Re/Viewing Oppression, a collaborative pop-up installation created by Juliet Seignious and Ann Pearlman, is currently on display from now until April 5. Seignious and Pearlman set out to explore themes of mass incarceration, police violence and the black experience through their individual work and through collaborative painting. Two pieces from this recent collaboration will be presented alongside select pieces from Pearlman’s Mass Incarceration series and Seignious’ Requiem of Color(s) series. We chatted with the artists to learn more about their first collaboration.
What are your backgrounds as artists?
Juliet: Originally, I started my career as a dancer, but as a child I had two loves, I had my love of dance and I had my love of art. I knew that somewhere along the line I was going to come back to my art. Even in my dance career I spent time doing sketches on the subway, on the bus, giving people the sketches that I made of them.
Ann: All my life I’ve done art and as soon as I learned how, I’ve written. I’m fascinated by people. My grandmother was an artist and she started me early. She taught me to knit when I was four, she taught me everything.
In my art I explore all different media. I worked in metals, I’ve done a lot of painting, I’ve done ceramics, I’ve made jewelry.
What was it like to collaborate on Re/Viewing Oppression?
Juliet: I knew she [Ann] had her work on mass incarceration and we thought it would be a good combination to do the police shootings because both dealt with mostly African American men. There’s something about not talking, not using intellect to mold a subject and letting the subject unfold. No one made a comment as to what the other should do. No critique. No judgments. It was marvelous. If only we could live our lives on a daily basis that way.
Ann: It is so much fun to be creating with another human being. As a writer and as an artist, you’re isolated and alone in that moment of creation. But when we’re doing it together we just bounce off each other’s colors, images and ideas. We don’t know what’s going to be happen next. It’s really fun and you learn things about the other person.
What is the story behind your pieces in this exhibition?
Juliet: Recently I’ve started working more in social issues. The pieces that I have here at the Art Center are about unarmed African American men being shot by law enforcement. Being a mother of a son, it became very emotional for me to see this happening and I needed to not forget. I didn’t want the news to come and then all of a sudden it be over. Part of doing the Requiem in Color(s) series is about remembering.
I feel that art is one way of remembering the past so that we can understand the present and hopefully correct it for the future. The only way that I figured out how I could possibly connect with the men and women who were being killed was through my art. I use my hands in the paintings because years ago I used to be a massage therapist and people would say to me, “your hands are very healing.” Creating the paintings and using my hands was my way of touching the victims, healing them, sending out some kind of message of healing, but also to say stop. This is not right. This is injustice and oppression.
Ann: These are inspired by people who I’ve known and cared about about who’ve served time. I worked at a women’s prison as a therapist. I’ve had a number of family and very dear friends who’ve been incarcerated. These are my images from the experience of working in prison and visiting people in prison.
What materials were used to create the pieces?
Juliet: Part of my work is in on tar paper and I use tar paper because it was used to punish slaves. They would use tar and feathers and i thought tar paper would be good representation of that issue. I use acrylic as well. Most of my work is mixed media: prints, paper string.
Ann: I’m fascinated by melding different materials. You see a mixture of metals, glass. Both visually and is this possible to do to meld glass on metal and figure out how to cool it so it doesn’t all crack apart.
Join us for a reception with the artists on Wednesday, April 4 from 5PM-7PM. RSVP here.
See more of Juliet’s work on her website.
See more of Ann’s work on her website.