‘POL!T!CO: (Do You) Know Your Place?’: Local Artists Address the Presidential Election

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The following is from the South Orange Department of Recreation and Cultural Affairs:

“Know Your Place”, an idiom often used to keep people from challenging the status quo, seems particularly relevant in this election cycle just as one national party has for the first time in US history nominated a woman as a candidate for President while the opposing party’s nominee stands charged with racism, bigotry and misogyny.   Curators Raleigh Ceasar and Sandy Martiny investigate the ways artists have responded to the election issues regarding race and feminism. Artists include: Aileen Bassis, Luis Alves Collage, Ronald Freeman, Evelyn Graves, Ruth Hardinger, Nette Forne Thomas, Trix Rosen, Florence Weisz, and Charmaine Wheatley.

The show as a whole addresses the theme from both the political and the personal stances of each individual artist. Local talent, Nette Forne Thomas is represented in the show by a series of amazing drawings, paintings, and objects that muse on the generational perspective of the “Know Your Place” mentality. She says her work is “representative of African American families who were expected to “know their place.” She concludes, “In the final analysis, I see that accepting someone’s contrived constraints as “your place” restrains individuality with a negative effect on society as a whole.”

Looking into the immediate present towards a more inclusive future, a photograph of an antique doorway to the ladies room at Ellis Island is transformed by artist Trix Rosen.

Artist Charmaine Wheatley’s work, “30% Of Buffalo… Is Functionally Illiterate” features tender and insightful portraits in comic book form of adult learners and tutors from Literacy Volunteers of Western New York and Erie County whose stories provide insight into how the ability to read can impact lives.

Luis Alvis Collage is another local artist who has been scratching his head for a while, trying to make sense of our world as presented by news headlines and advertising. A short list of Alves’s recent exhibitions reads like a laundry list of our collective anxiety. “A Man’s World”, “The Opposite of Hate”, “Identity”, and “Exposure” are just a few of the shows he’s been in this year that explore anxious feelings. The works in “Know Your Place” are no exception.

Ruth Hardinger is both an artist and an environmental activist. Her beautiful photographs of life in a country pond span four seasons. She says of her work, “It’s already over-time for the feminist heart in all of us to listen to Mother Earth. We need to take much stronger direction. This must be a change that many – and hopefully all – will participate in.”

The local community is well aware of artist Florence Weisz’s prolific and lovely compositions. But not everyone knows she has been making election based collages every four years since 1980. This year is no exception. She has created an interactive collage of the two 2016 candidates for this exhibition.

Evelyn Graves uses collage technique to compose complex images of jazz musicians that speak to a time when black entertainers suffered both danger and indignity to perform their work. She says this election cycle makes her fear we are going backwards as a society. She is not alone. Ronald Freeman presents us with “Nine Lives” consisting of nine individual charcoal drawings on 12 x 11 inch wood boards in the shape of a cross. Each image is a portrait of a person that was killed in the Charleston South Carolina church massacre June 17, 2015. Aileen Bassis will present several works that she made in reaction to powerful incidents that illuminate contemporary racism in America.

Whether hopeful or revealing- all the works in the show have a strength and beauty that reflect the human dignity of those who question the status quo.

POL!T!CO is a collaboration showcasing four local arts organizations: SOPAC, The Pierro Gallery of South Orange, Arts Unbound and Valley Arts Firehouse Gallery. This four-part exhibition gives artists a voice in some of the sizeable issues that inform the 2016 presidential elections. The exhibitions can be enjoyed separately, as well as in conjunction.


Wednesday, November 2, – Saturday, December 3, 2016

Opening Reception, Wednesday, November 2, at 7-9pm

The Pierro Gallery of South Orange

The Baird Center

5 Mead Street, South Orange, NJ 07079

Monday- Thursday 11-4pm & by appointment

 POL!T!CO: ART & The Humanities
On view at The Herb & Milly Iris Gallery
September 8 – December 8, 2016
Explores the cultural influence of politics and the humanities through the uses of various mediums of visual art.

Arts Unbound, 544 Freeman St. Orange, NJ 07050
October 20 – November 19, 2016
Opening reception: Thursday, October 20, 5pm to 8pm, Special screening of Jason DaSilva’s video, When We Walk, at 7pm
Explores political issues that impact people living with disabilities.

Firehouse Gallery, 580 Forest St, Orange, NJ.
October 20 – November 13, 2016
Opening Reception: Thursday October 20 7 to 9pm
Explores the role of money in politics.

Founded in 1994, the Pierro Gallery of South Orange (PGOSO) presents the work of diverse, established, and emerging visual artists in a non-commercial, user-friendly venue. Through its programs and exhibitions, PGOSO enhances the cultural environment of South Orange and the surrounding communities aiming to educate, enrich and engage visitors of all ages and backgrounds. PGOSO is a facility of the South Orange Department of Recreation and Cultural Affairs.


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