Last year, the Black Lives Matter movement dominated headlines and the streets, as activists rallied against police brutality and white supremacy. Now an exhibit at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in Eugene shows how more than 20 regional artists interpret the Black Lives Matter movement today.
As you enter the upstairs wing of the museum, one of the first pieces you see is a giant photo of Malik Lovette. Circled by other photos of prominent Black athletes, Lovette stands in the center, prying off heavy steel shackles.
“The title of the work is ‘Unchained’, and basically it’s just exemplifying the parallels between sports and slavery ultimately, and then it’s also a reflection of my personal life, of just being put in a box,” explains Lovette.
“I’ve always been looked at as an athlete, or being told that was my only pathway to success. So I kinda utilized this as a way to represent that.”
The Black Lives Matter Artist Grant program awarded $2500 to people including Lovette, to make art they feel conveys an important aspect of Black life and culture.
For Lovette, it’s a personal message.
“So this is really myself, unchaining myself from the life of sports and really showcasing who I was always, deep down,” says Lovette. “And kind of the groundwork that I’ve been putting in for the last five years, where everyone looked at me as an athlete. But I wanted everyone to respect me for my artistic integrity rather than my jersey number.”
Around the corner and down the hall, is a video presentation by another athlete and artist, Gabby Beauvais.
“…sport is one very few phenomenons which unite us all,” narrates Beauvais. “At least on the field. But what about off? Time and time again, we try to prove we are more than athletes. I created a space for us to listen and acknowledge their presence, and humanity…”
Beauvais is trying to elevate Black voices through a docu-series featuring conversations with current and retired athletes. Footage of Black Lives Matter marches and police protests is interspersed with that of her sources.
“Through this project, I am to open up a discussion among athletes and non-athletes, so we can start a conversation and bridge a gap between understanding each other and understanding how our worlds work, and how they’re different, and how they might be the same.”
Themes of rage, frustration, and inequality resonate through many pieces in this exhibit. But some artists – like Gregory Stanley Black – want to show other sides to Black life in America through his photographs.
“What I like to look at it is, African Americans and the history that we have in America, it’s been hard,” he says. “But these represent some of the aspects of humanity, some of the aspects of fun and just people being people.”
Black’s photos are casual and happy portrayals of families, children, and friends, as well as a group of jazz musicians playing a set.
“This is what we are, we are Americans. We are part of this whole culture, and it’s a blend. Look at us, and y’know, give us a little heads up now and then, and say ‘Hey, hey, hey, we with you.’”
Allies are a part of this Black Lives Matter exhibit, as they are of the movement itself. Mika Aono is a Japanese artist who enjoys printmaking. Her contribution is a series of posters, with phrases such as “We’re All in this Together.”
“I collected some quotes from well-known civil rights leaders and Black Lives Movement, and some well known poets and actors. I just wanted the imagery and quotes to be accessible.”
All the art is highly expressive, bringing further insights to the Black experience then, now, and into the future.
The Black Lives Matter Artist Grant Program Exhibition runs through November 21st. It’s a joint program between the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, and the Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center.
Artist grantees are: John Adair, Mika Aono, Gabriel Barrera, Kathleen Caprario & Gregory Stanley Black, Marco Elliott, Marina Hajek, Jasmine Jackson, Mya Lansing, Ana-Maurine Lara, Anthony Adonis Lewis, Malik Lovette, Naomi Meyer, Michael Moloi, Artemas Quazar Ori, Michael Perkins, Josh Sands, Aaron Thompson, Stormie True, and MO WO.
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