Artists Talk: 4:00 - 5:00
Opening Reception: 5:00 - 6:00
Studying vintage photographs of slave women brought to America working in the fields, Tajiri Bradley was struck by the cultural significance of African American hair and symbolism for their relationship to the earth and the land they were so brutally taken from. Hair figures prominently in the social norms across cultures, with rituals developed around hair care, the varying styles, decorations, ornaments, and colors, providing insight into a person’s beliefs, lifestyle, religious ideas, even socio-economic status. The tradition of treating the hair into cornrows reflects the ploughing of the fields and planting of corn, a single braid could resemble a snake, and the parting spaces in the hair appear as paths in a landscape. These hairstyles have been carried through time, remaining a reflection of the African American community’s deep-rooted history. Bradley’s work captures the landscape-like quality of these hairstyles by using pastels to create the styles and omitting the head and the face, so the hair stands alone as an abstracted piece of work.
David Sandlin’s images of spectral figures from the dark days of the Civil War and its aftermath loom ominously within the American landscape. In his epic painting Pride Stripped Bare, Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Confederate general, first grand wizard of the KKK, and onetime richest man in the South, surveys his legacy of greed, racism, and violence. Other paintings reflect more recent ramifications of policy, such as “the Southern strategy” of the Republican Party, which in the 1960s and ’70s provoked racial fear and hatred to successfully push white Southerners toward the right. Also on display is the third volume of Sandlin’s latest book series, 76 Manifestations of American Destiny. The series examines “the ghosts of history” that still haunt the national psyche. His book, Mythic Heroes, Mythic Villains, portrays historical figures representing once declining ideologies—such as manifest destiny and American exceptionalism—recently revivified by cynical fearmongers to appeal to nativists, nationalists, and the like.