When art succeeds it inspires. It asks questions. It holds mirrors.
Curating Commemoration: Poiesis / Remedy, on display at the WaterFire Arts Center, features the works of 45 area artists. Curated by Melaine Ferdinand-King and Joel Rosario Tapia, two rising curators selected for a curatorial mentorship initiative of the Providence Biennial for Contemporary Art, Curating Commemoration fills the 15,000 square-foot WaterFire gallery with questions, celebrations, and curiosities that form a collective commemoration of ancestry, identity, and place.
What is legacy? What do we share? What do we give? What do we take? How do we celebrate?
Art speaks a language and to hear it you must do more than listen. Curating Commemoration begs you to question, it asks you to see. Step closer to the tapestry, admire the stitching. Approach the painting, see the weight of the brushstrokes. Watch the video, hear the message, mind the composition. Think. Don’t dismiss the sidewalk debris, look at it — bottles and empties, lotto tickets, cigarette butts, shards of plastic, lost toys. Who did these belong to? Who will pick it up?
A photo booth set in the northeast corner invites you to join the commemoration, print two photo strips: one to take home, one to tape to a gallery wall. Nearby stands a high-top table with paper and pencils and the request to write a prayer, then to pin it to the skirt of a Mother God being, the intervention work of Lilly Manycolors. Let this God humble you with honesty. Let it strengthen you with bravery. Don’t be afraid, get moving. When the Eastern Medicine Singers’ drum beats, let it be your pulse, follow it, and when it quickens, don’t shy away.
Why are we still here? Why are we without? Who has all the money? When will the violence stop?
The exhibition predominantly features the work of BIPOC artists, several of whom confront white supremacy in all its insidious forms. If you are white, join them; it does not diminish your heart. Look around. Take a moment. Acknowledge who gave you what, then acknowledge who gave them that. Don’t pawn off your successes as yours and yours alone.
Have you ever worked hard and not gained an inch? Have things ever gone off without a hitch? You stand on someone, we all do; see them. What did they give? What did you take? What have you given back?
On August 17 the exhibition celebrates with closing festivities, during which visitors will experience drumming by Sidy Maiga, an intervention by Shey ‘Rí Acu’ Rivera Ríos, a spoken word performance by Ariel Tavares, and a tintype photography demonstration by Rachel A. Maeve. Attend and join the commemoration.
See what we stand for. See what we won’t accept. Learn to acknowledge. At the very least, see the sushi on the acrylic nail delicately crafted by Autumn Perez. Recognize the little things. See the web of beauty in the world that surrounds you and remember that you’re a part of it.
Curating Commemoration: Poiesis / Remedy is on display at the WaterFire Arts Center, 475 Valley St PVD, through August 20. For more info visit providencebiennial.org or connect with the curators on IG at @melainejking and @tapiauno1