At first glance, a guard tower, onto which is pasted images of a woman sitting beneath prison bars, a bird caught in barbed wire—when you lean in closer, you notice this tower is made up, in part, of books leaned together.

Breathe

This group exhibition, inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr., is part of BIMA’s Untold Stories series this winter. Works focus on social justice and human rights, addressing diverse and connected issues.

Curator’s Statement:

We originally planned Breathe to coincide with the annual, formal honoring of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Although most remembered for Black civil rights activism from 1955 until his assassination in 1968, Dr. King taught us that he lived for all of humanity. His legacy forever projects the notion that, as stated in so many ways in 2020, we are all in this together.

Countless issues have come to the forefront, exposing layers of racial, cultural, and gender-based inequities and violence. The murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, COVID, political elections, climate change, and a grim global economy brought so much to a boiling point. Breathe expanded into a broad acknowledgement of, and response to, these national and global realities.

Diverse histories, narratives and experiences are revealed in the works of twenty-one artists, including Black slavery; the civil rights movement for Black Americans; the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II; injurious treatment of women and Jews; exposure of the vulnerable lives of undocumented refugees from Northern Central America commonly known as the “Caravan,” the loss of generations and cultures through massacre of Indigenous people . . . and we also see superheroes standing ready to intervene if we humans cannot solve our own self-created problems.

In calling out injustices, these artists also point us toward a world where we can all find space to heal and breathe. There is some progress to celebrate — the legalization of same-sex marriage, and examples of emerging or strengthening positive identities. There are various civil and judicial rights heroes to acknowledge, including Dr. King, John F. Kennedy, and recently deceased Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Words and actions intersect in creating a positive future.

Many of the artists have shared their own words about their work in this show. Please take time, be present and immerse yourself in this artwork that aspires to lead us toward doing and being better.

Greg Robinson, Chief Curator

Amy Sawyer, Associate Curator

Featured Artists:

  • Humaira Abid
  • Cory Bennett Anderson
  • Tia Blassingame
  • Cheri Gaulke and Sue Mayberry
  • Fred Hagstrom
  • Diane Jacobs
  • Eileen Jimenez
  • Michelle Kumata
  • Phillip Levine
  • Marilyn Montufar
  • Susan Point
  • John Risseeuw
  • George Rodriguez
  • Kathy Ross
  • Roger Shimomura
  • Julie Speidel
  • Tyler Starr
  • Beth Thielen
  • Carletta Carrington Wilson
  • Linda Wolf
A collage of imagery related to the fight for womens right to vote. In the foreground, a woman with brown eyes and brown hair looks out at the viewer. Behind her, black and white images of Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, and other Black women activists layer over newspaper clippings with articles about voting rights.

What Story Would the Unintended Beneficiaries Tell (WSWUBT)

To be a woman or femme-identified/identifiable person and engage in politics can feel, at times, like a rebellious act. Since the founding of the United States of America, they have not been included, until recently, as part of “We the people”. To engage with politics as a member of any historically marginalized group is a different experience. One which has not enjoyed any exploration and examination at the same level as the “politics as usual groups”.

WSWUBT is a group exhibition that encourages artists to provide their perspective, to peel back the layers of white-washed history and examine the 19th Amendment, a non inclusive historical moment, through new perspectives that can not be ignored or erased.

On Aug. 18th, 1920 the 19th Amendment was ratified. It stated, “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex”. This in effect gave every female citizen the right to vote under the Constitution, although in reality it only gave a privileged few white females that right. The right to vote and to have one’s voice heard and counted has always been held in an almost sacred regard since the founding of our government. Our country’s belief that the governed should have a say in how they are governed is one that has not proven to be inclusive of all citizens or people.

In actual practice we as a country have denied equal opportunities to vote to persons historically categorized as marginalized groups, especially women of color. Even with the passage of the 19th Amendment women of color were not allowed to vote until decades after this amendment was ratified. Indigenous Americans were not granted citizenship and the right to vote until 1947. Asian American women did not win the vote until the passage of the McCarran-Walter Act in 1952. African – and Latinx-Americans did not gain the explicit right to vote until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Currently all members of the African-American and Indigenous communities are fighting for fair and equal access to ballot boxes.

What Stories Would the Unintended Beneficiaries Tell, takes a new look at equity, equality, our collective history, and the erasure of marginalized history. CoCA seeks to ascribe new perspectives and visual meanings to restructuring of the Amendment through visual space supporting open transparency in thought and opportunities for creative actions.

Featured artists: Monyee Chau, Bonnie Hopper, Ashante Kindlé, Lisette Morales, Charly ‘Carlos’ Palmer, and Carletta Carrington Wilson