders and city government to purchase and renovate the houses, then convert them into a museum of African-American history, the Weeksville Heritage Society. Maynard’s accomplishments in Weeksville coincided with community-driven landmark preservation efforts throughout New York City, but she extended the focus to include diverse cultural and economic preservation.

As co-founder and executive director of the Weeksville Heritage Society, Maynard fostered architectural preservation through community engagement. She included local children in the archeological exploration and historical research at Weeksville, helping to inspire pride in African American heritage and the urgency to sustain it. Maynard brought school children from P.S. 243 to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission to petition for landmark status for the Hunterfly Road Houses, which was awarded in 1970. A namesake school continues to teach the integrated civics curriculum she pioneered.

“Everyplace has a Weeksville, where ordinary people came first and labored to create a more hospitable living setting for their loved ones. The rediscovery and preservation of this local history provides a means of reestablishing a continuity with the past so that children, armed with the knowledge of the contributions of their forebears can gain strength to meet the challenge of the future.”

Joan Maynard

Link: For an article about Joan Maynard from the NY Preservation Archive Project, click here.

Link: For the Weeksville Heritage Center website, click here.

Link: For tours of the Weeksville Heritage Center, click here.

PORTO RICAN COTTON PICKER, 2011

Miguel Luciano (1972- )
1971 Schwinn Cotton Picker, restored and customized, flags
Courtesy of the Artist


MIGUEL LUCIANO examines the colonial relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico through paintings, sculpture, and engaged public artworks. The works in Luciano’s Ride or Die series celebrate Puerto Rican bike culture in New York City while recalling the history of Puerto Rican labor in Arizona’s cotton fields during the 1920’s. (Note that “Porto Rican” in the title of Porto Rican Cotton Picker recalls an error in federal records from that period.) In Freedom Rider, Luciano pays homage to Felícitas Méndez, whose family migrated from Puerto Rico to work in the Arizona cotton fields and, later, relocated to California, where she would fight against segregation in public schools alongside her husband Gonzálo. Luciano’s work commemorates these migrations and acknowledges the current political and economic conditions of the island and the diaspora.

“The way Puerto Rican culture survives, and the way that it’s celebrated in this bike club tradition, it’s classic vintage Americana that gets reinvented and inscribed with Puerto Rican symbolism. It becomes an emblem of Puerto Rican pride. It’s something classically “American” and transformed into something distinctively Puerto Rican. That process for me has always been important. It’s a process of resistance that insists seeing us within the objects that have been defined classically American. Ride or Die also means “to show up, and to be there.” It means that someone “has your back.” That’s also a vernacular expression that means to be faithful and loyal; to show up when the time is needed. It’s about unity and standing up.”

–Miguel Luciano

“New York-based, Puerto-Rican-born artist Miguel Luciano employs facets of the vernacular to address the confluence of racism and labor issues in the U.S. In “Freedom Rider: Homage to Felicita Mendez,” a black leather biker vest memorializes the civil rights leader with her name emblazoned in embroidery, combined with vintage buttons sporting insignia from both black and Latino liberation movements. The custom low-rider Schwinn bicycle of Luciano’s “Porto Rican Cotton Picker” turns the racist history of that luxury American bike on its head; what was originally produced on the cheap in the 1970s via exploited Puerto Rican laborers is transformed into a gleaming chrome homage to this boisterous facet of Latino culture.”

— Robin Dluzen for Visual Art Source

Link: To watch a video about Miguel Luciano’s Ride or Die show at BRIC House, click here.

Link: To read an article about Miguel Luciano from Visual Art Source, click here.

Link: To watch a video interview with Miguel Luciano for BRIC TV, click here.

Link: To read an interview with Miguel Luciano and Repeating Islands, click here.

FREEDOM RIDER (HOMAGE TO FELÍCITAS MÉNDEZ), 2011

Miguel Luciano (1972- )
Embroided leather vest, vintage buttons
Courtesy of the Artist


MIGUEL LUCIANO examines the colonial relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico through paintings, sculpture, and engaged public artworks. The works in Luciano’s Ride or Die series celebrate Puerto Rican bike culture in New York City while recalling the history of Puerto Rican labor in Arizona’s cotton fields during the 1920’s. (Note that “Porto Rican” in the title of Porto Rican Cotton Picker recalls an error in federal records from that period.) In Freedom Rider, Luciano pays homage to Felícitas Méndez, whose family migrated from Puerto Rico to work in the Arizona cotton fields and, later, relocated to California, where she would fight against segregation in public schools alongside her husband Gonzálo. Luciano’s work commemorates these migrations and acknowledges the current political and economic conditions of the island and the diaspora.

“The way Puerto Rican culture survives, and the way that it’s celebrated in this bike club tradition, it’s classic vintage Americana that gets reinvented and inscribed with Puerto Rican symbolism. It becomes an emblem of Puerto Rican pride. It’s something classically “American” and transformed into something distinctively Puerto Rican. That process for me has always been important. It’s a process of resistance that insists seeing us within the objects that have been defined classically American. Ride or Die also means “to show up, and to be there.” It means that someone “has your back.” That’s also a vernacular expression that means to be faithful and loyal; to show up when the time is needed. It’s about unity and standing up.”

–Miguel Luciano

“New York-based, Puerto-Rican-born artist Miguel Luciano employs facets of the vernacular to address the confluence of racism and labor issues in the U.S. In “Freedom Rider: Homage to Felicita Mendez,” a black leather biker vest memorializes the civil rights leader with her name emblazoned in embroidery, combined with vintage buttons sporting insignia from both black and Latino liberation movements. The custom low-rider Schwinn bicycle of Luciano’s “Porto Rican Cotton Picker” turns the racist history of that luxury American bike on its head; what was originally produced on the cheap in the 1970s via exploited Puerto Rican laborers is transformed into a gleaming chrome homage to this boisterous facet of Latino culture.”

— Robin Dluzen for Visual Art Source

Link: To watch a video about Miguel Luciano’s Ride or Die show at BRIC House, click here.

Link: To read an article about Miguel Luciano from Visual Art Source, click here.

Link: To watch a video interview with Miguel Luciano for BRIC TV, click here.

Link: To read an interview with Miguel Luciano and Repeating Islands, click here.

CONDITION REPORT, 2000

Glenn Ligon (1960-)
Iris print and Iris print with serigraph, two parts AP 6/7 edition
Courtesy of the Artist and Hauser & Wirth


GLENN LIGON draws from history, literature, and society in a broad body of conceptual art. He often includes text in the form of literary fragments and evocative quotes from a selection of authors, especially those of African descent. These prints echo his 1988 painting, evoking the signs held by the Memphis Sanitation Workers marching with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 shortly before his assassination. “Blackness” serves as the base for both the personal and collective experience that Ligon’s work safeguards from destruction.

“The right to question, for example, [and] to think about our history and the way we position ourselves against the past. How the past is present,”

— Glenn Ligon, Financial Times interview

“I met Obama once, backstage at the Apollo in Harlem. I was with my friend and a woman said, ‘I wonder if you have a moment to meet the president?’ And, you know, we had dinner reservations – but OK. So we go downstairs and there’s Obama with the chief of staff, who says, ‘Mr President, this is Glenn Ligon. Black Like Me No 2 is in your personal quarters.’ And Obama looks at me and goes, ‘Oh, yeah, we have a set of prints too! But they had to move them out, because of the light. I really miss them.’ I thought, ‘Oh wait, this is real! They live with art, they take their children to look at art, they’re not scared of artists. This is not some bullshit. This is not on his talking points. I was super impressed.”

— Glenn Ligon, The Guardian

Link: For Glenn Ligon’s website, click here.

Link: For an article about Glenn Ligon in The Guardian, click here.

Link: For a National Gallery of Art video interview explaining Condition Report, click here.

Link: For Glenn Ligon’s discussion of The Great Bieri for the Met’s Artist Project, click here.

HUMANKIND, 2018

Baseera Khan (1983-)
Chromogenic print, acrylic, and pleather
Image courtesy of the Artist and Simone Subal Gallery, New York. Photo: Dario Lasagni.


BASEERA KHAN’s photo-collage constructions, combining found objects and original art, reveal her struggle to settle on a definition of self from among the many labels that could define her: Muslim, Indian, American, Pakistani, woman, queer, or artist. Both Humankind and Bedroom Window include family photos, suggesting the one place where Khan feels truly at home.

“The reason that I use ‘kinship’ and “exile’ in my artist statement is because I feel that the best way to describe my art practice is that I’m a walking contradiction.”

— Baseera Khan

Link: For information about a Baseera Khan exhibit in the New York Times, click here.

Link: For Baseera Khan’s art at the Simone Subal Gallery, click here.

BEDROOM WINDOW, 2019

Baseera Khan (1983-)
Two way mirror film, acrylic, chromatic
Image courtesy of the Artist and Simone Subal Gallery, New York. Photo: Dario Lasagni.


BASEERA KHAN’s photo-collage constructions, combining found objects and original art, reveal her struggle to settle on a definition of self from among the many labels that could define her: Muslim, Indian, American, Pakistani, woman, queer, or artist. Both Humankind and Bedroom Window include family photos, suggesting the one place where Khan feels truly at home.

“The reason that I use ‘kinship’ and “exile’ in my artist statement is because I feel that the best way to describe my art practice is that I’m a walking contradiction.”

— Baseera Khan

Link: For information about a Baseera Khan exhibit in the New York Times, click here.

Link: For Baseera Khan’s art at the Simone Subal Gallery, click here.

SELLING MY BLACK RAGE TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER, 2018

Kameelah Janan Rasheed (1985-)
Mixed media
Courtesy of the Artist


KAMEELAH JANAN RASHEED is a Brooklyn-based artist, activist, and teacher whose conceptual work tackles challenges to black identity, both historically and today. Her work is often language-based, ranging from overt sarcasm to the subliminal messages of advertising. In Selling My Back Rage to the Highest Bidder, Janan Rasheed emphatically asserts her agency to “sell” her rage and value her emotions, in contrast to the generations of Black Americans whose bodies were sold without their consent.

“…The major concern is not the structural correction of injustices or the radical redesign of society, but how Black people can engage in some emotional acrobats to make everyone else feel comfortable. All this emotional labour in “post-slavery” society being spent, still, on fulfilling someone else.”

— Kameelah Janan Rasheed

“Kameelah Janan Rasheed…gave us two messages, one utilizing strategically cut out and/or blacked out literary text, juxtaposed with black and white images, the other, and entire protest that speaks clearly to the times we are in now: advertisement papers with detachable phone numbers that states ‘SELLING MY BLACK RAGE TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER.’ Black people are fed up and aren’t taking the same old sh*t anymore, and Rasheed is here to let you know in case you forgot. So many questions in her work, showing how we intersect and dialogue with each other and how much or little we are valued. Who is the bidder? Black slaves, black culture, and now, black rage, on the auction block. How much are we worth?”

