With COVID still making its horrible mark on the world, a life spent in quarantine has become the norm for the last year.
Quarantine fatigue and the holidays created quite the unforgiving combination this Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. Our numbers have risen and people’s nerves are fraught. Trust me, I understand your pain. I consider myself a social animal so this virus has hit me especially hard both professionally and mentally. If there is one thing I have now become proficient in, it is how to adapt easily. Since my soul and mental health crave cultural interaction, so I have searched out COVID-friendly ways to satisfy this need.
The Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) is just the ticket. They have health & safety guidelines and protocols in place to insure their staff and you stay healthy. I recently went to the opening weekend of their new exhibition Solos: Artists in Residence featuring the works of Shana M. griffin, Sarah Hill and Ana Hernandez. Their works are powerful, insightful and contemplative.
Shana M. griffin is a feminist activist, independent researcher, applied sociologist, artist, and geographer. Her practice is interdisciplinary and “undisciplinary”, working across the fields of sociology, geography, public art, and land-use planning and within movements challenging urban displacement, reproductive control, and gender-based violence. She engages in research, organizing projects, and art practices that focus on the lived experiences of the black Diaspora—centering the particular experiences of black women most vulnerable to the violence of poverty, incarceration, polluted environments, reproductive legislation, economic exploitation, and housing discrimination.
Her exhibition DISPLACING Blackness: Cartographies of Violence, Extraction, and Disposability encompasses a series of works exploring geographies of black displacement, dislocation, containment, and disposability in land-use planning, housing policies, and urban development, starting with racial slavery and the violent formation of New Orleans as a colonial enterprise.
Using archival research, historical images, maps, ephemera, founded objects, original artwork, person narratives, and stories of resistance, DISPLACING Blackness chronicles the afterlife of slavery through the institutionalization of racial and gender violence in spatial segregation and discriminatory policies designed to make black people disappear.
Take your time with this show, it is very enlightening about the blight black people faced (and still do) in our city. Griffin has taken extreme care with how she presents the show weaving personal experiences into the narrative. Her wall of photos of locations her mother lived at through her lifetime is a telling example of what African Americans faced in our city.
Ana Hernandez is a painter, printmaker, and sculptor currently living and working in New Orleans. She is a founding member of Level Artist Collective and has had artist residencies sponsored by the Joan Mitchell Foundation and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, as well as the CAC. Her exhibition is MATTER out of time: Reflections on a re-centering of and return to Ways of Knowing.
Sarah Hill lives and works in New Orleans and has participated in group shows at Crystal Bridges Museum, the San Antonio Museum of Art, and the McNay Art Museum, also in San Antonio. Her exhibition To the Farmhouse is a reclamation story that navigates the hostile relationship between Sarah and her mother who is portrayed as an owl. This 11-minute stop-motion animation is accompanied by a series of large-scale sculptures, including an 8 ft. by 3 ft. church which becomes the backdrop for the animation. The narrative-based audio focuses on introspection through short autobiographical vignettes.
Sarah’s show’s whimsical expression enhances the powerful message being conveyed. With a flair for storytelling that combines both comedic and dramatic elements, it is easy to see why Sarah was also chosen to take part in the CAC’s other current exhibition; her video featuring some interesting puppetry is brilliant.
All three solo exhibitions are thought-provoking and incredibly fascinating. Now, with the help of the Helis Foundation, Louisiana residents get free admission on Sundays. With many people suffering financially during this pandemic, having free things to do that are both educational and entertaining helps in so many ways. This is also a wonderful opportunity to discover some of our local talent.
Solos: Artist in Residence will be up through April 25. In addition, the CAC has extended (also till Apr. 25) its other show Make America What America Must Become which is an exhibition of 34 Gulf South artists who deal with myriad topics ranging from racial injustice and inequality, LGBTQ issues, feminism, mortality and human suffering.
The Contemporary Arts Center is located at 900 Camp Street, New Orleans.