The process: curatorial statement

From the first time the idea of this exhibition came into thought to this weekend, I have been contemplating about the statement I wanted to make with this exhibition. Funny enough, even to this point it is difficult to really convey what the exhibition is about. It’s a multifaceted exhibition centered around the main theme of identity and how to navigate through it.

The idea of the exhibition came to thought while I was brainstorming a series of exhibitions to do produce for the following years to come to build on my career as a curator. Despite that I chose the wrong educational path for a curator, I still remember the advice one of my mentors gave me when I was interning at the Greenhill NC. Edie Carpenter had told me “If you want to start your career path as a curator, you’re going to have to put on shows.” As I was writing ideas down, I thought about my current position in life, the artists I have met and the inspiration I received from them. I thought of my difficulty finding a full-time position in the arts administration field and this growing anxiety of having to prove myself again while feeling like my proof should have been apparent. I thought of all the artists while writing ideas down and felt there was some familiar detail about them.

_______hood Took a year to plan, prepare, and produce. During the months as I was securing the location, preparing the marketing material, and talking to be artists about their work, I could not help but feel like I was getting closer to that familiar detail about them. It wasn’t until after I started installing the work in the gallery that it came to realization. Despite the amazing achievements these artists have made already, they are still considered “emerging “artists.

I’m surprised they are not in the same position as Jordan Castille Who is currently being exhibited throughout the East Coast and further during in shortly after her time in graduate school at Yale. The content of the work is drastically different, in my opinion, but their content’s qualities are close to the finest. In my mind, each of them are still trying to prove themselves repeatedly to “climb up the ladder” and closer to theor dream. It’s is this reason, I believe, as to why I started the brand in the first place. I wanted this brand to help artists by providing them a platform and resources from the administrative aspect to help them excell to their dreams which often is making our pursuing the ideas that inspire them.

Earlier, it made sense to use emerging artists with already profound ideas and have made a remarkable impact with their work already get into the community so they serve to further elevate the awareness of what they’re doing inspire others to support them. It just so happens that the themes in the content that inspires their creativity relates back to identity in some aspects. I wanted this exhibition to be an experience for people to reflect on the concept of rite of passage, and what it means to be the identities that we hold. This concept matter to me, and I think it matters to many others, because this is an open dialogue leading to answering the following question

Is my destiny truly in my own hands and at my own disposal, or is my fate already predetermined and I’m giving the illusion of choice?

If my destiny is based off my character and identity, and if I am capable of changing my identity, at what point does my density change and what defines that changing experience?

Is it my actions soly, or is it something more?

Each of these artists handle identity differently. Some explore, others question, others challenge and redifine the factors and circumstances that we allow to define us. In regards to my brand’s mission and vision, it is one of my objectives to inspire a community to take action inspired by art and the conversations they spark. My question is, how can we move forward as a community to better outcomes?

All of these things orbit my thoughts as I slwrite this official curator statement.

More about Eli Matson

Eli Matson is a rising fine artist who has recently finished his undergraduate degree in Photography from Savannah College of Art and Design. He is currently exploring two main themes: Gun Culture, and the Masculine Identity. There isn’t much written about this up in coming artist, but after meeting Matson at his Atlanta home earlier this year, I realized the content of his work is a must know.

Matson first started with exploring the concepts of masculinity through mixed media and painting, along with his studies in photography. This body of work is a collection of  his personal experience, research, and observation in our culture regarding to masculine identity through the decades.

Eli work6In his paintings, Matson builds texture through layers of construction and mechanic materials (such as tar, plaster, polyurethane, gunpowder, and vehicle fluids like anti-freeze) which are used in “manly” occupations, which typically has been blue-collar work. Matson takes these, often hazardous, materials and experiments with them as a traditional artist experiments with his, or her, paint. He plays with the contrast, color, and texture, which result in abstracted forms and figures of landscapes and terrain. When looking at these abstracted figures, one could see terrain similar to the aerial view of Earth’s surface, or more like Mars’ surface to be exact. Other abstractions and interpretations show of decimated Mountain ranges and toxic environments once teeming with life. Other works have been more of a literal interpretation to the content of his work. Much of these materials are fragile, degenerative, and destructive, much like the human ego and the frailty of masculinity (one may argue).

In the _______hood exhibition, there is one diptych piece to contrast from the abstract paintings to give a more literal, and “crisper” message to tie the conversation together. In this piece, is an illustration of decimated cities and once living spaces, with a sole survivor in the foreground. In my meeting with him at his studio, I asked about the influences of his work and he had shared with me personal stories of his relationships with other males in his upbringing.

