The Myth and the Magic
October 1-November 15, 2023
Original Works are on view on the Second Floor of the Art Center.
Shortly after reconstruction, national and local governments—with the support of many private white citizens—began a campaign to minimize and erase the brutal history of slavery in our country. This came in the form of the production of films like Birth of a Nation, the erection of monuments to traitorous confederates, and the glorification of the mammy and minstrel stereotypes. The Mississippi chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy initiated one such effort by lobbying their State Senator, John Sharp Williams, to sponsor a bill that would provide public land and public funds for a mammy memorial. The New Journal and Guide reported on March 10, 1923, “The Senate a few hours before adjourning passed the bill sponsored by Senator Williams of Mississippi, providing for the erection of a monument to the memory of the ‘Faithful Colored Mammies’ of the South.”
The only reason a mammy monument doesn’t exist on our National Mall today is due to the fierce and poignant protest of African Americans. Historian Dr. Sarah A. Morgan Smith writes, “Mary Church Terrell (1863–1954)—the daughter of two former slaves—organized her colleagues in the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to protest the proposal, drawing attention to the complex intersection of race and gender in the history of African American women.”
Much of my artwork attempts to explore the tragedy and harm of white supremacy while also celebrating the journey of Black people from enslaved persons to that of self-directed and liberated human beings. This installation juxtaposes the racist magnification of the “mammy myth” to the hidden brilliance of Black women by featuring portraits of three such women who lived and worked during the 1920s: Dr. Isabella Garnett Butler, Naomi Pollard Dobson and Dorothy Magett-Fiddmont. These images were created as hand-embroidered portraits on vintage lace textiles. The pieces were then photographed, vectorized, enlarged, and printed on paper, which was then applied to the Evanston Art Center building exterior with wheat paste.
Each of these women, whose contributions were discovered while doing research for this project, have ties to Evanston. This project encourages viewers to unearth the hidden histories of Black women in their own communities.
I love Black people, I love Black women and I love being a Black woman. My art practice is informed by both the work of Black women writers and my growing collection of anti-black and mammy domestic memorabilia. I want to deconstruct the way Black women have been depicted as docile, happy beasts of burden who are always at the service of others. I work with embroidery floss, fabric, antique table runners, napkins, and dish towels to reshape and reimagine these degrading images and challenge the false narratives that are deeply woven into the fabric of our country.
About the Artist
Melissa Blount is an artist, writer, and licensed clinical psychologist practicing her craft in Evanston, Illinois. Her textile pieces explore notions of Black womanhood, trauma, and white supremacy in America. She often works with antique household linens as a canvas to reshape and reimagine the narratives around Black women and domesticity that are deeply woven into the fabric of our country. She cultivates unique opportunities for people to contribute to these conversations through community sewing circles and public actions. As a passionate local community activist and volunteer, she was a founding member of MEET (Making Evanston Equitable Together), OPAL (Organization for Positive Action and Leadership), and Artist Book House, local nonprofits and organizations that worked in advocacy, political action and the arts. She’s also an experienced clinician and lecturer presenting throughout the country on Black health, wellness, trauma, and the opportunities for healing and community building through the visual arts.
Holly Greenberg: Ask Me About Buckthorn
On view May 7, 2023
This mural celebrates the unsung heroes of habitat restoration in Evanston. These are just a few of the dozens of volunteers in our community who work throughout the year in regreening efforts across the city to remove non-native invasive plant species, such as European Buckthorn, and replace it with native plants that promote a healthy ecosystem for our pollinators, birds and other nonhuman residents of Evanston.
In honor of Illinois Invasive Species Awareness Month, this mural features the main stewards and volunteers in the City of Evanston who have been responsible for removing invasive plant species and restoring native habitat to our public green spaces. In an effort to raise awareness about the problem of invasive plant species and the importance of native plants to the survival of our pollinators, “Ask Me About Buckthorn” highlights members in the Evanston community who have donated hours of their time, every week, for many years in the ongoing battle to remove European Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) which currently makes up 36% of the Chicago region’s tree canopy.
This mural is in conjunction with an art installation by the artist at both branches of the Evanston Public Library which features Buckthorn seedlings invading the library spaces. Accompanying the library installations is a video slideshow which explains the importance of native plants, how to identify Buckthorn, and highlights the work of the volunteers throughout Evanston.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Artwork Shown: Holly Greenberg, Ask Me About Buckthorn (detail), 2023
Damon Locks: List of Demands
On view June 3 - September 12, 2022
"List of Demands" will be on view on EAC's east exterior wall from June 3 - September 12. Exhibitions are free and open to the public. Galleries are accessible.
Artwork Shown: Damon Locks, List of Demands, 2022
DOODLE IRL: Julia Arredondo
Julia Arredondo is an artist / writer / entrepreneur currently living in Chicago. Originally for Corpus Christi, Texas; Julia explores the crossroads between art, spirituality and business. Julia founded independent publishing entities, Vice Versa Press and Curandera Press, and is currently pursuing her MFA at Columbia College.
