Despite the roughly hewn edges of the faceless subjects in “My Black is Beautiful: An Inter-generational Tribute to Black Women & Girls,” a viewer to this exhibit at the LGBTQ Center of Durham will immediately feel something sharp and specific. Artist freedom clay has managed to take the nebulous, wide-reaching idea of identity and shape and fashion it into something tangible that provokes emotion.
Just read some of freedom clay’s artist statement and you’ll see that this dichotomy is no accident.
“His body of work continues to celebrate the multi-dimensional facets and the plight of Black people in American by celebrating and affirming their beauty and humanity. This is largely done by creating paintings in response to what’s going on … and how these contexts inform how individuals are perceived and treated in broader society.”
A piece recently added to the series, pictured first in the gallery below, is called “Love is Stronger than Pride” and is a great example of the way this work celebrates individuals’ right to be free and comfortable in developing and claiming their own identity.
clay describes it as follows: “‘Love is Stronger than Pride’ AKA ‘Mz High Top Fade’ is seemingly androgynous, but prefers the pro-noun ‘she’; however, she doesn’t ascribe to stereotypical manifestations of femininity and gender performance. She just is … it’s not so much about challenging gender norms; it’s more about ‘being’ and standing/walking in her truth and light … the essence of FREEDOM.”
This message is clearly translated to the visitors of the show. One visitor I talked to, Donald Powell, said this:
“This was my first time attending an art exhibit. I liked the work. It was very lively, particularly in the coloring. My wife asked me to come, and I was happy to because I’m looking to expand my cultural palette. My takeaway from the art was Freedom. Freedom to be who you are. The pictures depicted women from a lot of different ages and walks of life. And I think that’s what the center is about too — freedom to be who you are and finding a space for that in this complicated society.”
Click below to see images from the opening reception.