— Renee Royale for Support Black Art

“Rasheed covered the entire back wall of her booth with pull-tab flyers that read: ‘Selling My Black Rage to the Highest Bidder.’ This was both a total embrace and a complete refusal of commodification — a spelling out of the uneasy pact between the black artist and the commercial art space. That the listed phone number directed callers to an automated bidding system was a final bittersweet flourish.”

— Imani Roach for ArtBlog

Link: For an interview between John Edmonds and Kameelah Janan Rasheed, click here.

Link: To read Janan Rasheed’s article Black Deaths Matter in The Guardian, click here.

Link: To read Janan Rasheed’s article Muslims in Brooklyn in the New York Times, click here.

CANDY DARLING ON HER DEATHBED, 1973

Peter Hujar (1934-1987)
Photographic print
Courtesy of The Peter Hujar Archive, Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery


PETER HUJAR created luscious, intimate portraits of New York’s counterculture of the 1970s and 1980s, revealing his technical mastery of black-and-white, hand-developed photography. Hujar staged this glamorous yet fragile photograph at Darling’s invitation, just days before she died of cancer at age 29. In the 1980s, Hujar took a series of portraits and self-portraits, similarly emotional, but achingly raw, of gay men dying of complications related to AIDS.

“I make uncomplicated, direct photographs of complicated and difficult subjects. I photograph those who push themselves to any extreme and people who cling to the freedom to be themselves.”

— Peter Hujar

“Candy Darling was one of the transgender superstars made famous by American pop artist Andy Warhol (1928–1987) in New York in the early 1970s. She appeared in a number of Warhol’s films, such as Flesh 1968 and Women in Revolt 1971, and also famously inspired the singer Lou Reed’s hit Walk on the Wild Side (1972).”

— The Tate museum

“Lebowitz said: ‘No one else could have taken that photograph. Peter never thought of Candy as a freak… I think that’s why Candy responded to Peter. He thought of her in the way that my mother thinks of her best friend or anyone she would meet, the most usual kind of person. Candy loved that.’”

— Amelia Rina for ArtCritical

Link: For the Peter Hujar Archive, click here.

Link: For an ArtCritical article about Peter Hujar and Candy Darling, click here.

Link: For a video from the Morgan Library exhibition about Peter Hujar, click here.

Link: For a New Yorker article about Peter Hujar, click here.

Link: For a Dazed article about Peter Hujar, click here.

Link: For a Tate museum article about Peter Hujar, click here.

Extra: Peter Hujar was a friend and mentor to David Wojnarowicz.

Extra: Peter Hujar’s friend, the writer Fran Lebowitz, remarked at his funeral, “Peter Hujar has hung up on every important photography dealer in the Western world.” — Peter Schjeldahl for The New Yorker

Extra: Hujar later wrote, of the session, that Darling was “playing every death scene from every movie.” — Peter Schjeldahl for The New Yorker

TRUISMS: IF YOU AREN’T POLITICAL YOUR PERSONAL LIFE SHOULD BE EXEMPLARY, 1998

Jenny Holzer (1950-)
Text on cast bronze plaque AP 4/5
Courtesy of the Artist and Hauser & Wirth


JENNY HOLZER is a Neo-Conceptual artist, who explores the influence of words, and uses words to engage the public. In order to reach as many people as possible, her provocative statements have appeared on public buildings and billboards as well as in museums and art galleries. Her short texts range from inflammatory to personal and relate to issues like feminism, poverty, and AIDS, or to no issues at all.

“I really wasn’t–and I’m not–a writer. The only way I could write was by pretending to be any number of people. That gave me enough shelter to show what inevitably was personal, but also to have the content be for and about others—since I was busy being somebody else.”

— Jenny Holzer

“IF YOU AREN’T POLITICAL YOUR PERSONAL LIFE SHOULD BE EXEMPLARY is an example of a truism that characterizes Holzer’s desire to foment debate with her work. By goading viewers to consider whether or not they are “political,” Holzer forces us to reconsider whether it’s possible, in a world ripped apart by unrest, war, revolution, and religious extremism, to rise above being mired in human frailty.”

— ArtSpace

Link: For Jenny Holzer’s website, click here.

Link: For a list of Jenny Holzer’s projects, click here.

Link: For an article about Jenny Holzer in ArtSpace, click here.

Link: For an article about Jenny Holzer in Interview magazine, click here.

Link: To watch a video about Jenny Holzer’s work, click here.

AGBANY PROTEST TO SAVE PENNSYLVANIA STATION

August 2, 1962
David Hirsch
Inkjet Print
Courtesy of the New York Preservation Archive Project


Members of an ad-hoc civic organization, the Action Group for Better Architecture in New York (AGBANY), waged a quixotic battle to save the original Beaux-Arts Penn Station designed by McKim, Mead and White. This march at the site, led by the prominent architect Philip Johnson, proved to be a seminal moment in the history of the landmarks preservation movement. Just fifteen months later, the demolition began.

“This was a great building. It wasn’t the greatest building, but it was a terrific building. I love industrial archaeology—they call it industrial archaeology—bridges, aqueducts, the glass and iron railroad stations in England. You couldn’t not try to save Penn Station! I felt that the architectural profession—not just a few architects—but the profession owed it to their own history to do something about it.”

— Diana Goldstein, co-founder of AGBANY

“We thought it was very important to maintain the counterpoint of history, expressed so beautifully at Penn Station between the steel and glass train shed, which was a very modern thing in a sense. It was equivalent to the late Nineteenth Century train sheds of Paris, which, by the way, Napoleon III called les parapluies de Paris, the umbrellas of Paris, which they were. This was in Penn Station’s case attached to a stone monument, a grand space, a simulation of the space, if not the function, of the Baths of Caracalla. This duality gave great vitality to the experience of entering and going through Penn Station. As I remember Aline Saarinen referred to it as a place for ‘the celebration of arrival.’”

— Norval White, co-founder of AGBANY

Link: For information about the Action Group for Better Architecture in New York (AGBANY) from the New York Preservation Archive Project, click here.

Link: To read an oral history from Diana Goldstein, click here.

Link: To read an oral history from Norval White, click here.

BREAKFAST STILL-LIFE WITH GRECA, 2018

Lucia Hierro (1988- )
Digital print on brushed nylon, felt & foam
Private Collection of Amanda L. Uribe, Photo by Matt Eaton @matteatonasnobody/Collection of Alia Williams


The works in LUCIA HIERRO’s Bodegones or “still life” series provide a glimpse into the everyday objects Hierro encountered as a Dominican American growing up in New York City. The objects in these images are familiar to many Latinx people, from the plátanos to the greca or coffee-maker. These objects serve as personal signifiers of identity, while also exploring the greater economic structures at play in culture and consumption.

“The works in the Bodegones or “still life” series as well as Mercado explore the symbiotic relationship between personal narrative and larger economic structures.”

— Lucia Hierro

“Faux Still Life paintings/Bodegones! They are digitally printed images on fabric sheets that I cut out and sew onto a plush foam base. I’m excited about these because I’ve always found that Still-Lifes are the best example of arts complexity. A Still Life is a genre of painting as well as an anthropological artifact. It’s a deliberate composition by the artist using objects in place of humans – that leaves the viewer deciphering each object and its significance to the narrative/whole composition.”

— Lucia Hierro

Link: To visit Lucia Hierro’s website, click here.

Link: To read an interview with Lucia Hierro in Flaunt magazine, click here.

Link: To read an interview with Lucia Hierro in Asterix Journal magazine, click here.

Link: To watch a video interview of Lucia Hierro, click here.

MANGUCITO, 2018

Lucia Hierro (1988- )
Digital print on brushed nylon, felt & foam
Collection of Alia Williams


The works in LUCIA HIERRO’s Bodegones or “still life” series provide a glimpse into the everyday objects Hierro encountered as a Dominican American growing up in New York City. The objects in these images are familiar to many Latinx people, from the plátanos to the greca or coffee-maker. These objects serve as personal signifiers of identity, while also exploring the greater economic structures at play in culture and consumption.

“The works in the Bodegones or “still life” series as well as Mercado explore the symbiotic relationship between personal narrative and larger economic structures.”

— Lucia Hierro

“Faux Still Life paintings/Bodegones! They are digitally printed images on fabric sheets that I cut out and sew onto a plush foam base. I’m excited about these because I’ve always found that Still-Lifes are the best example of arts complexity. A Still Life is a genre of painting as well as an anthropological artifact. It’s a deliberate composition by the artist using objects in place of humans – that leaves the viewer deciphering each object and its significance to the narrative/whole composition.”

— Lucia Hierro

Link: To visit Lucia Hierro’s website, click here.

Link: To read an interview with Lucia Hierro in Flaunt magazine, click here.

Link: To read an interview with Lucia Hierro in Asterix Journal magazine, click here.

Link: To watch a video interview of Lucia Hierro, click here.

UNTITLED, 1980

Keith Haring, (1958-1990)
Sumi ink on oak tag paper
Courtesy of a private collector


KEITH HARING’s unique, bold, childlike and energetic work is instantly recognizable. He created a visual language not only as something to enjoy, but as a means of spreading messages about global and social issues. A number of his works include powerful visual statements about safe sex, AIDS awareness, apartheid, climate change and even the dangers of our increasing addiction to technology. The key motivation of his brief meteoric career was to break down the barriers between high and low art, believing that “art is for everybody.”

Haring began his career as a graffiti artist, carrying his black marker with him everywhere, and creating simple cartoonish and surreal drawings outdoors for everyone to see. Beginning in 1981, he made thousands of chalk drawings on empty black spaces in the subways.  Because he worked without permission on public property, he learned how to draw rapidly and with an economy of lines so he could finish an image before being caught by patrolling police.

In June 1986, Haring painted Crack is Wack on an abandoned handball court at East Harlem Drive and 128th Street in Manhattan. He showed up one day with ladders and paints and completed the mural in one day. Unfortunately, the popular mural warning against the use of the addictive narcotic, crack, suffered from three decades of decay. However, it has been restored and very recently reclaimed its bright colors and important proclamation.

Also in 1986, Haring opened his Pop Shop on Lafayette Street in Soho where inexpensive items like mugs, posters, and t-shirts bearing his art were sold. He believed this was an appropriate extension of his opposition to the traditional view that art should be restricted to expensive galleries and museums and should be made accessible to all people.

The drawing on view is a prime example of Keith Haring’s art. Here, he has eschewed the traditional use of canvas and instead bought rolls of relatively cheap oaktag paper to work on.  It is untitled as he often said, “I am interested in making art to be experienced and explored by as many individuals as possible with as many different individual ideas about the given piece with no final meaning attached…I am merely a middleman.”  One might consider the giant chicken-man with the baton radiating power as a hieroglyph of a God being praised by his admirers who line the bottom of the picture. Or the central figure may have been inspired by Haring’s love of Walt Disney’s cartoon barnyard characters. Perhaps, harkening back to Disney’s “Foghorn Leghorn,” (a loud mouthed rooster with a brave exterior and an implied “chicken” interior) a giant chicken-man on the big screen looms over his enthusiastic audience.

