In her 2019 paper “Black Feminist Visions and the Politics for Healing in the Movement for Black Lives,” professor Deva Woodly criticizes the ways that Black women have been systemically oppressed. She writes: “Black women have been situated as the gendered victims of domination perpetuated by white men and women and by black men, as well as the racialized carriers of the oppressive burden of care-for-others through the reality of a lethally disciplinary state and a political economy that proscribes, devalues and excludes them from prosperity.”
This show explores the sentiment that Woodly expresses in her essay and seeks to portray Black femme bodies in a different—and more liberated—light. Featuring both emerging and established artists, the exhibition is primarily focused on beautiful and thought-provoking depictions of Black women and gender nonconforming people. Works range from Deana Lawson’s intimate photographs to Elizabeth Catlett’s striking prints. Many of the artists included in the show identify as female or gender nonconforming, though some male-identifying artists are also included.
Black women are often caregivers, essential workers, and mothers. In the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, these roles are more important than ever, though they are often overlooked or deemed as unimportant. Pieces like Lavar Munroe’s Virgin and Child (2020) consider the bond that a mother has with her child through bold strokes of color and expressive mark-making. Other works are more introspective, focusing on the relationship that one has with themself. For example, Zanele Muholi’s self-portraiture explores themes of race, sexuality, and labor; their gaze is penetrating, and it’s clear they have agency. All of these artists have stories to tell, and the importance of their work transcends aesthetic appeal.