The Flaten Art Museum exhibit features original works by nationally renowned artists
When New York’s iconic Times Square recently unveiled its very first fountain, national media like the New York Times and National Public Radio hailed the artist behind the landmark work: Pamela Council, a New York-based interdisciplinary artist whose work focuses on “creating fountains for black joy.”
Students, faculty, staff and visitors to St. Olaf College will soon be able to see new original works by the Council, as well as acclaimed artists Kenya (Robinson) and Yvette Mayorga, in an exhibition at the Flaten Art Museum titled Liberating adornment.
Curated by Jillian Hernandez, the exhibition explores how the Council, Mayorga and Kenya (Robinson) are mobilizing femininity to claim beauty, care and abundance for blacks and Latinxes. Moving away from the masculinist aesthetic of American militarism and the Black and Chicanx movements of the 1970s, artists generate alternative visualities to address pressing social issues of the contemporary moment. The works in this exhibition invite the viewer to appreciate the paths of personal and collective freedom that are offered on a daily basis through beauty rituals, domestic decoration, clothing, sequins, gold and rhinestones.
Liberating adornment will be on view from November 5 to January 23, with an opening event at 5 p.m. on November 5 at the Viking Theater that will feature a Kenya (Robinson) ‘s BLACK OF ENTITLEMENT (2021) video premiere and panel discussion. Moderated by Hernandez, Kenya (Robinson) will be joined by moving image artist Rini Yun Keagy, St. Olaf Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance Arneshia Williams, and St. Olaf Assistant Professor of Music Tesfa Wondemagegnehu. All are invited to a reception at the Flaten Art Museum immediately after the screening and panel discussion.
While Hernandez and Robinson are on campus, they’ll hang out with black, Latin, and queer college students in the gallery. Members of student organizations such as UPRISING, Black Ensemble, Cultural Union for Black Expression (CUBE), Karibu, ¡Presente !, Somos and Queer Ole Individuals (QOI) will have the opportunity to meet and work with the curator and the ‘artist.
During the duration of the exhibition, the Flaten Art Museum and the Oles Against Inequality hair salon, initiated by the students of St. Olaf, also team up to host a pop-up shop at the Center for Art and Dance, connecting the Self-care themes from the exhibition to a campus initiative. make hair care, and the community that supports it, more accessible on campus.
Flaten Art Museum director Jane Becker Nelson ’04 says it’s important for university museums and galleries, which often have sufficient resources, to support the creation of new work by under-represented artists.
“Where we put our resources is important,” she says. “As a white curator in a predominantly white institution, it is important for me to step aside in order to amplify the practices of curators and artists of color, and to devote our resources to those who have been historically under-represented and even excluded from the institutions that play such a powerful role in the advancement of artistic careers.
Becker Nelson notes that it is also essential for students and young artists of color to have mentors who are like them and understand their lived experience.
“We have a thriving black student-led conservation project called UPRISING which is now in its fifth year. For the past four years, I have mentored these conservative students. They also need to see curators and artists who are like them, who have faced – and overcome – the same institutional racism and the same obstacles, ”she says. “And they need to have access to it.”
Bring the work of Hernandez, Council, Mayorga and Kenya (Robinson) to campus to Liberating adornment, she says, is an important step towards that representation and access.