“Looking to the Self, Looking into Others” at Garner Arts Festival

Written by Cori Champagne

The spaces are so grand at Garner Arts Center, you could be forgiven for missing some of the art on view. The setting is extraordinary: a complex of industrial buildings formerly housing a textile mill, which produced millions of yards of cloth and World War II uniforms back in the day – now - housing enviable artist studios, small businesses, and the Industrial Arts Brewing Company.   Set along the Minisceongo Creek, the two-day arts festival offers open studios, live music, food trucks, beer garden and sculpture walk along the creek bed.  

There’s no chance of missing the work on view with the ArtShape Mammoth curated exhibition, “Looking to the Self, Looking into Others, an Intersectional Conversation” under the festival umbrella theme, “Social Justice”. The exhibition featured 8 artists in the expansive Dye Works gallery at Garner.  Work included explored some of the most poignant ideas gathered under that theme – representation of the black female body, the impact of the refugee crisis, women’s employment, and political resistance.  

Kyana Brindle and Novel Idea Sholars’, “Naked Layers” is a series of film vignettes which explore themes related to black women and the body. The videos explore body image and identity, representations of black women in media, vulnerability and shame, and the attempt to shift the lens of the black woman as object.

Kyana Brindle and Novel Idea Sholars’, “Naked Layers”

Aubrey Roemer’s large hanging installation, “Khamsa” was created from life jackets, emergency blankets, paint and markers, with the participation of refugee men, women and children, and aid workers, and depicts the eyes and hands of those involved and in solidarity with the crisis.  In a smaller space, the largeness of these two themes could overwhelm and compete with one another.  Instead, the space in Dye Works led the viewer gently from one to the other, and allowed questions from one to carry into the next.

Jeca Rodriguez-Colon’s installation, “Mom We Need to Talk” could invite viewers into quiet contemplation about their own relationships, with a sense of privacy and separateness from other work nearby.

Aubrey Roemer, “Khamsa"

 Jeca Rodriguez-Colon, “Mom We Need to Talk"

An additional element of the exhibition were the facilitated conversations that took place at various times over two days and were led by Angela Mosely and Melissa Cain.  In place of the usual artist talks, these conversations were open to anyone who wanted to join, and delved into the complicated questions of art-making, activism and individual agency.


Participating Artists: Margaret Coleman, Aubrey Roehmer, Cori Champagne, Joan Harmon, Rebecca Wesiman, Katie Urban, Kyana Brindle and Novel Idea Sholars, and Jeca Rodriguez-Colon.