“Individuality is the enemy of this mass society. Individuality speaks for the individual and makes him a significant factor. Art is individuality.”

― Keith Haring, Keith Haring Journals

“I am interested in making art to be experienced and explored by as many individuals as possible with as many different individual ideas about the given piece with no final meaning attached. The viewer creates the reality, the meaning, the conception of the piece.”

― Keith Haring, Keith Haring Journals

“The public needs art, and it is the responsibility of a ‘self-proclaimed artist’ to realize the public needs art and not to make bourgeois art for the few and ignore the masses…”

— Keith Haring

Link: To see the website of the Haring Foundation, click here.

Link: To see the article about Keith Haring from Tate museum, click here.

Link: To see the Keith Haring Pop Shop on view at the New-York Historical Society, click here.

Link: To see the Keith Haring mural on view at MoMA, click here.

Link: To watch a CBS Evening News video from 1982 about Keith Haring, click here.

RAIN CLOUD (GERTRUDE KASLE GALLERY EXHIBITION POSTER), 1974

Philip Guston (1913-1980)
Offset lithograph
Courtesy of the Gracie Mansion Conservancy


PHILIP GUSTON was a prominent Abstract Expressionist until the late 1960s, when he moved out of the City to upstate Woodstock. There he began producing cartoon-like pictures of crudity and violence giving rise to a new artistic vocabulary called Neo-Expressionism. This return to figuration permitted charged—often satirical—political content, reflective of a divided, war-weary nation in a year of presidential impeachment.

“When I had my first show in the new figurative style in about 1970, the people at the opening seemed shocked. Some painters of the abstract movement – my colleagues, friends, contemporaries – refused to talk to me. It was as if we’d worked so hard to establish the canons of a church and here I go upsetting it, forgetting that that’s what good artists should do.”

— Philip Guston, Hauser & Wirth interview

Link: For a biography of Philip Guston on artnet, click here.

Link: For an interview of Philip Guston by Mark Stevens of Hauser & Wirth, click here.

Link: For a video interview with Philip Guston by SFMoMA, click here.

Link: For artist John Baldessari’s discussion of a Philiip Guston painting for the Met’s Artist Project, click here.

Note: To see other Philip Guston work, visit the Met Museum, gallery 915.

Note: To see other Philip Guston work, visit MoMA, Floor 2, 202

WOMEN IN AMERICA EARN 2/3 OF WHAT MEN DO, 1985

Guerrilla Girls (Established 1985)
Inkjet Print
Courtesy of Guerrilla Girls


The GUERRILLA GIRLS are a group of feminist activist artists that has been using performance art, exhibitions, posters and other projects to call attention to all forms of discrimination around the world since 1985. They wear gorilla masks to maintain individual anonymity and to direct focus on the issues. Originally, they organized to challenge collectors, curators, dealers, and critics for their exclusion of women artists from mainstream institutions and publications.

Membership in the group has been replenished over the years. As their reputation has grown, the Guerrilla Girls, still wearing their masks, have taken up issues beyond the art community. This poster visually represents the stark pay gap between men and women.

“We believe in an intersectional feminism that fights discrimination and supports human rights for all people and all genders.”

— Guerrilla Girls

Link: To visit the Guerrilla Girls’ website, click here.

Link: For an article about the Guerrilla Girls from the Tate museum, click here.

Link: For a video interview with the Guerrilla Girls, click here.

DIAMOND, BROWER PARK, 2016

Naima Green (1990-)
Inkjet Print
Courtesy of the Artist


Jewels from the Hinterland is a photography series by artist and educator NAIMA GREEN that investigates questions of place, belonging, and perceived cultural identity within the African diaspora. Green surrounds her subjects with overgrown fields and forests of vibrant color and defies presumptions of where people of color belong in urban settings. Green often invites her subjects to choose the setting for the photoshoot from among their favorite parks or even in their own lovingly planted gardens, another subversion of the perceived disconnect between people of color and Nature. The comfort and tranquility of Green’s subjects are the surest proof of her original goal: to supplant predominant imagery of black and brown people in scenes of urban decay with those of environments of natural beauty.

“Seven years ago I started photographing black and brown people in…urban green spaces. When I first started talking about the concept, one of my former classmates asked me how this work would differ from images of slavery. The fact that that was his only framework for imagining black people in nature was exactly what stirred me to make my first portraits.”

— Naima Green

Link: For Naima Green’s website, click here.

Link: For the New York Times Op-Ed by Naima Green, click here.

Link: For the article Black Bodies, Green Spaces, click here.

Link: To watch Naima Green describe Jewels from the Hinterland in a video, click here.

FOOD: FARM GARDEN, GREENHOUSE, AND TRAINING FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN, 2020

FOOD: FARM GARDEN, GREENHOUSE, AND TRAINING FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN,2020

Linda Goode Bryant (1949-) and Project EATS, Active Citizen Project (2014-)
Greenhouse
Courtesy of the Artist and the Artists, Farmers, Health Professionals, and Citizen
Activists of Project EATS


LINDA GOODE BRYANT is heralded globally as conceptual artist, filmmaker, and community activist. In 1974, she created the Just Above Midtown (JAM), a West 57th Street art gallery and creative workshop dedicated to African American and other artists of color with limited opportunity elsewhere. She summarized best its guiding mission, “to connect us to our innate ability to use what we have to create what we need.” Included were collaborative performances, public programs, and screenings.

The Food initiative brings together gardeners, farmers, food preparers, community wellness staff, and artists to teach local students and young mothers why and how fresh foods advance healthy living. Such educational outreach allows participants to take these new skills back to their home communities, spawning sustainable, citizen-operated food initiatives that will improve public health, provide employment, and stimulate local economies.

Linda Goode Bryant is working in Partnership with Gracie Mansion to provide content for the Greenhouse, including seasonal grade tours, student camps, and onsite training for communities on healthy cooking, eating, and lifestyles. Garden programs will be accompanied by select artist projects and workshops.

“There were several issues that often came up: schools, immigration, prisons and food. Then we saw the world go through a food crisis in 2008 and I kept wondering why we can’t grow our own food even if we’re surrounded by concrete. Did I know anything about growing food before I started Project EATS? Hell no. But I figured it out.”

— Linda Goode Bryant, New York Times

“Project EATS has the tagline ‘Using what we have. Creating what we need.’ All life is wired to do that. We humans get socialized into thinking we need resources we don’t have to create what we need, that we have to depend on someone else to produce what we need for us. That’s a false notion.”

— Linda Goode Bryant, BOMB magazine

Link: To see the Project EATS website, click here.

Link: To read an interview with Linda Goode Bryant in BOMB magazine, click here.

Link: To read an interview with Linda Goode Bryant in the New York Times, click here.

“UNTITLED” (USA TODAY), 1990

Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1957-1996)
Candies in red, silver, and blue wrappers, endless supply
© Felix Gonzalez-Torres
Courtesy of the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation


Produced amidst the backdrop of American military intervention in the Persian Gulf War, “Untitled” (USA Today) by FELIX GONZALEZ-TORRES is a pointed interrogation of democracy, patriotism, and the relationship between an individual and a collective social body. Through the disappearance and regeneration of the candy spill, the installation embodies the cyclical nature of time, and the ways that specific histories wane and recur in our collective memory.

“Felix Gonzales-Torres often sought to create new ways for the public to interact with art, striving for a generosity of spirit while also insisting on a consideration of society’s inequities and biases. In this work, visitors are invited to take a piece of candy and eat it, and the pile is continually restocked to maintain its approximate ideal weight. Mimicking the color scheme of the American flag, the work references the newspaper USA Today, a widely circulated daily journal that is generally regarded as following a practice of reductive journalism, making the news convenient and easily digestible. More broadly, the title refers to the country itself, and Gonzalez-Torres’s piece asks us to consider questions of consumption and loss.”

— The Hammer Museum

Link: To see the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation website, click here.

Link: For information about a different version of this work by Felix Gonzalez Torres at the Hammer Museum, click here.

Link: To watch a video comparing the work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres and David Wojnarowicz, click here.

Link: To read about Felix Gonzalez-Torres at the Guggenheim website, click here.

Link: For details about an exhibit at the Rubin Museum during Spring 2020 that includes work by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, click here.

Link: To read an article titled, “Why did Felix Gonzalez-Torres put free candy in a museum?,” click here.

THE FUTURE IS PRESENT, 2019

Jeffrey Gibson (1972-)

Digital print, silkscreen, collage, gloss varnish, custom color frame

Courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co.


JEFFREY GIBSON is a multidisciplinary artist of Choctaw and Cherokee heritage who combines Native American symbols and materials with contemporary Western art forms. In The Future is Present and I Am a Rainbow Too, Gibson unites geometric abstractions found in both modern art and his own cultural heritage. He then adds another hybrid layer of pop culture lyrics rendered in his self-designed lettering style. Gibson’s conjunctive artwork challenges presumptions about how Native American art should look and forces the contemporary art world to reckon with the long-time exclusion of Native art from major exhibitions and institutions.

“I travelled and met Native American artists who made things for powwows. I would commission them to make parts of my sculptures because they had skills I did not. I would hear how beading saved their lives, how dancing, how drumming stopped them from doing drugs and alcohol.”

— Jeffrey Gibson

“So much Native American beadwork and design were categorised as decorative arts when, in fact, if you understand what you are looking at, they are masks, abstractions of landscapes, environments…Simple things like colours and shapes represented your tribe, your family and were designed to draw the protection of your ancestors around you. These designs were ceremonial, owned, and passed down..”

— Jeffrey Gibson

“Half a century ago, many Native American artists trying to break into the fine art market were told that their oil paintings would never sell because they were not recognizably “Indian” enough. These artists were instead encouraged to paint with earthy pigments on natural materials such as hide or bark. The belief was that art by Native artists could only sell if it was recognizably Native in its content and material, simultaneously exotic and traditional. Eventually that attitude was replaced by the understanding that indigenous artists cannot be limited to constructed notions of what “Nativeness” looks like.” — Christopher Green for Hyperallergic.com

Link: For Jeffrey Gibson’s TED Talk, click here.

Link: For Jeffrey Gibson’s MacArthur Foundation interview, click here.

Link: For information about Jeffrey Gibson’s Brooklyn Museum exhibit, click here.

Link: For information about Jeffrey Gibson’s talk at FIT on March 17, click here

Link: For Jeffrey Gibson’s discussion of Vanuatu slit gongs for the Met’s Artist Project, click here.

Link: For Jodi Archambault’s discussion of Native American art at the Met Museum, click here.

Link: For Native American artist Kent Monkman’s discussion of his Great Hall installation at the Met Museum, click here.

