Shifting Gaze is an exhibit drawn from works on loan from the collection of Dr. Bob Feldman, to the Mennello Museum of American Art. Although the artists included in this exhibit represent a wide range of aesthetics and backgrounds, each piece is a testament to the power of visual media in how they use the language of culture to foster a unique narrative.
Lending these selections to the Mennello is the expression of Feldman’s desire to give a platform to historically underrepresented groups in a space wholly dedicated to their voices.
“It’s about representation, it’s about relevancy, and it’s about the stories they bring to the table,” says Feldman. “Things like police violence, oppression, stereotype—issues that can be recontextualized over and over to reflect the times we live in, the things we still struggle to reconcile.”
The show features renowned contemporary artists such as Radcliffe Bailey, Ebony G. Patterson, Yoan Capotic and many others, both local and internationally celebrated. Each work explores what it means to have a Black and/or Latinx body: how one is seen by the world, how one sees him or herself, and the dissonance between these two identities.
“For me, it was about dignity in the face of objectification,” says artist Wanda Ramundi-Ortiz of her piece, Bargain Basement Sovereign. In this work she confronts the fetishization of the Hispanic body mired in a post-colonial fantasy of the exotic. The artwork reflects a lifetime of being simultaneously sexualized and “othered” before deciding to defiantly take pride in that identity.
While curating the exhibition, Shannon Fitzgerald, Mennello Museum Executive Director, gave consideration to pieces with dynamic commentary, remarkable craftsmanship, and strong ties to art history. And among all of them arise themes of acculturation, perception, sexuality, visibility, beauty and violence.
Shifting Gaze creates a setting for dialogue on subjects that are often left on the wayside in the spheres of art and culture. And perhaps more importantly, the exhibit provides a place to be heard.