Drawing from Maya Angelou’s 1978 verse, Still I Rise uses portraiture to re-imagine nuanced images of women. Artists Deborah Roberts, Genevieve Gaignard, E2 – Kleinveld & Julien, Gustave Blache III, and Tim Okamura looked closely at portrayals of women of color throughout history, and discovered an absence of portraits of people who looked like them, or their families and friends. Through their photography, paintings, collage, and installation work, the artists fill in those blank spaces. Throughout western art history, when women are the subjects of portraiture, they have typically been white. In some cases these women were shown in ways that were pretty exceptional for the time — as strong rulers, for example, or as commanding social forces. It was only on rare occasions that the painters or photographers were women themselves, which provides a distinctly different point of view. Still I Rise artists attempt to make art history and the art field, as well as portraiture that captures a person’s character and appearance, more inclusive of women of color.
Still I Rise includes Blache’s oil painting of the famed New Orlean’s chef Leah Chase (who recently passed away at 96 years old); E2 – Kleinveld & Julien’s perception-changing photographs reinterpreting classic portraiture; Gaignard’s photography and a site-specific installation reminiscent of a teenage girl’s bedroom; Okamura’s large-scale paintings depicting strong women as well as an interactive installation; and Roberts’ found-material collage portraits of young girls.