Being heavily influenced by punk culture and street style, I approach large-scale surfaces (like a mural wall) the same way I approach decorating punk jackets and designing zine layouts. A mixture of DIY-style graphics, personal iconography based loosely on doodles, and the physicality of cutting and pasting culminate playfully in this mural titled "Doodle IRL." Recently, Virgil Abloh moved the Louis Vuitton pop-up into a town that was covered in an all-over pattern with the company's signature logo. This is my response to the spectable of the all-over patterned building, but in my own style. Wheatpaste, with its history in countercultural graffiti and guerrilla art, was used to facilitate this mural. Large-scale Xerox printouts were pieced together and pasted with wheatpaste to create a loose backdrop for skate videos, selfies and however the public chooses to interact with the piece.
SIDE/LOT, an experimental video showcase of work by local Evanston artists, will present an outdoor screening that will take place on the north side of the Art Center on June 1, 2018 at 8PM, in addition to regularly scheduled indoor screenings throughout June (scroll to bottom of this page for the full filmscreening schedule). Featured filmmakers include Jonah Charlton, Sabba Elahi, Joey Garfield, Alice George, Kevin Valentine, D65 Animators (Benji, Faith, Finn, Jahvon, Josie and Sophia).
As a part of this collaboration, artists Erin Hayden and Jeff Robinson will present a large-scale outdoor installation titled SELL ME DIRECT that explores the liminal state of parking lots. This work engages the east side of the Evanston Art Center (facing the entrance and within the parking lot). With structures of spending and navigating on the mind, Erin Hayden and Jeff Robinson installed a set of interrelated works which address the parking lot as a cultural space. Erin Hayden’s installation consists of three banners that extend the height of the EAC building to create a digitally collaged image that presents the parking lot as a playful transitional setting from car to shop. Jeff Robinson’s installation is located in front of Erin’s installation in the gravel area that separates the building facade from the parking lot. Jeff’s installation consists of three sculptures approx. 6ft tall, each containing imagery culled from highway, road, and parking signage. While Erin Hayden’s work is a flat hanging mesh fabric, Robinson’s work consists of wood and other sculptural material meant to be viewed straight on like the way we watch television, ready to consume all its messages. In Sell Me Direct, Erin and Jeff present discreet works, which placed together amplify their exploration of site, infrastructure and consumer culture.
Sell Me Direct is curated by Mat Rappaport and Anne Hayden Stevens, curators of the Terrain Biennial in Evanston. In this installation, designed specifically for Side/Lot at Evanston Made, the two artists exploit the liminal state of the parking lot. Robinson's sculptures point to the anxiety and heightened awareness we feel when in transition. Hayden's large banners explore the anticipation of acquisition. As curators, we appreciate the way these two pieces enhance each other while having distinct visual language. The scale and visual vocabulary are harmonious with the outdoor site. The full installation is both whimsical and reflective, aesthetically powerful and gently humorous.
Erin Hayden currently lives and works in Evanston and Chicago. She received her MFA in Art Theory and Practice at Northwestern University. Her work has been exhibited in various cities across the US and abroad including at Stony Island Arts Bank and Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea Torino. Solo exhibitions of her paintings and video work have been shown at Mana Contemporary Chicago and Randy Alexander Gallery. She has been an artist resident at the Ragdale Foundation, the Banff Center for Arts and Creativity, and was recently awarded to be one of Chicago Artist Coalition’s Bolt Artists-in-Residence. In 2017 she was awarded a Luminarts Fellowship. She has been featured in reviews and publications including Frieze, the Chicago Tribune, Lori Waxman's 60wrd/min art critic, and NewCity Art.
Jeff Robinson is an artist and curator based in both Evanston and Springfield, Illinois. He received his MFA degree from Illinois State University in 2011. Robinson has exhibited at venues that include Roman Susan (Chicago), Ski Club (Milwaukee), University Galleries of Illinois State University (Normal), Rosalux Gallery (Minneapolis), Outhaus (Urbana), and E. Tay (New York). His work has been published in New American Paintings and Manifest Gallery’s International Painting Annual. His work has been featured on Daily Serving, in NewCity Magazine (Chicago), and in the Riverfront Times (St. Louis), among others. In 2014, he received an Individual Artist Support Grant from the Illinois Arts Council. Robinson has worked as artist-in-residence at Ragdale (2017) and ACRE (2017). In addition to his studio practice, Robinson serves as Instructor of Art at the University of Illinois Springfield, as Director of the UIS Visual Arts Gallery, and as co-director (and co-founder) of DEMO Project.
SELL ME DIRECT ARTIST TALK & PERFORMANCE
Saturday, June 16 at 1pm
Please join artists Erin Hayden and Jeff Robinson for an artist’s talk and performance. The talk will begin at 1pm inside the Evanston Art Center with a slide presentation about the artists’ work. The talk will be followed by a performance, titled NOT FOR SALE, outside the Art Center at their installation by Hayden and special guests. Hayden will activate the SIDE/LOT through a series of sayings and gestures that speak to the impersonal passageways we transition through on a daily basis while also hosting a selection of past and present Northwestern MFA artists to perform, enacting the SIDE/LOT as a stage. Performers include Max Guy, Kandis Friesen, Shai-Lee Horodi, Hyun Jung Jun, Chris Smith, David Sprecher and Titus Wonsey.
CLICK HERE for film descriptions and more information on the filmmakers!