Link: For Jeffrey GIbson’s installation at the Socrates Sculpture Park for MONUMENTS NOW, click here.

Note about titles and text: In I Am a Rainbow Too, it is likely that Gibson is referring to a song by Bob Marley (Sun is Shining).In The Future is Present, it is likely that Gibson is referring to a song by Ice Dragon (The Past Plus the Future is Present) or the oft-used quote by Bill Keane (“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”)

I AM A RAINBOW TOO, 2019

Jeffrey Gibson (1972-)

Digital print, silkscreen, collage, gloss varnish, custom color frame

Courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co.


JEFFREY GIBSON is a multidisciplinary artist of Choctaw and Cherokee heritage who combines Native American symbols and materials with contemporary Western art forms. In The Future is Present and I Am a Rainbow Too, Gibson unites geometric abstractions found in both modern art and his own cultural heritage. He then adds another hybrid layer of pop culture lyrics rendered in his self-designed lettering style. Gibson’s conjunctive artwork challenges presumptions about how Native American art should look and forces the contemporary art world to reckon with the long-time exclusion of Native art from major exhibitions and institutions.

“I travelled and met Native American artists who made things for powwows. I would commission them to make parts of my sculptures because they had skills I did not. I would hear how beading saved their lives, how dancing, how drumming stopped them from doing drugs and alcohol.”

— Jeffrey Gibson

“So much Native American beadwork and design were categorised as decorative arts when, in fact, if you understand what you are looking at, they are masks, abstractions of landscapes, environments…Simple things like colours and shapes represented your tribe, your family and were designed to draw the protection of your ancestors around you. These designs were ceremonial, owned, and passed down..”

— Jeffrey Gibson

“Half a century ago, many Native American artists trying to break into the fine art market were told that their oil paintings would never sell because they were not recognizably “Indian” enough. These artists were instead encouraged to paint with earthy pigments on natural materials such as hide or bark. The belief was that art by Native artists could only sell if it was recognizably Native in its content and material, simultaneously exotic and traditional. Eventually that attitude was replaced by the understanding that indigenous artists cannot be limited to constructed notions of what “Nativeness” looks like.” — Christopher Green for Hyperallergic.com

Link: For Jeffrey Gibson’s TED Talk, click here.

Link: For Jeffrey Gibson’s MacArthur Foundation interview, click here.

Link: For information about Jeffrey Gibson’s Brooklyn Museum exhibit, click here.

Link: For information about Jeffrey Gibson’s talk at FIT on March 17, click here

Link: For Jeffrey Gibson’s discussion of Vanuatu slit gongs for the Met’s Artist Project, click here.

Link: For Jodi Archambault’s discussion of Native American art at the Met Museum, click here.

Link: For Native American artist Kent Monkman’s discussion of his Great Hall installation at the Met Museum, click here.

Link: For Jeffrey GIbson’s installation at the Socrates Sculpture Park for MONUMENTS NOW, click here.

Note about titles and text: In I Am a Rainbow Too, it is likely that Gibson is referring to a song by Bob Marley (Sun is Shining).In The Future is Present, it is likely that Gibson is referring to a song by Ice Dragon (The Past Plus the Future is Present) or the oft-used quote by Bill Keane (“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”)

LATE CAPITALIST RELIC 01, 2018

Devra Freelander (1990-2019)
Epoxy resin, cellphone
Courtesy of The Estate of Devra Freelander


DEVRA FREELANDER’s art explores the intersection of ecofeminism, geology, and technology, often echoing shapes of natural phenomena in fluorescent colors unknown in nature. Deeply concerned by the destructive effects of climate change on the natural world, Freelander captured natural wonders in resin, steel, and concrete, offering artistic durability to threatened resources. In Late Capitalist Relic 01, Freelander embedded a cellphone in a resin “ice” fragment, pondering which will last longer. 

 

“My interest in geology is manifold: geologic forms are sublime and impressive, massive and permanent compared to the human [or digital] form, and yet actually fluid and permutable on a larger geologic time scale. Geologic thinking offers an alternative to the climatologically destructive anthropocentric viewpoint, asserting the ultimate [im]permanence of us, and of Earth.”

— Devra Freelander

 

“I’ve been obsessed with sunrises and sunsets a lot over the past year. I traveled to Antarctica and Iceland recently — both during the summer seasons — to explore the emotional implications of climate change on those landscapes. I was really excited about making a sunrise or a sunset that would be here physically forever.”

— Devra Freelander

 

“My work is about translating sublime personal encounters in nature, especially geologic scale encounters, through the lens of digital aesthetics and using fluorescent colors and gradients in order to apply those digital aesthetics to more natural earth-based encounters.”

— Devra Freelander

 

“Although iPhones are functionally disposable (via
planned obsolescence), they are also the versions of ourselves that will remain longest on the planet, long outlasting our fragile biological forms. The ice caps will melt, we will die, and our bodies will decompose, but our iPhones (and the climatological damage imparted by them) will last forever. Their inevitable presence in the fossil record will come to signify humanity, and we will be immortalized through our discarded technological artifacts.”

— Devra Freelander

 

 

“There is almost nothing worse one could do to the Arctic
landscape than physically travel there and visit it, producing massive amounts of carbon via transcontinental airfare, and then physically trampling the landscape itself. How can I express my deep appreciation and awe for these landscapes without destroying them? How can I communicate to them my love, my respect? By becoming as vulnerable as possible, I hope to convince the Arctic of my genuine intentions, despite my participation in climate change as a carbon-consuming member of contemporary society.”

 

— Devra Freelander

 

Link: For Devra Freelander’s website, click here.

Link: For an article in Peripheral Vision Arts, click here.

Link: For a video of Devra Freelander’s work at Socrates Sculpture Park, click here.

HOW TO LOVE A LANDSCAPE, 2017

Devra Freelander (1990-2019)
Digital video
Courtesy of The Estate of Devra Freelander


DEVRA FREELANDER’s art explores the intersection of ecofeminism, geology, and technology, often echoing shapes of natural phenomena in fluorescent colors unknown in nature. Deeply concerned by the destructive effects of climate change on the natural world, Freelander captured natural wonders in resin, steel, and concrete, offering artistic durability to threatened resources. In Late Capitalist Relic 01, Freelander embedded a cellphone in a resin “ice” fragment, pondering which will last longer. 

 

“My interest in geology is manifold: geologic forms are sublime and impressive, massive and permanent compared to the human [or digital] form, and yet actually fluid and permutable on a larger geologic time scale. Geologic thinking offers an alternative to the climatologically destructive anthropocentric viewpoint, asserting the ultimate [im]permanence of us, and of Earth.”

— Devra Freelander

 

“I’ve been obsessed with sunrises and sunsets a lot over the past year. I traveled to Antarctica and Iceland recently — both during the summer seasons — to explore the emotional implications of climate change on those landscapes. I was really excited about making a sunrise or a sunset that would be here physically forever.”

— Devra Freelander

 

“My work is about translating sublime personal encounters in nature, especially geologic scale encounters, through the lens of digital aesthetics and using fluorescent colors and gradients in order to apply those digital aesthetics to more natural earth-based encounters.”

— Devra Freelander

 

“Although iPhones are functionally disposable (via
planned obsolescence), they are also the versions of ourselves that will remain longest on the planet, long outlasting our fragile biological forms. The ice caps will melt, we will die, and our bodies will decompose, but our iPhones (and the climatological damage imparted by them) will last forever. Their inevitable presence in the fossil record will come to signify humanity, and we will be immortalized through our discarded technological artifacts.”

— Devra Freelander

 

 

“There is almost nothing worse one could do to the Arctic
landscape than physically travel there and visit it, producing massive amounts of carbon via transcontinental airfare, and then physically trampling the landscape itself. How can I express my deep appreciation and awe for these landscapes without destroying them? How can I communicate to them my love, my respect? By becoming as vulnerable as possible, I hope to convince the Arctic of my genuine intentions, despite my participation in climate change as a carbon-consuming member of contemporary society.”

 

— Devra Freelander

 

Link: For Devra Freelander’s website, click here.

Link: For an article in Peripheral Vision Arts, click here.

Link: For a video of Devra Freelander’s work at Socrates Sculpture Park, click here.

NANCY, HEAD DECORATOR, HUNTS POINT from the SOUTH BRONX TRADES PROJECT, 2011-present

Martine Fougeron (1954-)
Digital C Print
Courtesy of the Artist


When photographer MARTINE FOUGERON moved to the South Bronx in search of larger and more affordable studio space, she soon discovered that she was living in a community of highly skilled and economically active craftsmen and industrial workers. Since 2011, Fougeron has photographed century-old industrial steel production, new economy green roof builders, and artisanal family trades like baking, printing, and hand-made bedding. Her images highlight the skills and dedication of the laborers to the small businesses that have traditionally offered immigrants financial opportunities and a first-step toward American citizenship. Fougeron’s photographs have helped to connect those industries to the wider NY community and, through her work with the NYC Student Youth Employment Program, she has encouraged young people to pursue skilled trades in the Bronx and beyond.

“When I went inside these places and saw all the people doing these amazing crafts, it seemed like it was from another century, and some of these businesses are really that old. It was moving, because these are often family businesses, with rarely more than 30 employees, many of who have been working for these companies for decades. The owners are closely linked with the workers… The workers have an incredible pride in what they do and a camaraderie among themselves. It’s palpable. You can feel it.”

— Martine Fougeron

“Ms. Fougeron decided to cover photographically each trade in four different ways. Her compelling portraits focus on the working people; her striking landscapes place the project geographically; her environmental pictures are both informative and reflective; and her close-ups are simply beautiful abstractions. Together it adds up to a remarkable artistic document of Port Morris and Hunts Point.”

— Elisabeth Biondi, curator of the exhibition Heart of The South Bronx: Trades at the Bronx Museum

Link: For Martine Fougeron’s website, click here.

Link: For information about the Heart of The South Bronx: Trades exhibition at the Bronx Museum, click here.

Link: To watch a video about an exhibition of The South Bronx Trades, click here.

Link: For an article about Martine Fougeron in American Illustration and American Photography (AI-AP), click here.

Note: Martine Fougeron has recently published a new book: Martine Fougeron: Nicolas & Adrien. A World with Two Sons

Note: Martine Fougeron is on the faculty of the International Center of Photography

AMERICAN AUTO, HUNTS POINT from the SOUTH BRONX TRADES PROJECT, 2011-present

Martine Fougeron (1954-)
Digital C Print
Courtesy of the Artist


When photographer MARTINE FOUGERON moved to the South Bronx in search of larger and more affordable studio space, she soon discovered that she was living in a community of highly skilled and economically active craftsmen and industrial workers. Since 2011, Fougeron has photographed century-old industrial steel production, new economy green roof builders, and artisanal family trades like baking, printing, and hand-made bedding. Her images highlight the skills and dedication of the laborers to the small businesses that have traditionally offered immigrants financial opportunities and a first-step toward American citizenship. Fougeron’s photographs have helped to connect those industries to the wider NY community and, through her work with the NYC Student Youth Employment Program, she has encouraged young people to pursue skilled trades in the Bronx and beyond.

