6 black and white photographs rippled with gold hang under the title, “Black Lives Matter Artist Grant Program Exhibition.” 6 images, six different Black bodies, facing six different directions, all a variety of ages. The gold rivers running through each piece are tears in the original photograph that have been filled with gold leaf.
“The project centered on racial experiences that each family member openly talked to me about,” artist John Adair said in an email. “The conversations only dictated how many tears each respective portrait would have.”
Adair’s work is part of the Black Lives Matter exhibit at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. After submitting themselves to be considered in the program, a collection of 20 grant recipients from around Oregon each received $2,500 and a feature in the exhibit. The artists were chosen by a grant panel made up of five people from the art community at UO.
The exhibit features a variety of different mediums — photographs, paintings, drawings, videos, sculpture, printmaking and even mock grocery store shelves. The artists were tasked with creating art centering around the same theme: Black Lives Matter. From photographs and paintings of Black people to abstract pieces providing a social commentary about racism and the state of this country, no two pieces are the same.
“Artistic creation can be a powerful force for change,” JSMA curator Danielle Knapp said in an email. “These exhibitions are amplifying Black voices, supporting social justice efforts, encouraging community, and demonstrating our commitments as academic art museums to educate and teach from an anti-racist and equity lens.”
“Just Deserts” by Josh Sands is made up of two different shelves stocked with a variety of fake foods. This piece highlights different healthy food options. The stand on the left shows a variety of options, and the stand on the right shows a lack of healthy options. “Just Deserts” is a statement about the food deserts that plague the United States. The stand on the left is white metal, and the stand on the right is black metal — hinting at the fact that food insecurity disproportionately affects communities of color like Sands wrote.
Food deserts are defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as an area that has a poverty rate of 20% or greater and at least 500 people (or 33%) living over a mile away from a large grocery store. According to a report by the USDA, food deserts largely impact communities of color.
“The topic at hand when discussing food deserts is actually food insecurity,” Sands wrote in the artist statement. “While fundamentally the issue of food insecurity is related to socio-economic status, it is an issue that disproportionately affects minority communities.”
Mika Aono loaned 14 screen printed pieces to the JSMA for this exhibit. The pieces feature a variety of important messages from “Art is power” to “Know Justice. Know Peace.” as well as some powerful quotes. The prints resemble signs that would be seen at protests or rallies for Black Lives Matter.
“It’s my hope that even in a small scale, these hand-printed posters become a tool for bringing us all together,” Aono wrote in the artist statement. “Let’s keep moving forward. No one is free until all of us are free.”
The grant program and exhibition is also taking place at Portland State University and Washington State University, sponsored by Jordan Schnitzer, with different artists at each museum. At UO, the exhibit runs from July 3 until November 21 and is available to the public at the JSMA. The museum is currently open Friday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and free for students.
“The main point to take away [from the exhibit] is that we are not lesser than because of these experiences that racism brings to us,” Adair said in an email. “We don't need pity, we need appreciation.”
Even though each piece in the exhibit is vastly different, with different mediums, the message remains the same: Black Lives Matter.