Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art Portand State University
January 18- April 30 2022
The Black Lives Matter Artist Grant Program is a multi-university granting project established by Jordan Schnitzer that has awarded funding to 60 emerging, mid-career, and established artists whose practices demonstrate a commitment to social justice. This granting initiative, which categorically references the Black Lives Matter movement(s), gestures towards the germinating financial and intellectual investment in artwork borne out of a continuing, centuries-long fight for Black autonomy, freedom, and most notably, life.
The 20 artists selected for the Portland State University award cycle stretch the notion of ‘socially engaged artwork’ beyond its cursory definition, resulting in a collection of objects which require multiple shifts in perspective.
Official NRA Target, 2016
23 x 15 x 8 inches
Shadow box on Left
The reclaimed, beaded, nodder doll bank perches atop a gun shell box and is surrounded by an iron Eagle, and M-60 rifle as American symbols of freedom for many, yet dog whistles of white supremacy for others. The work examines one of the major American social challenges of today. With a copy of a signed, official NRA document on the front top of the frame, this work speaks to the influence of the NRA on policy, the disparity of the punishment versus the crime on people of color, and the literal target on the backs of its black American citizens.
Key to American Culture, 2016/2019
multimedia oil with object floating on canvas
96 x 60 inches
Painting on the right
This piece is an examination and celebration of the Black woman, while addressing how much the Black woman has played in nurturing American culture. The figure, wearing a Victorian Bustled gown references the “HottentotVenus” who was paraded across Europe in the 1800s, yet her shape was the inspiration for the Victorian Bustle. Her presence helped feed the fascination with the black female physique. She remains a symbol of the dehumanization of African features, the exploitation, the commodification of the Black woman; and the influence of Black culture on world culture. Her natural coiffe depicts defiant, Black pride. The keys at the end of the chain reinforces how she could be one of the keys to understanding our complex American history.
In tandem they speak volumes to our strength and resilience in spite of it all.