“When I went inside these places and saw all the people doing these amazing crafts, it seemed like it was from another century, and some of these businesses are really that old. It was moving, because these are often family businesses, with rarely more than 30 employees, many of who have been working for these companies for decades. The owners are closely linked with the workers… The workers have an incredible pride in what they do and a camaraderie among themselves. It’s palpable. You can feel it.”

— Martine Fougeron

“Ms. Fougeron decided to cover photographically each trade in four different ways. Her compelling portraits focus on the working people; her striking landscapes place the project geographically; her environmental pictures are both informative and reflective; and her close-ups are simply beautiful abstractions. Together it adds up to a remarkable artistic document of Port Morris and Hunts Point.”

— Elisabeth Biondi, curator of the exhibition Heart of The South Bronx: Trades at the Bronx Museum

Link: For Martine Fougeron’s website, click here.

Link: For information about the Heart of The South Bronx: Trades exhibition at the Bronx Museum, click here.

Link: To watch a video about an exhibition of The South Bronx Trades, click here.

Link: For an article about Martine Fougeron in American Illustration and American Photography (AI-AP), click here.

Note: Martine Fougeron has recently published a new book: Martine Fougeron: Nicolas & Adrien. A World with Two Sons

Note: Martine Fougeron is on the faculty of the International Center of Photography

WARREN, OWNER, HUNTS POINT from the SOUTH BRONX TRADES PROJECT, 2011-present

Martine Fougeron (1954-)
Digital C Print
Courtesy of the Artist


When photographer MARTINE FOUGERON moved to the South Bronx in search of larger and more affordable studio space, she soon discovered that she was living in a community of highly skilled and economically active craftsmen and industrial workers. Since 2011, Fougeron has photographed century-old industrial steel production, new economy green roof builders, and artisanal family trades like baking, printing, and hand-made bedding. Her images highlight the skills and dedication of the laborers to the small businesses that have traditionally offered immigrants financial opportunities and a first-step toward American citizenship. Fougeron’s photographs have helped to connect those industries to the wider NY community and, through her work with the NYC Student Youth Employment Program, she has encouraged young people to pursue skilled trades in the Bronx and beyond.

“When I went inside these places and saw all the people doing these amazing crafts, it seemed like it was from another century, and some of these businesses are really that old. It was moving, because these are often family businesses, with rarely more than 30 employees, many of who have been working for these companies for decades. The owners are closely linked with the workers… The workers have an incredible pride in what they do and a camaraderie among themselves. It’s palpable. You can feel it.”

— Martine Fougeron

“Ms. Fougeron decided to cover photographically each trade in four different ways. Her compelling portraits focus on the working people; her striking landscapes place the project geographically; her environmental pictures are both informative and reflective; and her close-ups are simply beautiful abstractions. Together it adds up to a remarkable artistic document of Port Morris and Hunts Point.”

— Elisabeth Biondi, curator of the exhibition Heart of The South Bronx: Trades at the Bronx Museum

Link: For Martine Fougeron’s website, click here.

Link: For information about the Heart of The South Bronx: Trades exhibition at the Bronx Museum, click here.

Link: To watch a video about an exhibition of The South Bronx Trades, click here.

Link: For an article about Martine Fougeron in American Illustration and American Photography (AI-AP), click here.

Note: Martine Fougeron has recently published a new book: Martine Fougeron: Nicolas & Adrien. A World with Two Sons

Note: Martine Fougeron is on the faculty of the International Center of Photography

MANUEL-HEAD SILVERSMITH, PORT MORRIS from the SOUTH BRONX TRADES PROJECT, 2011-present

Martine Fougeron (1954-)
Digital C Print
Courtesy of the Artist


When photographer MARTINE FOUGERON moved to the South Bronx in search of larger and more affordable studio space, she soon discovered that she was living in a community of highly skilled and economically active craftsmen and industrial workers. Since 2011, Fougeron has photographed century-old industrial steel production, new economy green roof builders, and artisanal family trades like baking, printing, and hand-made bedding. Her images highlight the skills and dedication of the laborers to the small businesses that have traditionally offered immigrants financial opportunities and a first-step toward American citizenship. Fougeron’s photographs have helped to connect those industries to the wider NY community and, through her work with the NYC Student Youth Employment Program, she has encouraged young people to pursue skilled trades in the Bronx and beyond.

“When I went inside these places and saw all the people doing these amazing crafts, it seemed like it was from another century, and some of these businesses are really that old. It was moving, because these are often family businesses, with rarely more than 30 employees, many of who have been working for these companies for decades. The owners are closely linked with the workers… The workers have an incredible pride in what they do and a camaraderie among themselves. It’s palpable. You can feel it.”

— Martine Fougeron

“Ms. Fougeron decided to cover photographically each trade in four different ways. Her compelling portraits focus on the working people; her striking landscapes place the project geographically; her environmental pictures are both informative and reflective; and her close-ups are simply beautiful abstractions. Together it adds up to a remarkable artistic document of Port Morris and Hunts Point.”

— Elisabeth Biondi, curator of the exhibition Heart of The South Bronx: Trades at the Bronx Museum

Link: For Martine Fougeron’s website, click here.

Link: For information about the Heart of The South Bronx: Trades exhibition at the Bronx Museum, click here.

Link: To watch a video about an exhibition of The South Bronx Trades, click here.

Link: For an article about Martine Fougeron in American Illustration and American Photography (AI-AP), click here.

Note: Martine Fougeron has recently published a new book: Martine Fougeron: Nicolas & Adrien. A World with Two Sons

Note: Martine Fougeron is on the faculty of the International Center of Photography

SILOS-CASA CEMENT, HUNTS POINT from the SOUTH BRONX TRADES PROJECT, 2011-present

Martine Fougeron (1954-)
Digital C Print
Courtesy of the Artist


When photographer MARTINE FOUGERON moved to the South Bronx in search of larger and more affordable studio space, she soon discovered that she was living in a community of highly skilled and economically active craftsmen and industrial workers. Since 2011, Fougeron has photographed century-old industrial steel production, new economy green roof builders, and artisanal family trades like baking, printing, and hand-made bedding. Her images highlight the skills and dedication of the laborers to the small businesses that have traditionally offered immigrants financial opportunities and a first-step toward American citizenship. Fougeron’s photographs have helped to connect those industries to the wider NY community and, through her work with the NYC Student Youth Employment Program, she has encouraged young people to pursue skilled trades in the Bronx and beyond.

“When I went inside these places and saw all the people doing these amazing crafts, it seemed like it was from another century, and some of these businesses are really that old. It was moving, because these are often family businesses, with rarely more than 30 employees, many of who have been working for these companies for decades. The owners are closely linked with the workers… The workers have an incredible pride in what they do and a camaraderie among themselves. It’s palpable. You can feel it.”

— Martine Fougeron

“Ms. Fougeron decided to cover photographically each trade in four different ways. Her compelling portraits focus on the working people; her striking landscapes place the project geographically; her environmental pictures are both informative and reflective; and her close-ups are simply beautiful abstractions. Together it adds up to a remarkable artistic document of Port Morris and Hunts Point.”

— Elisabeth Biondi, curator of the exhibition Heart of The South Bronx: Trades at the Bronx Museum

Link: For Martine Fougeron’s website, click here.

Link: For information about the Heart of The South Bronx: Trades exhibition at the Bronx Museum, click here.

Link: To watch a video about an exhibition of The South Bronx Trades, click here.

Link: For an article about Martine Fougeron in American Illustration and American Photography (AI-AP), click here.

Note: Martine Fougeron has recently published a new book: Martine Fougeron: Nicolas & Adrien. A World with Two Sons

Note: Martine Fougeron is on the faculty of the International Center of Photography

SMALL AMERICAN FIRES, 2016

Teresita Fernández (1968- )
Colored ink and pencil on wood panels
Courtesy of the Artist and the Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul.


TERESITA FERNÁNDEZ is recognized for her public sculptures and unconventional use of materials. In 2005, she received a fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, often referred to as a “genius” grant. Her artwork displaces history’s fixed hierarchical narrative with a more complex, accurate one. She looks at the lives and contributions of indigenous people and the diverse migrants continuing to shape the cultures that together define America. In addition to any reference to climate change the viewer might conjure, Small American Fires depicts the sophisticated slash-and-burn land management of Native Americans ignored by the traditional historical record.

“I think the essential component of renewal and redemption in those images—which are about the violence of the landscape—hinges on finding yourself in that landscape. That connects to a notion very essential to my thinking, which is that you’re trying to figure out what landscape allows, or what my use of landscape is—defining who you are in relation to where you are. When you do that, you can then understand who you are in relation to other people. This is a big part of understanding landscape as not just what’s in front of your eyes, but as the history of human beings, the history of power, the history of the lack of power. That, I think, is where the hope lies: the idea that you are seeing yourself in something that is not you, which is a pretty powerful notion.”

— Teresita Fernández

Link: For Teresita Fernández’s MacArthur Foundation information, click here.

Link: For Teresita Fernández’s Cultured magazine interview, click here.

Link: For an article about Teresita Fernández in Cuban Art News, click here.

Link: For a video of Teresita Fernández discussing Small American Fires, click here.

Link: For Teresita Fernández’s discussion of Pre-columbian gold for the Met’s Artist Project, click here.

IT HAPPENS MORE OFTEN THAN YOU THINK, 2020

Shannon Finnegan (1989-)
Colored pencil on paper
Courtesy of the Artist


SHANNON FINNEGAN commonly uses humor in her work to shed light on accessibility and disability culture. Often intended for an audience of people with disabilities, these works reflect the nuance and vibrancy of these communities. These recent text works reflect Finnegan’s own thoughts, feelings, and memories about her own disability, forming a narrative self-portrait.

“In the past few years, I think, just looking around at representations of disability in mainstream media, I was just like, there’s really nothing that feels like my experience at all, in terms of capturing the nuance of my kind of day-to-day experience that you know, some things are hard but some things are funny, or some things are weird, or some things are really interesting. And so the start for me was like, how can I at least add my experience to some of the narratives and representations that are out there, and kind of start building connections from there. So, what are points of connections between my experience and the experience of other disabled people. What are points of connection between my experience and the experience of non-disabled people.”

— Shannon Finnegan

Link: To visit Shannon Finnegan’s website, click here.

Link: To see other works in Shannon Finnegan’s Self-Portrait series, click here.

Link: To watch a video of Shannon Finnegan explaining her artistic practice, click here:

Link: To listen to Shannon Finnegan in a podcast for Designing for Humanity (Episode 7), click here.

Link: To read the transcript for Shannon Finnegan’s interview for Designing for Humanity (Episode 7), click here.

