Damien Davis and Davita Ingram discuss race and and culture in art ( Madison McQueen)
Art in “Conversation” by Madison McQueen
Just inside the Northwest African American Museum, where the outside Jimi Hendrix Park grand opening concert was filling the air with psychedelic rock, an important conversation was wrapping up. Before the festivities on its front lawn began in earnest, NAAM hosted a talk lead by guest speakers Damien Davis and Davida Ingram on the representation of race and culture in art.
Ingram prefaced the conversation with the hope that the purpose of the talk was not to create a feeling that any one individual was wrong, but to inspire a sense of unity and help the audience realize the conversation’s “feeling space.”
“How can we as good gardeners of humanity think about what’s been weeding at our garden, what’s not been left to grow to full fruition, and how we can grow a better garden together,” Ingram said.
Mary Coss moderated the talk and posed a question of her own when a white audience member described her inherent feeling of discomfort and vulnerability when discussing racial topics.
“Where did this [discomfort] come from, how did it start?” Coss asked.
“There has to be a willingness to…live with the discomfort in order to work through it or work under it, around it,” Davis said.
Davis drew attention to the idea of other cultures, specifically the Italian people, who use black bodies as a central visual and then mold their art and fashion to compliment that center.
With this idea, Davis decided to emulate what complimenting black culture is like in America with his exhibit at the Method Gallery, White Room. The decorative tiles that originally made up the floor of the gallery space is now covered with white plexiglass figures affixed with industrial bolts and screws to more plexiglass.
Davis was frustrated when he learned the tiles were meant as decoration in a gallery space that is meant to be neutral. He ultimately decided covering the floor was the best course of action. As a result, this exhibit is meant to force the viewers to consider the whiteness of the material which covers the meaningful tiles of the floor underneath as they traverse the room, walking on the exhibit.
“[Covering the floor is] a conceptual gesture that is really about understanding and unpacking the history of this country, which is about…if the thing that’s there is uncomfortable, or it’s inconvenient, you just sort of wipe it away,” Davis said.
Davis’ White Room is on display at the Method Gallery on Pioneer Square until August 6.
For more information on upcoming talks and exhibits, visit the Northwest African American Museum’s website at www.naamnw.org/events/