Obsidian Arts, A Liberian Artist, and Pillsbury Community Center in Minneapolis
04/19/2011 4 Comments
Thursday night I led a question and answer session with Liberian artist Catherine Kennedy at Obsidian Arts, a very cool gallery situated in the waiting area of Pillsbury House community center in Minneapolis. Devoted to the examination of Black visual culture, Obsidian Arts takes art out of the commercial gallery context and integrates it into public spaces where people work and conduct the business of their lives.
Kennedy’s work focuses on a group of elderly women—her grandmother included—who left Liberia because of civil wars in the late 1990 and early 2000s and ended up in Minnesota.
At the heart of Kennedy’s installation”The Baggage We Carry” is a powerful video that shows the artist’s grandmother peeling off a mask made of band-aids that are stuck to her face.
An installation of “body bowls” sit on a podium Kennedy build specifically for the space. This podium is a light box. In the evenings it is lit from below to illuminate (in red light) the semitransparent “body bowls.”
As she does in this installation, Kennedy often uses groupings of small wax self-portraits hung on gallery walls to signify the idea of groups of people on the move or migratory routs.
Kennedy does not show her protagonists as victims but makes installations to celebrate the strength of all displaced people . The group of elderly Liberian women Kennedy is currently working with have had a hard journey, yet Kennedy’s message is that they have held onto their African heritage and have built a strong community in their new home in suburban Minnesota.