Arts

New Public art exhibition examines the concern for black lives only after they’re lost

By August 18, 2020 No Comments

Naomi Allen, Jasmine Green and Jacquea Mae

 

By Nick Eustis
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
info@pittsburghcurrent.com

At the beginning of 2020, poet and visual artist Jasmine Green came upon an event that she wasn’t expecting. It was hosted by the Women in the Arts network, a group specifically for female-identifying and gender non-conforming artists, hosted by the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.

Going in, Green was unsure of what to expect, but coming out, she knew she had to be a part of it.

“I went to my first event, it was a meetup with different women in Pittsburgh’s local art scene,” said Green. “After that, I was like, ‘I have to know everybody in this group.’”

Pre-pandemic, the Women in the Arts network would meet quarterly to encourage collaboration and networking between artists and organizers. With COVID-19 in the mix, the network, like many other arts organizations, is shifting to the digital sphere.

As part of this shift, Green is curating her first public art exhibition in partnership with the Women in the Arts network, a Zoom webinar titled “Flowers While We’re Still Living.” The two-hour event will feature the work of Green, singer Jacquea Mae, and singer-songwriter Naomi Allen, blending spoken word, song, and visual art. The title is drawn from Green’s own poetry, questioning why society only pays attention to Black people after tragedy strikes.

“The main question we’re asking is, ‘Why do we only talk about Black lives once they’re lost?’” said Green. “We don’t only exist as people to remember, as hashtags, as people lost. We also live, and have both struggles while we’re living, but also things to celebrate.”

The performance will be one hour long, followed by a Q&A session with the artists. Jacquea Mae will be delivering a singing performance, and Naomi Allen is going to combine song and spoken word.

For her part. Green will deliver a spoken word performance, which she will overlay with a video of her painting a work called “Safe and Sound.” The painting honors Breonna Taylor and Aiyana Stanley-Jones, who both lost their lives to police violence.

“It’s going to tie in the themes of ‘Safe and Sound,’ which is both in honor of Breonna Taylor and Aiyana Stanley-Jones, but also the idea that Black women and Black people deserve rest and healing,” said Green.

Part of Green’s motivation to curate this event stems from the lack of representation of Black women in media, particularly locally in Pittsburgh. Having grown up in the city, it’s a trend Green has been aware of for some time.

“It was something that I always felt since graduating high school, that there wasn’t a lot of positive images, beliefs, overall support for Black women,” said Green. “I had this need of figuring out how I could contribute something that counteracts that,” said Green.

This need drove Green into the visual art world, and she began formally studying painting and other visual art techniques. She found herself driven to participate even further after a 2019 study by the city of Pittsburgh’s Gender Equity Commission showing that black women have worse outcomes on average in several metrics of livability.

“I’ve spent the last nine or ten years that I’ve been drawing and painting…learning how to paint things that both bring awareness to things that aren’t bearable, but also to celebrate, and not focus purely on the negatives of the Black Woman experience,” said Green.

With the help of the Women in the Arts network, Green has been able to take the active role she was looking to, leading the conversation on the issues that impact her community. It’s work she’s enjoyed putting together, and something she hopes she can do again very soon.

“One topic that I would love to focus on in the future is black mental health,” said Green. “I’d like to see if we could take it through the lens of art and activism.”

“Flowers While We’re Still Living” will take place on Zoom August 19 at 6 p.m. Registration for audience members costs $10. More information can be found at pittsburghartscouncil.org.

 

 

 

 

 

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