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Gallery ABBA and BSU debut Black Lives Matter art showcase

The powerful, poignant Gallery ABBA BSU Black Lives Matter art showcase opened on Friday, February 10, to a crowd larger than any in Gallery ABBA’s recent history.

Gallery ABBA’s student manager Grace Gerloff’19, estimated between 100-150 students, teachers and community members attended the event — the gallery ran out of the pretzels, hummus and other snacks before the evening was over. The event they’d turned up for was a showcase “in celebration of Black History Month,” self-described by Black Students United (BSU) as a display of “the strength, resilience, power, creativity and uniqueness of black culture, while acknowledging the adversities that we face everyday.” The majority of 18 pieces featured were bought during the opener, and their proceeds “will go towards a scholarship created for a member of Black Students United to encourage academic success.”

Gerloff praised the speech of BSU’s president, Joanie Wiley’19, whose performance with Carly Gregerman’19 at last weekend’s BSU talent show won first place. Speaking to those in attendance, Wiley said “Black Lives Matter — when you bring it up, it’s a movement. And I want to take away from it just being a movement. It’s our lifestyle. Being Black is something that we don’t ask for, it just happens. We wanted to show in our pieces that we’re still kings and queens and to uplift our image in society and this is what we came up with.”

All together, fifteen artists contributed to those pieces: Evelyn Roman’19, Coretta Franklin’19, Shambhavi Upadhyaya’19, Sukanya Upadhyaya’19, Antonio Jones’17, Tim Barnes’20, Lili Hagg’19, Martha Denne’19, Everett Baxter’19, Joanie Wiley’19, Alexandria Kohn’19, Faviola Ramirez’20, Miyani Clark’19 and Rebekah Evans’18.

And their art! The pieces shown featured an impressive diversity of mediums, including photo, sculpture, pastel, and ink on paper. Moving through the gallery, the viewer is confronted with a collection of work displaying technical skill, reverence, pride, beauty, and vulnerability. Three artists had their work selected to be presented at BSU’s Black Gala, with Baxter getting third place for “Am I Beautiful Enough Yet?”, a visual commentary on the effect of Western beauty standards as portrayed in the media on African-American women.

Second place went to Clark for “Willow”, a hauntingly gorgeous portrait of an androgynous African-American incorporating stars, flowers and a mastery of shading with pen on paper. The text beneath the title incorporated an oft used phrase in protests, “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”

Denne won first place for “Black Girl Magic”, a stunning and glittery oil painting depicting a black girl with an afro that looks as if it’s made of a galaxy, and the description, “Embracing radical self-love and black girl power.”  

Although it was not among the finalists, one of the powerful exhibits in the gallery belonged to Rebekah Evans, entitled “Be No Evil”. Her piece features three separate photographs of Dewight Walker’17, his face obscured in each image by a white man’s hands, first over his eyes, then over his hears and then over his mouth. Painted over each picture are a different word: “Black,” “Lives” and “Matter”. In a very succinct fashion, the work plays with the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” proverbial principle. In Western society, the proverb refers to a lack of moral responsibility on the part of people who refuse to acknowledge wrongdoing, looking the other way or feigning ignorance. Evan’s photos brilliantly unsettle this meaning by featuring a faceless white man who is literally using his own hands to force a black man to look the other way with regard to the injustices done upon him.  

Gerloff, the gallery manager, has expressed her desire to turn the show into an annual event each February. Still, you don’t have to wait until next year to view some fantastic artwork.  The BSU Black Lives Matter show will be up until March 3 at Gallery ABBA, the student-run gallery right across from the campus bookstore.

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