President-elect Obama is not the only one traveling to D.C. from Chicago. I'm here for a few days, too, on my business, and my husband's. I have a meeting with an important gallery. Had an impromptu opportunity to show work to a board member of a prominent arts organization in Philadelphia, too.
We went to Howard, my alma mater, and met the new president, (of Howard, not the USA) last night, and several Obama operatives spoke about his win. Today, after a day of talks about the economy, etc. with a group of columnists from across the country called the Trotter Group I went to the Howard Art Gallery with a bunch of them. We saw Starmanda Bullock's retrospective. The gracious Tritobia Hayes-Benjamin allowed us a quick visit. Eileen Johnston, who was my contact for the alumnae exhibition I was thrilled to be included in back in 2005, unlocked the already closed gallery staying past the regular hours so we could enjoy the work...and more. That's another example of why I love Howard.
The city is vibrating with Obama's win. I feel empowered just being here in Obama's new second city. His transition team is here. My husband and members of the Trotter Group met with Valerie Jarrett yesterday. It's exciting that she may be the next senator from Illinois, according to CNN! All of this is clearly a dream come true for the country, and for people who can trace their lineage to before the Revolutionary war when their ancestors were brought here as slaves!
But these are my questions, and artistic dilemma!!!!
Black art is a response to our position as underdogs in a racist society, as well as a call to embrace our history and culture, so I expect the rationale for it will change with the advent of global power in the hands of an African American, or not? If we are now a post-racist nation, will the imperative for Black art eventually disappear as the playing field seems to be leveling and will the "trickle down effect" manifest in the world of visual art? Or will the desire for all things black, as there seems to be a desire for all things Obama, make it hard for us to keep up with a welcome demand for our work???
My artwork often confronts people with the idea that we are left out, in general, and missing from most museum walls, unless it is a special show of African American art.
Years ago I started painting former slaves ("Survivor Spirits" series) and Middle Class African Americans from 1900 ("Out of the Box" series) and recently I started a series, "Retro-Racing History", inserting our faces and culture into paintings by masters such as Titian and Gainsborough. I show a partially completed one below.
But is this a moot point now? Since the new leader of the free world is black, does that mean we are finally free, too? Well, I guess I mean, will we finally be equal?