Beyond Mammy: How This Exhibit Is Reclaiming Images of Black Women

Alexandria Museum of Art. Mickalene Thomas, “Why Can’t We Just Sit Down And Talk It Over,” edition 39/40, screenprint, 2006.
Written by Tiffani Greenaway of MyMommyVents.com

Curated by the InterDisciplinary Experimental Arts Space (I.D.E.A.) at Colorado College and the Alexandria Museum of Art from the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation, "Beyond Mammy, Jezebel, & Sapphire" features images created for and by Black women.

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After racial slurs began circulating on social media, curator Jessica Hunter-Larsen felt led to create an exhibit that honored Black women and sparked conversation about race and social justice. “It got me thinking,” she says, “how do we help foster respectful dialog? And one of the ways I thought to do that was to bring visual images into the mix.”

Combating the stereotypes of Black women in mainstream culture, "From the suffering mama, to the stoic victim, to the sassy broad," the exhibit explores our femininity. "Beyond Mammy, Jezebel, and Sapphire" includes pieces by artists Alison Saar, Kara Walker, Mickalene Thomas and Lorna Simpson, “people I thought were particularly important to the themes of the show," says Hunter-Larson. Work by Romare Howard Bearden, Robert H. Colescott, Wangechi Mutu and other well known artists helps to "inspire audiences to think critically about these and the many other dangerous assumptions about Black women in ways that are far more complex than discourses outside of Black feminism and womanism typically allow," reads the exhibit catalogue. "A large part of that work entails listening intently to the ways Black women, including the artists featured here, think about and discuss ourselves on our own terms, which is critical.”
Alexandria Museum of Art. Lorna Simpson, “C-Rations, edition of 50,” silver gelatin print, 1991.
In addition to the stirring images, I.D.E.A. will also feature panels and screenings relating to Black women's experiences. On May 9, Venetria Patton, Head of Interdisciplinary Studies and Professor of English and African American Studies, at Purdue University will present a lecture: “Baby Mamas, Beloved, and True Motherhood: Reclaiming Images of Black Women.”
Alexandria Museum of Art. Mildred Howard, “I’ve Been a Witness to this Game III,” color monoprint/digital on found paper with collage, 2016.
“We’re really excited,” Hunter-Larsen says. “All the people that we’re bringing in are nationally recognized scholars and artists who are going to be able to bring a very nuanced and articulate perspective to some of the broader themes of the exhibition.”

“Beyond Mammy, Jezebel, & Sapphire: Reclaiming Images of Black Women” runs from through May 16th at the InterDisciplinary Experimental Arts Space at Colorado College.
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Tiffani Greenaway is the wife and mom behind MyMommyVents, a New York city parenting blog. Her tips have been seen on Yahoo Parenting, Mommy Noire, and Fit Pregnancy. Find more of Tiffani's work at mymommyvents.com.

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