Black Muse Exhibition Brings Diversity in Representation

Arts & Culture

BY ANDREW FABIAN SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY FEB 5, 2021

“When you look through the history books, it’s hard to find artists of African descent,” says Elizabeth Goodwill, education director of Art Center Sarasota. Those history books were written largely by white men of Western European descent, framed around the ideals, aesthetics and history of Western empires and effusive in their praise of largely white artists. Representation matters. Black Muse places representation center stage in its juried exhibition of artists of African descent from around the state—and with it, the exhibition also hopes to show aspiring Black artists that they too belong in gallery spaces.

Featuring a collection of works in a variety of mediums, the exhibition emphasizes imagery and themes related to Black identity and heritage. This year’s winner, Krystle Lemonias, a Jamaican-born printmaker known for her use of mixed media, uses her work to celebrate the contributions of Black immigrant women in the cultural fabric of the U.S. Second place went to Jesse Clark, a fine art photographer and current Ringling College student who makes frequent use of Black men in his work to challenge negative stereotypes about Blackness, masculinity and issues around social justice.

In addition to demonstrating just how vibrant and skilled these under-represented artists are, the other goal of the exhibition is to inspire the next generation of aspiring artists. To that end, Suncoast Black Arts Collective’s president, Michele Redwine, has much to offer.

She made a career as an arts educator, diversity specialist and board member of large arts organizations, and even in retirement, she continues to work for greater inclusion in a fine art landscape she feels still lacks people of color. “What we’re finding is that when young people of color finish middle school, they’re just not engaging with arts curricula in the same numbers,” says Redwine. She acknowledges that there are many reasons, but she hopes to leverage Black Muse’s representation into outreach with the county school system to understand and dismantle implicit and explicit obstacles young Black students face in their pursuit of art.

But if artists of African descent are to stake their claim in those same art history books that favor Western European themes and imagery, it begins with the representation in Black Muse and exhibitions like it. The collection is available to view online through March 5th.

Photo by Jesse Clark

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