It’s a wonderful exhibition, beautifully presented in the spacious and airy McGregor Gallery in Springfields. It reflects – both in the art and the accompanying wall text – a wide range of subjects, as well as the personal beliefs and inner feelings of the 32 African American artists who participated.

It all started when Willis “Bing” Davis, whose work was recently shown at The Contemporary, invited a group of artists to examine any aspect of the black experience that reflected “joy, pain, grief, visions and hopes for today and tomorrow.

Curator Davis made it clear that the artists had free rein on the theme and the media. “The stimulus may have been Breonna Taylor or George Floyd or they could have chosen to respond to a leaf or a haystack or a bird. I was concerned about what was going on socially but if someone wanted to paint a nice bowl of fruit that was fine too. I told them they could focus on what was happening on the street or what was happening when they were walking.

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Willis “Bing” Davis, curator of “Black Life as a subject Matter II” CONTRIBUTED

Willis “Bing” Davis, Curator of
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Willis “Bing” Davis, curator of “Black Life as a subject Matter II” CONTRIBUTED

In addition to the core of Dayton artists that Davis has worked with for years – many of whom are his former students – he has acquired new people along the way who are represented in the current show, people from Cincinnati, Hamilton, Cleveland, Columbus.

The resulting 59 pieces range from charcoal and pencil drawings to textiles, clay, photographs and digital art. The subject ranges from everyday life and relationships to protest. The artists are between 20 and 80 years old.

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“Some people say art can’t change anything,” Davis notes. “It may not change things, but it can get people thinking about change and thinking about changes that can make a difference in their life, someone else’s life, or the life of the community. Change doesn’t happen suddenly, it can happen slowly and gradually and we need it all. The simple act of getting people to think differently than they thought before is a starting point for change.

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Chelsea Craig’s ‘Blooming’, a work of electroforming, enamel, cotton and lace, is among works by 32 artists in the ‘Black Life as Subject Matter II’ exhibition curated by Dayton artist Willis “Bing” Davis. The exhibit is at the Springfield Museum. CONTRIBUTED

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Chelsea Craig’s ‘Blooming’, a work of electroforming, enamel, cotton and lace, is among works by 32 artists in the ‘Black Life as Subject Matter II’ exhibition curated by Dayton artist Willis “Bing” Davis. The exhibit is at the Springfield Museum. CONTRIBUTED

This exhibition will certainly stimulate discussion and reflection. As part of the exhibit, the museum hosted a series of community conversations about some of the issues it raises.

Elizabeth Wetterstroem, Springfield’s collections and exhibits manager, says the response to the exhibit has been incredible. “We’ve had an increase in attendance and great feedback,” she says. “There is a wall where people can write and post their thoughts on the exhibit.”

One visitor wrote: “We have to learn to be comfortable with being wrong. This way, when our predetermined values ​​and ideas are contradicted, we can honestly and openly confront our biases and problematic values. Learn to adapt when you’ve been wrong, embrace change, and work for a better world for all.

Another wrote: “The power of this incredible art room is palpable. Hope stands out with love and grief, anger and awareness, bravely shown on this day and so needed.

Another interactive space invites visitors to sit on two chairs, ask a question and talk about it, and then submit their own question.

Wetterstroem says the museum really wants to make sure what it has in its galleries reflects the community, whether it’s the artists themselves or the subjects on the walls.

“Recognizing that we have a diverse community in Springfield, we want to represent all aspects of race, gender, people with different abilities and sexuality,” she adds.

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Artists’ responses

“Celebration of American Women” by Yvette Walker Dalton features 26 framed paper collages of American women. “Some are dressed in ancestral clothing and all are masked as President Biden is dictating to Americans to guard against giving or getting Covid-19,” says Dalton. “Many of these ladies remind me of a relative, friend or famous person. All of them remind me of the days gone by when, as a child, I had imaginary friends, maybe not 26, but a few to keep me company. Likewise, creating these women during the pandemic has kept me company and happily creative during this stressful time.

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“The Celebration of American Women AZ” by Yvette Walker-Dalton features 26 framed paper collages of American women.

