Each week, GBH arts editor Jared Bowen sits down with morning edition to discuss highlights of Boston’s arts and culture community. This week, three museum exhibits share common themes of ancestry, tradition and identity.

On view at the ICA until January 29

“Legacies” presents an exploration of Simpson’s sculptural work. The exhibit’s curators wanted the gallery to “look like figures in a landscape”, Bowen recalled.

Simpson’s work – which spans ceramics to writing, automotive design to performance – is rooted in her own experiences. As a Native American woman, she grew up in a country that she says is ripe with objectification and stereotypes; where disproportionate numbers of Indigenous women have been murdered or gone missing; and where Indigenous children have had their culture erased from them. The characters in “Legacies” are manifestations of all of this. Simpson does this through clay, which she “considers [to be] a very ancestral form. You take materials from the earth, and then…because it’s clay, you can actually see the artist’s fingerprints in the clay and see how she works.

On view at the ICA until January 29

In “Fantasy and Truth” – titled after a quote by Lebanese writer Kahlil Gibran – Nassar attempts to reconcile his Palestinian heritage with his American upbringing through embroidery and mixed media art. Nassar creates what Bowen calls “giant embroidery landscapes,” working alongside a West Bank embroidery collective and incorporating metal, glass, and wood into some pieces.

As Bowen explains, “Embroidery is a huge cultural tradition in Palestine, especially among women. … It’s called ‘Fantasy and Truth’ because it’s really about seeing how Palestinians who haven’t been able to be part of their homeland maybe look at Palestine, their notions of what it’s like their homeland. The resulting large-scale murals convey impressions of mountains, rivers, and natural elements of the landscape.

Installation view, Jordan Nassar: Fantasy and Truth, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, 2022-2023

Photo by Mel Taing

On view at the MFA until May 21

“Touching Roots” explores the role of African artistic tradition and practice in the art of black artists working in 20th century America. Located on the third floor of the Art of the Americas gallery, the exhibition is part of the MFA’s focus on what Bowen describes as “changing these galleries and telling different stories” than before, by instead centering voices of the African Diaspora.

According to Bowen, two standout pieces from the gallery are local textile artist Stephen Hamilton’s “depiction of a 13th-century human rights activist” and the work of Lois Mailou Jones, the first black woman to graduate. the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, such as “Ubi Girl of the Tai region”.

This is a photograph of a museum installation.  Hanging on a dark blue wall, a collage with geometric shapes: triangles, circles and dancing figures.  The colors are vibrant with yellows, reds, blues and purples.  To the right of the painting is a small figure of the Benga dance in bronze.  It is presented in a showcase.
Loïs Mailou Jones (American, 1905-1998) La Baker 1977 Acrylic and collage on canvas 40 1/2 x 56 1/2 inches Gift of the Loïs Mailou Jones Pierre-Noël Trust. The “Touching Roots: Black Ancestral Legacies in the Americas” gallery, part of the new Stories Artists Tell in the Art of the Americas Wing installation at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. May 26, 2022* Saundra B. and William H. Lane Galleries.

Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston / Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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