In times of social and political hardships, art provides a refuge of support, self-expression, protest, and human connection. The Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Brown University opens its new Imagining Social Justice art exhibit entitled Solidarity, which highlights artists who depict unity as a means of resistance in their work. In the collection, artistic expression takes the shape of futuristic graphic prints, action-packed photographs, and vibrant collages, among other interdisciplinary and experimental forms.
The artists’ intersectional identities inform their powerful pieces. Mer Young, a descendant of the Chichimeca and Apache Tribe (Ndé), is a artist who has created a body of work including collages, drawings, paintings, and public murals. Young's art aims to inspire, celebrate, and elevate indigenous cultures and to bring about change through cooperation within Brown and Black communities. The two works featured in the exhibit, “Together, We are Power” and “Solidarity,” feature photographs of Native American and Black cultural and political figures posed together against the backdrop of Native American land, a visual call for unity against the forces of white supremacy and colonization.
Together, We Are Power, Mer Young
Like Young, featured artist Jordan Seaberry envisions and embodies a collective future in his paintings. An organizer, legislative advocate, and educator, Seaberry believes strongly in the role of art as a community-building tool. He currently serves as Co-Director of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, a people-powered nonprofit agency and is a Board Member at New Urban Arts in Providence among other local groups. In his entry to the Solidarity collection, “Migration I,” Seaberry depicts the historical trajectory of the Great Migration, largely inspired by his grandfather’s own fleeing of the South. Bird-like figures flutter across a blue backdrop, as an outlined family sits for a portrait in a present day representation of togetherness. In an interview with the Maine Arts Journal, Jordan expressed a desire to “paint in a way that builds power. In times of injustice, the artist is the griot, historian, architect, activist.”
Migration I, Jordan Seaberry
Josué Rivas vocalizes the desire for connectedness and justice in his photography. Coming from Mexican and Otomi heritage, Rivas is an indigenous futurist who hopes to challenge mainstream narratives of indigeneity while also creating art that heals communities. “Connected,” his photograph appearing in the first room of the exhibit, was completed in Standing Rock, North Dakota in 2016 amid ongoing water sovereignty protests. Rivas describes the thought process that goes into his photography work, saying, “I ask—what am I connected to? And then, I realize that I am connected to everything.”
Connected, Josué Rivas
Many more artists with equally moving stories comprise this carefully curated exhibit. In each of the pieces showcased, there exists a strong thread of transformative unity–solidarity within and amongst marginalized communities that inspires collective actions toward a better future for all. Alongside academic research, the creation of artistic works making deep inquiries into these relationships expands our understanding of the social potential stored in solidarity. We invite you to explore, learn from, and discuss the powerful artwork on display. The exhibit will be on view for the entirety of the academic year at Lippitt House on Brown University’s campus, starting the evening of September 29th.
By: Yuna Shprecher, Social Media and Engagement Intern