At Yvette Walker-Dalton
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“The Celebration of American Women AZ” by Yvette Walker-Dalton features 26 framed paper collages of American women.

One of Greg DeGroat’s paintings is a sweet portrait of a mother and child. Another inspired by DeGroat’s granddaughter doing ballet in the street, shows a professional dancer in her beautiful tutu and ballet shoes showing steps to two young children on a neighborhood sidewalk

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“Mother and Daughter” by Greg DeGroat. CONTRIBUTED

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“Mother and Daughter” by Greg DeGroat. CONTRIBUTED

Derrick Davis’ textile design ‘Kente Spirit’ celebrates the heritage and cultural aspects of black life.

Here is an example of the kind of candid artist statements that accompany each of the artworks. This is by Deborah Dixon whose mixed media work is titled “Black Spirits Matter”.

“What can I say that hasn’t already been said about Black Lives Matter? But in truth, black lives have mattered since we were robbed from our ancestral lands and forced onto ships to endure the passage of the environment, the horrors of slavery, reconstruction, enforced segregation and a myriad of different forms of violence perpetrated by economic, medical and social means.

“Today, the blood of our people that has been shed ruthlessly into the hands of those sworn to serve and protect is a peculiar travesty. For years, African Americans have borne the brunt of racism in the law enforcement; too often, equal treatment under the law has been a sinister joke for many poor people of color.

“Many black men, women and children have been shot while fleeing or trying to comply with the orders of an officer with raised hands pleading for their lives…Rabies is what I and many people of color know and know. have felt for years. But I have found my years of anger exhausting and I want to let go of that anger for a while and contemplate another reality.

“My submission, titled ‘Black Spirits Matter’ speaks to the collective resilience of my people. I hope my art sculpture evokes thought, recognition and appreciation in the viewer of the eternal light of the spirit. We have endured a lot and overcome obstacles by tapping into this light, and it is an honor for me to share my visual representation of this life force with you.

Wetterstroem says that for so long black artists have been overlooked in the traditional canon of art history. “It’s so important that we make sure we represent everyone who comes to the museum, that people feel welcome, can be inspired, and want to come back and revisit.”

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Evan William’s digital illustration titled “Stand” is part of the “Black Life as Subject Matter II” exhibit at the Springfield Museum of Art.

Evan William's digital illustration titled 'Stand' is part of the
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Evan William’s digital illustration titled “Stand” is part of the “Black Life as Subject Matter II” exhibit at the Springfield Museum of Art.


SPECIAL COVERAGE

This story kicks off our coverage of Black History Month, which begins on Tuesday.

HOW TO GET THERE:

What: “Black Lives Matter II”

Where: Springfield Art Museum, 107 Cliff Park Road, Springfield.

When: until February 27. Hours of operation are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Admission: $5 for adults, $3 for seniors. Free for members, youth 17 and under, EBT cardholders, Blue Star families, and Dayton Art Institute members on the reciprocal level ($150). To inquire about group rates, please contact the Museum at [email protected] or (937) 325-4673

Parking: Free

Associated programming:

A free Community conversation titled “Identities and Social Systemswill take place at 2 p.m. on Saturday, February 12. Visitors can attend in person or register to participate on Zoom via the link on the museum’s website at www.springfieldart.net.

Admission to the gallery is free on the day of the event.

This conversation will feature Chelsea Craig, one of the artists of “BLACK LIFE as subject MATTER II”, and Karlos Marshall, founder and president of The Conscious Connect in Springfield.

Come discover the art!

Come Find Art Sundays are FREE family events, open house style, with an artist in the gallery and a hands-on art experience. Artists create art and invite visitors to chat with them and watch them create art. The hands-on studio experience takes place in a physically remote studio setup or via a take-home art kit.

For January and February, Come Find Art events feature “BLACK LIFE as MATTER II”.

Sunday January 30, 12:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. with the artist Cedric Cox

Sunday February 27, 12:30-4:30 p.m. with artist Cynthia Lockhart and Yvette Walker Dalton

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