MY PACE IS THE BEST PACE FOR ME, 2020

Shannon Finnegan (1989-)
Colored pencil on paper
Courtesy of the Artist


SHANNON FINNEGAN commonly uses humor in her work to shed light on accessibility and disability culture. Often intended for an audience of people with disabilities, these works reflect the nuance and vibrancy of these communities. These recent text works reflect Finnegan’s own thoughts, feelings, and memories about her own disability, forming a narrative self-portrait.

“In the past few years, I think, just looking around at representations of disability in mainstream media, I was just like, there’s really nothing that feels like my experience at all, in terms of capturing the nuance of my kind of day-to-day experience that you know, some things are hard but some things are funny, or some things are weird, or some things are really interesting. And so the start for me was like, how can I at least add my experience to some of the narratives and representations that are out there, and kind of start building connections from there. So, what are points of connections between my experience and the experience of other disabled people. What are points of connection between my experience and the experience of non-disabled people.”

— Shannon Finnegan

Link: To visit Shannon Finnegan’s website, click here.

Link: To see other works in Shannon Finnegan’s Self-Portrait series, click here.

Link: To watch a video of Shannon Finnegan explaining her artistic practice, click here:

Link: To listen to Shannon Finnegan in a podcast for Designing for Humanity (Episode 7), click here.

Link: To read the transcript for Shannon Finnegan’s interview for Designing for Humanity (Episode 7), click here.

OR MAYBE THERE IS NO DISTANCE TOO SHORT TO TAXI?, 2020

Shannon Finnegan (1989-)
Colored pencil on paper
Courtesy of the Artist


SHANNON FINNEGAN commonly uses humor in her work to shed light on accessibility and disability culture. Often intended for an audience of people with disabilities, these works reflect the nuance and vibrancy of these communities. These recent text works reflect Finnegan’s own thoughts, feelings, and memories about her own disability, forming a narrative self-portrait.

“In the past few years, I think, just looking around at representations of disability in mainstream media, I was just like, there’s really nothing that feels like my experience at all, in terms of capturing the nuance of my kind of day-to-day experience that you know, some things are hard but some things are funny, or some things are weird, or some things are really interesting. And so the start for me was like, how can I at least add my experience to some of the narratives and representations that are out there, and kind of start building connections from there. So, what are points of connections between my experience and the experience of other disabled people. What are points of connection between my experience and the experience of non-disabled people.”

— Shannon Finnegan

Link: To visit Shannon Finnegan’s website, click here.

Link: To see other works in Shannon Finnegan’s Self-Portrait series, click here.

Link: To watch a video of Shannon Finnegan explaining her artistic practice, click here:

Link: To listen to Shannon Finnegan in a podcast for Designing for Humanity (Episode 7), click here.

Link: To read the transcript for Shannon Finnegan’s interview for Designing for Humanity (Episode 7), click here.

STOP TELLING WOMEN TO SMILE, 2014

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh (1985-)
Inkjet Print
Courtesy the Artist and NYC Pair Program


As the inaugural Public Artist in Residence for the New York City Commission on Human Rights, TATYANA FAZLALIZADEH, creates public art to call attention to the negative impact of racial and gender-based street harassment. Fazlalizadeh creates portraits of women, girls and people experiencing discrimination to inform viewers about the effects of such behavior. Many of these murals include a quote from her subject, revealing what she would like to say to her harassers: “My outfit is not an invitation” or “I should not feel unsafe when I go outside” or “My worth extends far beyond my body.” Fazlalizadeh’s partnership with the NYC CoHR will help the agency strengthen its presence and visibility as an important resource to the New York City community as well as address pressing civic issues through creative practice.

“I want to be an artist whose work is of use to movements. That is of use to people who are marginalized. I want to make work for our society, to move it to be a better place.”

— Tatyana Fazlalizadeh

Extra: Mural by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh for the Education Is Not A Crime project at PS 92 in Harlem at 222 W 134th St.

Link: For Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s website, click here.

Link For information about Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s residency with the NYC Commission on Human Rights, click here.

Link: For a PBS video about Tatyana Fazlalizadeh for American Masters, click here.

Link: For information about Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s mural at PS92 at 222 W 134th St, click here.

Note: Tatyana Fazlalizadeh has recently published a new book: Stop Telling Women to Smile

Note: This piece is a self-portrait.

“UNTITLED (HOOD 1)” FROM THE HOODS SERIES, 2016

John Edmonds (1989-)
Photographic print
Courtesy of the Artist


JOHN EDMONDS is a photographer whose work responds to the scarcity of positive representation of African American artists and images by exploring themes of identity, community, and beauty for people of color. In the Hoods series, Edmonds steps beyond the explicit and even intimate depiction of black bodies which is the hallmark of his other photography projects, and instead serves up blackness by implication only. With only a hoodie visible here, Edmonds confronts viewers with its heavily-burdened symbolism by exposing how reactions come from first impressions rooted in racial coding.

“The Hoods series is about the micro-aggression of misidentification. Using my own hoodies and hooded jackets, I cast subjects ranging in race, gender and age to raise questions surrounding what Claudia Rankine coined as the ‘racial imaginary.’ Interested in the history of the hood as an anthropological object, each subject is situated against a blank wall, out of a specific context, and rendered with intense clarity and detail. The hooded solitary figure becomes a mirror for the viewer to contemplate his or her own assumptions and bias.”

— John Edmonds

“…As much as I’m interested in the black figure, or the black body, I’m interested in humanity; I’m always asking the viewer to reconsider their own sense of humanity as much as the humanity of the subject, or my engaging with the subject.”

— John Edmonds

Link: For John Edmonds’ website, click here.

Link: For an interview between John Edmonds and Kameelah Janan Rasheed, click here.

Link: For an essay about John Edmonds by Jessica Bell Brown, click here.

Link: To watch a video by John Edmonds about the Hoods series and the Du-Rag series, click here.

Link: For the New York Times article about The Hoodie exhibit (through April 2020) in the Netherlands, click here.

Note: John Edmonds’ photographs were displayed at the Whitney Biennial 2019

Note: John Edmonds is the winner of the first UOVO art prize from the Brooklyn Museum

Note: John Edmonds will have a solo show at Brooklyn Museum starting May 1, 2020

IRREDUCIBLE, IRREDUCIBLE (1919: BLACK WATER), 2019

Torkwase Dyson (1970-)
Acrylic, metal, ink, and gouache on wood
Courtesy of the Artist and Pace Gallery, New York


TORKWASE DYSON is a multidisciplinary artist whose predominantly abstract works address issues of climate change, racial injustice, and their intersection: environmental racism. The shape of Irreducible, Irreducible recalls a raft built by black boys on a Lake Michigan beach in 1919. White beachgoers threw stones at the boys, insisting that they had crossed the line of the segregated beach, starting a riot. Dyson focuses on the raft as “architecture that helps and allows bodies to be free, to self-express, to feel some autonomy inside of these white industrial terroristic systems.”

“If we can make paintings that deconstruct ideas of industrialized white supremacy on our terms, then things look different. Especially in climate change, especially when people of color are the most affected by water rising on the coast, water impurities, by industrial…”

— Torkwase Dyson

Link: For Torkwase Dyson’s website, click here.

Link: For an Art in America article about the 1919: Black Water exhibit, click here.

Link: For a Document interview with Torkwase Dyson, click here.

GAY RIGHTS DEMONSTRATION, ALBANY, N.Y., 1971

Diana Davies (1938-)
Inkjet print
Courtesy of New York Public Library


DIANA DAVIES is a multidisciplinary artist who is best known for her photographs documenting the feminist and gay liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Davies was a participant in the first statewide march, when gays and lesbians from across the state of New York converged in Albany for two days to argue for recognition, legal rights, and civil protection. It came just two years after the historic juncture of the Stonewall Riots.

“Among Davies’ most compelling and significant photographs are those documenting the activism of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), a radical, but short-lived, leftist organization modeled after the Black Panther Party and founded only a few weeks after the Stonewall Inn Riots. Unlike early homophile organizations such as Mattachine, the GLF sought to bring about collective — not only sexual — liberation by dismantling existing social structures and institutions, not integrating within them. Their mission statement asserted: ‘We are a revolutionary group of men and women formed with the realization that complete sexual liberation for all people cannot come about unless existing social institutions are abolished. We reject society’s attempt to impose sexual roles and definitions of our nature.’”

— Jeffry J. Iovannone, scholar and activist

Link: To see Diana Davies’ photographs in the collection of the New York Public Library, click here.

Link: For information about Diana Davies from the Smithsonian website, click here.

Link: To read an article about Diana Davies from Medium, click here.

ST. PAUL’S CHAPEL, 2001

John Coburn (1957-)
Pen and ink drawing
Courtesy of National September 11 Memorial & Museum, Gift of Canadian artist, John Coburn and Thomas G. Beckett, Beckett Fine Art Ltd.


After watching television news coverage of the September 11, 2001 attacks at home in Toronto, artist JOHN COBURN  felt compelled to witness the devastation firsthand and to see whether his artwork might be of some emotional support to the recovery effort. He arrived in the U.S. in late fall 2001 and made his way to Ground Zero, carrying a copy of a drawing he had made of the Twin Towers and the lower Manhattan skyline years earlier. The drawing warmed the hearts of personnel at the perimeter of the World Trade Center site and aided Coburn in bypassing various barricades. Using pen and ink, he sketched the valor, generosity, and warmth that he witnessed on the streets of lower Manhattan in the fall and winter following the attacks. Of special note are drawings of the wrought iron fence ringing St. Paul’s Chapel and its graveyard, as well as those of people paying their respects and leaving tributes at the fence and around Ground Zero. Coburn became friendly with many recovery workers and volunteers at the Chapel during that time.

Coburn eventually returned to Canada and resumed his life and work there. Working with partners, he published his drawings along with inspirational quotations in the form of a book titled Healing Hearts. His goal was to present a copy to the families of the nearly 3,000 people killed on September 11, 2001. The Museum later acquired a copy of the book.   Several years later, a fire ravaged Coburn’s home, destroying many of his belongings. However, the drawings he had made in New York in 2001 and 2002 survived. Many are damaged or burned at the edges but the subject matter of each remains clear.  Of their strange survival, Coburn has said, “Hope is unextinguishable.”

Prior to becoming damaged, the drawings were exhibited on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the attacks. In their post-fire state, the ensemble was exhibited at the Canadian Consulate in New York City on the 15th anniversary prior to their donation to the 9/11 Memorial Museum.

“Hope is unextinguishable.”

— John Coburn

“John received a phone call telling him his studio was on fire and by the time he arrived,the entire building was engulfed in flames. The next morning – something miraculous happened. The September 11th drawings from the book were all found burned around the edges but still intact…the only art saved out of thousands of John’s works. As one family member told John: ‘It’s like the drawings were so soaked in emotion they couldn’t burn.’”