Eli Matson Sample1
Eli Matson

The concept of “What makes a man a man?” has been challenged for some time. In 2011, Dr. Joanne H. Hall and Kelly Carlson from the University of Tennessee published an article titled “Exploring the concept of Manliness in Relation to the Phenomenon of Crying: A Bourdieusian Approach” exploring the concepts and history of manliness as a social construct. This study was made with the intention of developing a theoretical approach for men’s mental health in the nursing community. On August 23rd, 2016, Ted Talks published a video on YouTube featuring Tony Porter’s talk on manhood. On this perspective, Porter talks on an experience both Matson and myself believe most males in “heteronormative” habitats have experienced. The social construct has even been mention in biblical text and the social construct can be traced back to ancient Latin word “Virtus”, which means to display valor, strength, excellence, courage, worth, and manliness; all commonly associated with masculine attributes.

In one perspective, Manliness and the things that define a man are rooted from the idea of being strong and victorious when in conflict. The idea of strength could be, and has been, interpreted as being able to take the most damage and survive, or to deal the most damage, if not do both. One’s manliness could be determined from by the extent that individual could do either of those options. In applications to this concepts, males are put in positions where they often are discouraged from showing vulnerability, susceptibility and being able to share their feelings in stressful situations. These can result in mental health issues, acts of violence, and damaged self-esteem if not addressed. Both Matson and I shared our personal struggles with masculinity and pressures we faced to keep our own self-identity when it came to “being a man”. In Matson’s work these blue-collar jobs, and the dangers they hold, reflect the perspective of being manly by enduring the damage those occupations wager. Matson’s work explores the frailty of the masculine ego and the destructive nature that has been formed to prove an individual’s Virtus.

I wanted Matson’s work in _______hood as it relates to a big issue that is occasionally talked about. What makes a man? Many males attached the self-esteem, status, and well-being to the virtus attributes. Once those are challenged, their egos usually are then driven to defend themselves and the masculine mask they carry. In this exhibition of Rite of passage, What better way to address an issues that starts as early as pre-teenage childhood and can last to the rest of an individual’s life?



More about Aliana Grace Bailey

Today, I fuse a variety of mediums—graphic design, textiles, painting, printmaking, and photography—and employ vibrant colors, intricate patterns, and bold typography. I am embracing and exploring the ways in which these elements hold a special purpose and create beautiful conversations. My passion lies in the process, and I am always digging deeper. I enjoy immersing myself in each step of the journey.

-Aliana Grace Bailey-

The Art of Aliana Grace Bailey

Aliana Grace Bailey is a multi-media artist and graphic designer stationed in Washington D.C. where she is originally from. Bailey is an upcoming artist who synthesizes her passion for the arts, activism, and design into one principle. Her voice revolves around themes of healing, self-empowerment, and Women’s Rights. She also investigates the presentation and perspective of women. Regarding to her work in design and activism, Bailey coined the term “Social Good Doer” as she actively seeks the social needs of the community and reflects it in her work.

Recently on her Instagram, Bailey had taken an international trip to Accra, Ghana as an artist residency. There, she had made sugarcane paper, traditional jewelry, and craft as a form of cultural preservation. In one of her posts along her travels she mentions the art of making glass beads. These beads carry a long history of Ghana and its culture, and that history is passed down, or given to the artists. The artists are also told the stories the individual wants to pass down and are taken through the complex process of producing the beads and creating jewelry with them. In her travel, she had worked with one of the best known bead makers in the local Ghana community and on the international plane. This residency is but one of many goals Bailey has regarding travel. It is her personal goal to travel the world, and immerse herself in culture, people, and the history of everywhere she goes.

Bailey is highly active in her community as her recent works involve a publication, Black Women’s Health Matters, and had collaborated with the Sanctuaries, and the Washington Peace Center, in the 2017 Activist Awards Gala in D.C. this past May. This party was in conjunction with the #keepfightingdc movement. Recently, she started collaborating with The Sanctuaries: Soulful Arts and participating in the Black Lives Matter movement, in the DC Chapter. These are just to name a few, but does not cover even a quarter of her entire dossier of past achievements. On top of her involvement and leadership, Bailey also has a large body of work to rest her laurels on .

Despite all of her achievements in the amount of work she has, Bailey is still an emerging artist yet to be collected in museums and major art collectors. Also, two of her works explore certain identities and the process of dealing with people’s perspectives. These two works, “In Between our Legs” and “Black Goddess Tribute” regard the perspective of virginity and its juxtaposition with purity; and regard the acknowledgement of the female role models who have influenced her personal life and reflect on the influences women have onto others. For these, I wanted her in _______hood as her work presents the opportunity to explore how others influence our identities as we go through this “rite of passage”.


In Between Our Legs

Black Goddess Tribute Installation

Activist Awards Gala Branding

Stories that Transform

Black Women’s Health Matters

Keep Fighting DC