For ‘Taking Space’ at PAFA, women artists are as monumental as they want to be

The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 1, 2021

Artist Clarity Haynes has grown accustomed to having her work censored on social media. The images she posts — whether of her own paintings depicting the nude torsos of women, trans and nonbinary people, or the work of other queer and feminist artists — are routinely deleted by the algorithms of sites like Instagram.

It’s a frustrating echo of a broader invisibility in mainstream culture, Haynes says. “Disabled artists, fat bodies, all bodies that do not fit in — especially if they are read as female — are just literally erased.” [continue reading]

This Philly artist is a rising star for his portrait of poet Amanda Gorman and other work

The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 3, 2021

When poet Amanda Gorman skyrocketed to fame in January with her inaugural poem “The Hill We Climb,” a 2018 portrait of her by Philly-based artist Shawn Theodore got caught up in the flurry as people shared it on Instagram and sought out prints on Artsy.

The photograph casts the poet as a muse in Theodore’s signature style — an elegant silhouette in jet-black against the bright pop of a yellow wall. It was the outcome of a chance introduction to Gorman in Los Angeles, and Theodore hadn’t thought about it much again until the internet took notice. [continue reading]

Philly project expands nationally to ask: Who deserves a monument?

The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 1, 2021

As cultural organizations are reeling from the upheaval of 2020, one has seen its mission merge almost seamlessly with the zeitgeist — Philadelphia’s Monument Lab.

While the pandemic has brought delays to some of its projects, Monument Lab’s broad objective to help reimagine civic memory in public space has never felt more apt. Around the United States, whether in the dismantling of Richmond’s Monument Avenue, the creation of Black Lives Matter Plaza, or the removal of the Frank Rizzo statue near City Hall, citizens and elected officials have increasingly seen a question written on the landscape: Whose stories are told there and why? [continue reading]

Philly artists are in the vanguard at MoMA exhibit on art in the age of mass incarceration

The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 10, 2020

In 2007, Mary Enoch Elizabeth Baxter was arrested on the first day of the ninth month of her pregnancy. Three days later, after receiving little to eat and no prenatal care at Riverside Correctional Facility in Holmesburg, she went into labor. What followed was a nightmare: 43 hours of labor culminating in an emergency cesarean section, all while shackled to a hospital bed.

A decade later, Baxter recounted her experience in the powerful hip-hop narrative video, Ain’t I a Woman using rap and dramatic performance to tell a wrenching story about the harm caused by a punitive carceral system in the name of justice. [continue reading]

Dance Performances in Historic Churches Revive Spiritual Histories

Hyperallergic, May 20, 2019

When choreographer Reggie Wilson debuted his work … they stood shaking while others began to shout at Danspace Project in 2018, he cited an unusual source of inspiration: a Black Shaker eldress named Rebecca Cox Jackson who led a small community of worshipers in Philadelphia in the 1850s and ’60s. Struck by the linkage between ecstatic Shaker dance, a visionary black woman preacher, and the dual identity of Danspace’s home, St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, as both an arts space and an active church, Wilson layered the ideas into his choreography. [continue reading]

A Photographer’s Portrait of Addiction and Recovery

Hyperallergic, March 11, 2019

“Perhaps the only people with the right to look at images of suffering of this extreme order are those who could do something to alleviate it … or those who could learn from it. The rest of us are voyeurs, whether or not we mean to be.” Susan Sontag’s words in Regarding the Pain of Others (2003) refer to photographs of war, but they resonate with a present-day tragedy on US soil: opioid addiction. [continue reading]

The Ghosts of Cotton in the American Landscape

Hyperallergic, February 20, 2019

In his latest body of work — including 35 photographs, an installation, and an altarpiece — artist John E. Dowell takes as his subject one of the most influential plants in US history.  His exhibition at the African American Museum in Philadelphia, Cotton: The Soft, Dangerous Beauty of the Past (through February 24), grapples with a poignant dissonance in American landscapes — the sense that the natural environment is at once banal and pregnant with meaning, charged with histories of race, enslavement, and migration. [continue reading]

Artist Zanele Muholi Helps Women Launch into Photography with a New Philadelphia Residency

Hyperallergic, October 9, 2018

Afaq is accustomed to the reactions inspired by her turban. Often, she says, people reach out to touch her head without permission—or they just ignore her, assuming that a Black woman wearing a turban doesn’t speak English. It surprises people to learn that Afaq has spent most of her life in Northeast Philadelphia. Growing up, outside of a small community of other refugees from Darfur, other kids called her “burnt chocolate.” Fellow Muslims, primarily of Arab descent, didn’t recognize her turban as a hijab. [continue reading]