By Zsudayka Nzinga Terrell
Firstly, I want to thank Sandra Davis, a Black woman artist with the Washington DC chapter of WCA for reaching out and pushing for the selection for me, an independent Black woman artist, dealer and curator, to jury the call for See My Color, a show which not only wanted to provide artists an opportunity to speak around issues of American justice, and gave voice to Black and minority/POC voices while also including an action item to the call. Whether you were selected or not, your contribution is an actual revolution and we thank you.
In 2020, African-American Black artists are only attributed to 1.2% of ALL ART in American art museums. Most Black artists and artists of color I encounter tell me a story about being young and going to museums and not seeing their story told. I was very excited about the theme of this show because it invited artists not to shy away from a tough subject matter, it gave voice for artists of color to speak about their experiences and it gave space for Black artists in particular to speak around how they feel about the current events. For these reasons I feel that the inclusion of Black jurors, Black curators and Black artists is essential to organizations such as WCA and I appreciate them answering the call for Black inclusion in these times by actually positioning and empowering Black artists.
I am a fan of portraiture. I love seeing people and being able to connect to them. I enjoy abstract work with strong color theory and movement. I love art that feels like people from all backgrounds are able to tell their truths, particularly about complicated issues such as race and class relations in America. I want to be able to see a piece of art and read the title and understand what the artist is saying. Sometimes the background and process of creation really make a piece make sense. The pieces I chose fit the theme and created an emotional narrative around the theme, See My Color, which pushes against the dismissal of stories of Black Americans and POC identified artists.
As a curator I divided the work into 3 movements. First, I wanted viewers to see The People. The faces. I want viewers to see the subject matter and see the COLOR and the identity and relate and connect to the stories. I started with the faces and challenged viewers to begin their experience by connecting to the actual people we are talking about.
Second, we arrive at what I called the American Awakening. These are pieces that explore identity and the voices of those who have had privilege in America addressing why that is problematic. There were courageous voices of allies of POC alongside the stories of existence. These stories fade into the violence of 2020. We cover the police murders and provide a unique multi-racial and socio-economic response.
Lastly, we peruse work that examines the complicated history of America and what led us to these moments in 2020. I wanted to bring us back to an uplifting and explorative space. We are trying to find answers as a whole and there is beauty in that.
Ultimately, it is our responsibility as jurors, curators and arts-based organizations to shed truth on the American narrative. But even further, to shed truth on the ways the art scene empowers or silences voices of color and specifically Black voices. Not just in 2020 when it is popular, but as an approach to arts as a whole. I hoped my selections reflected an overall effort to speak to politics, social and racial justice and identity and American narrative which includes Black voices specifically. I hope my curating provides an opportunity to see humans, hear their unique and important perspective and create policy and movement which supports forward movement in the visual arts community.