— Healing Hearts

“The pen and ink line drawings in this book have come from that need we’ve all felt so desperately as a result of September 11th – the need to let something out, to express our sorrow, to pay tribute. It’s a need felt not only in New York, not only in every American city, every American town, farm, and household, but one felt in most countries of the world, probably even in the greater part of the countries we might consider adversaries.”

— Bryan Chadwick, foreword to Healing Hearts

Link: For John Coburn’s website, click here.

Link: For the Healing Hearts website, click here.

AWAITING OUR BROTHERS’ RETURN, 2001

John Coburn (1957-)
Pen and ink drawing
Courtesy of National September 11 Memorial & Museum, Gift of Canadian artist, John Coburn and Thomas G. Beckett, Beckett Fine Art Ltd.


After watching television news coverage of the September 11, 2001 attacks at home in Toronto, artist JOHN COBURN  felt compelled to witness the devastation firsthand and to see whether his artwork might be of some emotional support to the recovery effort. He arrived in the U.S. in late fall 2001 and made his way to Ground Zero, carrying a copy of a drawing he had made of the Twin Towers and the lower Manhattan skyline years earlier. The drawing warmed the hearts of personnel at the perimeter of the World Trade Center site and aided Coburn in bypassing various barricades. Using pen and ink, he sketched the valor, generosity, and warmth that he witnessed on the streets of lower Manhattan in the fall and winter following the attacks. Of special note are drawings of the wrought iron fence ringing St. Paul’s Chapel and its graveyard, as well as those of people paying their respects and leaving tributes at the fence and around Ground Zero. Coburn became friendly with many recovery workers and volunteers at the Chapel during that time.

Coburn eventually returned to Canada and resumed his life and work there. Working with partners, he published his drawings along with inspirational quotations in the form of a book titled Healing Hearts. His goal was to present a copy to the families of the nearly 3,000 people killed on September 11, 2001. The Museum later acquired a copy of the book.   Several years later, a fire ravaged Coburn’s home, destroying many of his belongings. However, the drawings he had made in New York in 2001 and 2002 survived. Many are damaged or burned at the edges but the subject matter of each remains clear.  Of their strange survival, Coburn has said, “Hope is unextinguishable.”

Prior to becoming damaged, the drawings were exhibited on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the attacks. In their post-fire state, the ensemble was exhibited at the Canadian Consulate in New York City on the 15th anniversary prior to their donation to the 9/11 Memorial Museum.

“Hope is unextinguishable.”

— John Coburn

“John received a phone call telling him his studio was on fire and by the time he arrived,the entire building was engulfed in flames. The next morning – something miraculous happened. The September 11th drawings from the book were all found burned around the edges but still intact…the only art saved out of thousands of John’s works. As one family member told John: ‘It’s like the drawings were so soaked in emotion they couldn’t burn.’”

— Healing Hearts

“The pen and ink line drawings in this book have come from that need we’ve all felt so desperately as a result of September 11th – the need to let something out, to express our sorrow, to pay tribute. It’s a need felt not only in New York, not only in every American city, every American town, farm, and household, but one felt in most countries of the world, probably even in the greater part of the countries we might consider adversaries.”

— Bryan Chadwick, foreword to Healing Hearts

Link: For John Coburn’s website, click here.

Link: For the Healing Hearts website, click here.

THE CUP, 2013

Elizabeth Colomba (1976- )
Oil on canvas
Courtesy of the Studio Museum in Harlem; bequest of Peggy Cooper Cafritz (1947–2018), Washington, D.C. collector, educator, and activist


ELIZABETH COLOMBA reclaims historical narratives by presenting men and women of color as heroic figures in the traditional figurative canon of Western art history. Colomba subverts that status quo by painting them as the primary focus of viewer attention. Colomba describes her intent, “to re-define not only how black people have been conditioned to exist, but also how they have been conditioned to reflect upon themselves.”

“They were two beautiful books, with representations of black people in classical paintings and sculptures. I was so surprised, and I thought, If it made me happy to see people who looked like me in these settings, maybe it would make other people happy as well. That’s when I knew that this was the right path for me to explore.”

— Elizabeth Colomba, referring to the book series The Image of the Black in Western Art produced by John and Dominique de Menil

Link: To visit Elizabeth Colomba’s website, click here.

Link: To read an article about Elizabeth Colomba in Vogue magazine, click here.

Link: To watch a video interview with Elizabeth Colomba for The BHoldr, click here.

HATTIE CARTHAN (1900-1984)

Newspaper or Periodical Clipping Inkjet Print
Courtesy of the Clippings File Brooklyn Collection,
Brooklyn Public Library


When community activist HATTIE CARTHAN learned that urban renewal projects threatened three 19th-century Bedford-Stuyvesant brownstones shaded by a rare 40-foot magnolia tree, she organized community residents to save them all. The brownstones were converted into the Magnolia Tree Earth Center with nature programs for school children, activities for seniors, a vegetable garden, and a research library. The magnolia tree is now a “living landmark,” designated by the New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.

“We’ve already lost too many trees, houses and people…your community – you owe something to it. I didn’t care to run.”

— Hattie Carthan

Link: For a biography of Hattie Carthan written by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, click here.

Link: For a biography of Hattie Carthan written by the Brooklyn Library, click here.

MISSING SIGNS WERE POSTED EVERYWHERE, 2001

Students from The Calhoun School
Collage
National September 11 Memorial & Museum, Gift of The Calhoun School, New York City


These four construction-paper collages are from a series of 31 artworks conceived by eighth-grade students at The CALHOUN SCHOOL on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in response to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks and the repercussions they set in motion.  This convulsive event coincided with the first day of school for these thirteen-year olds.  In a span of 102 minutes, the world they would inherit changed irrevocably if unknowably.

The mass death toll at the World Trade Center haunted the cityscape in myriad forms including candlelight vigils, urgently photocopied Missing Person fliers, sidewalk shrines spreading outside local firehouses and police stations, and the disfigured skyline of lower Manhattan.   At every turn, these middle schoolers confronted evidence of public grief, shock, and anxiety; of surging patriotism and reactive compassion; of conflicting calls for score-settling on behalf of nearly three-thousand innocent victims.  Guided by two Calhoun teachers, the students were encouraged to take stock of this unfolding aftermath. The result was a collective art project eventually titled “9/11: Through Young Eyes.”

Informing this undertaking was a class field trip to the Whitney Museum of American Art that same fall, to see an exhibition of Jacob Lawrence’ sweeping, 60-panel Migration Series (1940-41). While removed in time and topic from the 2001 crisis, Lawrence’s investigation of the painful causes and complex effects of the widespread exodus of African Americans from the agricultural South to the industrial North intrigued Calhoun’s students.  Anticipating that 9/11 might be recognized as their own generation’s defining event, the project participants adapted Lawrence’s bold, modernist colors and reductive pictorial designs to create their own epic narrative about the terror attacks on the United States and their consequences, some of which deeply disturbed these thoughtful eighth graders. Like Lawrence, they coupled their collage constructions with succinct prose captions.

In autumn 2011, a retrospective exhibition of “9/11 Through Young Eyes” was installed at the prestigious D.C. Moore Gallery to mark the ten-year anniversary of the attacks.  The 31 featured artworks were subsequently transferred to the nascent collection of the 9/11 Memorial Museum.  Today, the Calhoun School collages are a treasured component of the Museum’s holdings of artwork and writings by young people who witnessed 9/11 and its fall-out. In these contemporaneous explorations by the Calhoun students, one senses their struggle to make meaning of a national tragedy that was shifting the world’s geopolitics and the fragile balance between civil liberties and homeland security. The attacks also put to test their own emerging humanitarian values and aspirations for social justice.

_________________________________

*The  Calhoun School’s Class of 2006 artists were: Benjamin Abrams, Weslee Berke, Angela Bonilla, Justin Brooke, Harper Buonanno, Clio Calman, James Dawson, Michael Feher, Erik Font, Theo Goodman, Sophie Harris, Jonathan Jimenez, David Katz, Rachel Klepner, Eva Loomis, Emily McDonald, Madeleine McMillan, Ramon “PJ” Padilla, Joshua Pozzuto, Rory Sasson, Samara Savino, Katherine Schreiber, Andrew Schwartz, Sophie Silverberg, Rachel Spitz-Lieberman, Raymond Weiss, Rachel Wiedermann, Blake Zaretsky, David Zhou, Michael Zurkuhlen, and Peter Zurkuhlen. The interdisciplinary project, 9/11 Through Young Eyes, was coordinated by teachers Helen Bruno and Jessica Houston.

Link: For the website of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, click here.

FIREHOUSES WERE IN MOURNING. ENTIRE COMPANIES HAD PERISHED, 2001

Students from The Calhoun School
Collage
National September 11 Memorial & Museum, Gift of The Calhoun School, New York City


These four construction-paper collages are from a series of 31 artworks conceived by eighth-grade students at The CALHOUN SCHOOL on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in response to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks and the repercussions they set in motion.  This convulsive event coincided with the first day of school for these thirteen-year olds.  In a span of 102 minutes, the world they would inherit changed irrevocably if unknowably.

The mass death toll at the World Trade Center haunted the cityscape in myriad forms including candlelight vigils, urgently photocopied Missing Person fliers, sidewalk shrines spreading outside local firehouses and police stations, and the disfigured skyline of lower Manhattan.   At every turn, these middle schoolers confronted evidence of public grief, shock, and anxiety; of surging patriotism and reactive compassion; of conflicting calls for score-settling on behalf of nearly three-thousand innocent victims.  Guided by two Calhoun teachers, the students were encouraged to take stock of this unfolding aftermath. The result was a collective art project eventually titled “9/11: Through Young Eyes.”

Informing this undertaking was a class field trip to the Whitney Museum of American Art that same fall, to see an exhibition of Jacob Lawrence’ sweeping, 60-panel Migration Series (1940-41). While removed in time and topic from the 2001 crisis, Lawrence’s investigation of the painful causes and complex effects of the widespread exodus of African Americans from the agricultural South to the industrial North intrigued Calhoun’s students.  Anticipating that 9/11 might be recognized as their own generation’s defining event, the project participants adapted Lawrence’s bold, modernist colors and reductive pictorial designs to create their own epic narrative about the terror attacks on the United States and their consequences, some of which deeply disturbed these thoughtful eighth graders. Like Lawrence, they coupled their collage constructions with succinct prose captions.

In autumn 2011, a retrospective exhibition of “9/11 Through Young Eyes” was installed at the prestigious D.C. Moore Gallery to mark the ten-year anniversary of the attacks.  The 31 featured artworks were subsequently transferred to the nascent collection of the 9/11 Memorial Museum.  Today, the Calhoun School collages are a treasured component of the Museum’s holdings of artwork and writings by young people who witnessed 9/11 and its fall-out. In these contemporaneous explorations by the Calhoun students, one senses their struggle to make meaning of a national tragedy that was shifting the world’s geopolitics and the fragile balance between civil liberties and homeland security. The attacks also put to test their own emerging humanitarian values and aspirations for social justice.

