SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Melding together both February’s Black History Month and March’s Women’s History Month, Wofford College’s newest art exhibition features a nationally recognized artist whose work even has been seen in the White House.
Atlanta, Ga., native Shanequa Gay’s exhibit will be on display through April 7 in the Martha Cloud Chapman Gallery in the Campus Life Building on campus. Viewing is free and open to the public.
Titled “Fair is Foul and Foul Ain’t Fair,” the exhibition speaks to the contemporary social and racial climate. It was inspired by a novel by Bill Harris as well as Greek and African mythologies.
“I wanted to dig deep into the feelings of despair and despondency that some within the black community have concerning their plight of poverty and ethnicity,” Gay says.
Her works bring forth commentary regarding police brutality, gang and prison culture, lack of educational opportunity and feelings of self-hatred that have arisen in the black community.
“The work is pulled from news clippings, media and developed from my own macrocosms,” she says. “My focus as of late has been to tell street mythologies in order to speak of the issues happening in the black community as if it were a tale of folklore.”
Using wood panels, acrylic, flashe vinyl paints and oil paints, Gay says she created her pieces to have clean lines and surfaces like advertisements, showing the plight of the black community and issues that often are ignored by the rest of society.
“I am speaking to a global public, as these systemic issues do not just plague America. It is an epidemic around the world wherever low-income people reside,” Gay says. “I want to draw in the viewer with the familiar, to shock and cause them to come to a moral agreement that these issues affect us all.”
Gay has pursued art as a career since 2005. A graduate of the Art Institute Atlanta and the Savannah College of Art Design, she cites her childhood as being formative for her current occupation.
“I have always been a creative spirit, and all my life art has interested me,” Gay says. “I grew up, though, with a fear of being serious about my craft because I had the ‘starving artist’ idea looming over my head.”
After receiving encouragement from a friend to follow her dreams, Gay has never looked back.
“I have faced many challenges, including overcoming the boundaries and obstacles created by men who tried to decide my destiny,” Gay says, “but I intend to continue creating works of art that make the plight of the African-American experience understandable and digestible with the hope of promoting change. Our ambitions and advancements for a healthy and hopeful future must begin with reconciliation and healing from the infection of racism and classism.”
An Artist Talk and Reception will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28, in the Martha Cloud Chapman Gallery. An Artist Lecture will be held from 4 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 1, in the Olin Teaching Theater in the Franklin W. Olin Building. Both programs are free and open to the public.
By Kelsey Aylor, Wofford College Class of 2017