_________________________________

*The  Calhoun School’s Class of 2006 artists were: Benjamin Abrams, Weslee Berke, Angela Bonilla, Justin Brooke, Harper Buonanno, Clio Calman, James Dawson, Michael Feher, Erik Font, Theo Goodman, Sophie Harris, Jonathan Jimenez, David Katz, Rachel Klepner, Eva Loomis, Emily McDonald, Madeleine McMillan, Ramon “PJ” Padilla, Joshua Pozzuto, Rory Sasson, Samara Savino, Katherine Schreiber, Andrew Schwartz, Sophie Silverberg, Rachel Spitz-Lieberman, Raymond Weiss, Rachel Wiedermann, Blake Zaretsky, David Zhou, Michael Zurkuhlen, and Peter Zurkuhlen. The interdisciplinary project, 9/11 Through Young Eyes, was coordinated by teachers Helen Bruno and Jessica Houston.

Link: For the website of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, click here.

MUSLIMS WERE DEHUMANIZED, 2001

Students from The Calhoun School
Collage
National September 11 Memorial & Museum, Gift of The Calhoun School, New York City


These four construction-paper collages are from a series of 31 artworks conceived by eighth-grade students at The CALHOUN SCHOOL on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in response to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks and the repercussions they set in motion.  This convulsive event coincided with the first day of school for these thirteen-year olds.  In a span of 102 minutes, the world they would inherit changed irrevocably if unknowably.

The mass death toll at the World Trade Center haunted the cityscape in myriad forms including candlelight vigils, urgently photocopied Missing Person fliers, sidewalk shrines spreading outside local firehouses and police stations, and the disfigured skyline of lower Manhattan.   At every turn, these middle schoolers confronted evidence of public grief, shock, and anxiety; of surging patriotism and reactive compassion; of conflicting calls for score-settling on behalf of nearly three-thousand innocent victims.  Guided by two Calhoun teachers, the students were encouraged to take stock of this unfolding aftermath. The result was a collective art project eventually titled “9/11: Through Young Eyes.”

Informing this undertaking was a class field trip to the Whitney Museum of American Art that same fall, to see an exhibition of Jacob Lawrence’ sweeping, 60-panel Migration Series (1940-41). While removed in time and topic from the 2001 crisis, Lawrence’s investigation of the painful causes and complex effects of the widespread exodus of African Americans from the agricultural South to the industrial North intrigued Calhoun’s students.  Anticipating that 9/11 might be recognized as their own generation’s defining event, the project participants adapted Lawrence’s bold, modernist colors and reductive pictorial designs to create their own epic narrative about the terror attacks on the United States and their consequences, some of which deeply disturbed these thoughtful eighth graders. Like Lawrence, they coupled their collage constructions with succinct prose captions.

In autumn 2011, a retrospective exhibition of “9/11 Through Young Eyes” was installed at the prestigious D.C. Moore Gallery to mark the ten-year anniversary of the attacks.  The 31 featured artworks were subsequently transferred to the nascent collection of the 9/11 Memorial Museum.  Today, the Calhoun School collages are a treasured component of the Museum’s holdings of artwork and writings by young people who witnessed 9/11 and its fall-out. In these contemporaneous explorations by the Calhoun students, one senses their struggle to make meaning of a national tragedy that was shifting the world’s geopolitics and the fragile balance between civil liberties and homeland security. The attacks also put to test their own emerging humanitarian values and aspirations for social justice.

_________________________________

*The  Calhoun School’s Class of 2006 artists were: Benjamin Abrams, Weslee Berke, Angela Bonilla, Justin Brooke, Harper Buonanno, Clio Calman, James Dawson, Michael Feher, Erik Font, Theo Goodman, Sophie Harris, Jonathan Jimenez, David Katz, Rachel Klepner, Eva Loomis, Emily McDonald, Madeleine McMillan, Ramon “PJ” Padilla, Joshua Pozzuto, Rory Sasson, Samara Savino, Katherine Schreiber, Andrew Schwartz, Sophie Silverberg, Rachel Spitz-Lieberman, Raymond Weiss, Rachel Wiedermann, Blake Zaretsky, David Zhou, Michael Zurkuhlen, and Peter Zurkuhlen. The interdisciplinary project, 9/11 Through Young Eyes, was coordinated by teachers Helen Bruno and Jessica Houston.

Link: For the website of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, click here.

AND PEOPLE STILL MISS THE TWIN TOWERS, 2001

Students from The Calhoun School
Collage
National September 11 Memorial & Museum, Gift of The Calhoun School, New York City


These four construction-paper collages are from a series of 31 artworks conceived by eighth-grade students at The CALHOUN SCHOOL on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in response to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks and the repercussions they set in motion.  This convulsive event coincided with the first day of school for these thirteen-year olds.  In a span of 102 minutes, the world they would inherit changed irrevocably if unknowably.

The mass death toll at the World Trade Center haunted the cityscape in myriad forms including candlelight vigils, urgently photocopied Missing Person fliers, sidewalk shrines spreading outside local firehouses and police stations, and the disfigured skyline of lower Manhattan.   At every turn, these middle schoolers confronted evidence of public grief, shock, and anxiety; of surging patriotism and reactive compassion; of conflicting calls for score-settling on behalf of nearly three-thousand innocent victims.  Guided by two Calhoun teachers, the students were encouraged to take stock of this unfolding aftermath. The result was a collective art project eventually titled “9/11: Through Young Eyes.”

Informing this undertaking was a class field trip to the Whitney Museum of American Art that same fall, to see an exhibition of Jacob Lawrence’ sweeping, 60-panel Migration Series (1940-41). While removed in time and topic from the 2001 crisis, Lawrence’s investigation of the painful causes and complex effects of the widespread exodus of African Americans from the agricultural South to the industrial North intrigued Calhoun’s students.  Anticipating that 9/11 might be recognized as their own generation’s defining event, the project participants adapted Lawrence’s bold, modernist colors and reductive pictorial designs to create their own epic narrative about the terror attacks on the United States and their consequences, some of which deeply disturbed these thoughtful eighth graders. Like Lawrence, they coupled their collage constructions with succinct prose captions.

In autumn 2011, a retrospective exhibition of “9/11 Through Young Eyes” was installed at the prestigious D.C. Moore Gallery to mark the ten-year anniversary of the attacks.  The 31 featured artworks were subsequently transferred to the nascent collection of the 9/11 Memorial Museum.  Today, the Calhoun School collages are a treasured component of the Museum’s holdings of artwork and writings by young people who witnessed 9/11 and its fall-out. In these contemporaneous explorations by the Calhoun students, one senses their struggle to make meaning of a national tragedy that was shifting the world’s geopolitics and the fragile balance between civil liberties and homeland security. The attacks also put to test their own emerging humanitarian values and aspirations for social justice.

_________________________________

*The  Calhoun School’s Class of 2006 artists were: Benjamin Abrams, Weslee Berke, Angela Bonilla, Justin Brooke, Harper Buonanno, Clio Calman, James Dawson, Michael Feher, Erik Font, Theo Goodman, Sophie Harris, Jonathan Jimenez, David Katz, Rachel Klepner, Eva Loomis, Emily McDonald, Madeleine McMillan, Ramon “PJ” Padilla, Joshua Pozzuto, Rory Sasson, Samara Savino, Katherine Schreiber, Andrew Schwartz, Sophie Silverberg, Rachel Spitz-Lieberman, Raymond Weiss, Rachel Wiedermann, Blake Zaretsky, David Zhou, Michael Zurkuhlen, and Peter Zurkuhlen. The interdisciplinary project, 9/11 Through Young Eyes, was coordinated by teachers Helen Bruno and Jessica Houston.

Link: For the website of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, click here.

CYCLE NEWS, 2017

Tania Bruguera with Mujeres en Movimiento (1968-)
Inkjet Print
Courtesy of the Artist


Cuban-born interdisciplinary artist TANIA BRUGUERA, founded Immigrant Movement International with support from the Queens Museum and the public art organization Creative Time. She had planned to hold arts workshops for immigrants but found that most of those who attended sought help finding jobs, legal aid or opportunities to learn English. Eventually partnering with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) and other activist groups like Mujeres en Movimiento, she launched Cycle News: women ride bicycles around the borough of Queens to distribute pamphlets containing important resources for immigrants.

For Cycle News, women wearing green vests and helmets ride around the borough on customized neon yellow bikes and distribute illustrated pamphlets containing important information for immigrants, especially those who are undocumented, describing their rights and available public services. The materials were created with the cooperation of Kollecktiv Migrantas, a Berlin based artist collective, and are based on images and stories obtained in participatory workshops in the community.

Bruguera feels that this has been “one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life as a citizen and as an artist.” The program is a vehicle for “constant dialogue between immigrants and the government” and seeks to build a sense of trust between New York City government and its immigrant communities.

“In socially engaged practice, art is not a tool to make art, but a tool to be used to make society work differently.”

— Tania Bruguera

Link: For Tania Bruguera’s website, click here.

Link: To watch a video about the Immigrant Movement International with Tania Bruguera and Aliza Nisenbaum, click here.

Link: To read and hear an interview with Tania Bruguera for MoMA, click here.

Link: To watch a video interview with Tania Bruguera for the Tate museum, click here.

SEXISM #8, 1973

Benny Andrews (1930-2006)
Oil on Linen
Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York


BENNY ANDREWS was a prolific artist whose figurative, surreal artwork often portrayed scenes of African American history and racial injustice. After Andrews became involved with feminist groups, he created his Sexism series to explore similar oppressions of women and the uneven distribution of power by gender. The white male figure in Sexism #8 covers himself with the colors of the American flag and carries weapons of brutality in apparent defense of his right to power.

“It’s like a relay race and we were lucky we had the bar a little while. But we got it from somebody and we pass it on to somebody so that little stretch that we ran is just a link in a chain that goes both ways.”

— Benny Andrews

“For Benny there was no line where his activism ended, and his art began. To him, using his brush and his pen to capture the essence and spirit of his time was as much an act of protest as sitting-in or sitting-down was for me. I can see him now: thinking, speaking, articulating what needs to be done and in the next few moments trying to make real what he had been contemplating. He was honest to a fault, and I think it was his determination to speak the plain truth that shaped his demand for justice and social integrity. He never aligned with any political group, but would offer the full weight of his support to anyone he thought was standing for truth.”

— Congressman John Lewis

Link: For Benny Andrews’ website, click here.

Link: For an article from BurnAway about Benny Andrews, click here.

Link: For the video Benny Andrews in His Own Words, click here.

Link: For a video about Benny Andrews’ Flag Day painting, click here.

Connection: No More Games by Benny Andrews on view at MoMA, Floor 4, 420