In This Body, I Persevere brings together 12 artists from around the US who identify as BIPOC to showcase their cultural and racial experiences while living in America. These works testify to the courage of the artists to explore and share their experiences while living in a world that consistently contradicts, exploits and denies the lives and experiences of BIPOC people.
Each artist has their own unique practice and stylized manner of creating. Get to know more about the artists participating in this show!
Black is beautiful. It is a spectrum rather than a strict constraint, yet colorism and racism have washed away and whittled down the presence of Black women to only what is digestible: lighter skin, curly but not kinky hair, and African features that aren’t too African. People of color must pass a brown bag test to judge the lightness of skin, chemically straighten hair, walk and talk a certain way, not act too “ghetto” or “ratchet,” act in self-hatred to fit into a colorist society valuing most Eurocentric features.
Black women have been groomed into the ideal since slavery. Thick, kinky hair wasn’t “desirable,” and many women were forced to shave their heads. Our cultural values of beauty were stripped from us. Colorism has only evolved further. Mass media plays into colorism by primarily grandstanding lighter-skinned women as more feminine and desirable, while darker complexions are viewed as aggressive and unattractive. My figures, created in red clay that once my ancestors walked on, embody a journey to overcoming constraining ideals. Red clay sculptures are blackwashed in carbon black ink to deepen their complexion. Black, deep brown, and red- are the beautiful colors my figures take on. Their skin reflects the spectrum of Blackness that is so overlooked.
Pulling, pinching, and twisting mediums feel as if I am replicating the process of doing my own hair, yet I am creating a wonderful crown of hair for my pieces. The spray foam used to create bubbly afro hair gives pieces an enigmatic depth as it is royally decorated with gold leaf, purple resin, and a tiny golden hair crown. Braids, locks, twists, and afros are all decorated with hair accessories like the golden crown, giving the wearer confidence. Sunday hair day was never complete without accessorizing the fresh box braids with colorful beads or barrettes. Loving memories as such are embedded into the souls of each piece created. My hands dip into Blue Magic grease, nourishing my coily hair. As such, my pieces are created by the same hands. The history of Sunday’s hair washing days, twisting my own hair, carefully braiding and plaiting, reflected in the pieces created.
Summer Brooks is a multimedia sculpture artist in Kansas City, MO. Recently, she exhibited work at KCAC with her exhibition Wash Day in 2022. In 2021, she completed an exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis titled The New Garden Variety. She received NCECA’s Multicultural Fellowship award in 2021 and exhibited work in the Multicultural Fellowship exhibition in 2022. Brooks was a resident at Belger Studios and is currently a ceramic resident at 323 Clay in Independence, MO.
Mona Cliff’s practice traverses traditional Indigenous knowledge systems. In learning her past teachings, she applies these teachings to her practice and aims to explore how traditional arts, culture, and knowledge connect her to ancestral practices. Mona questions how we can understand our connections to the world surrounding us. Continuous cultural evolution is particularly interesting to her, especially in the realm of generational knowledge. She feels connected to her ancestors as she creates art through these traditional art practices. Interweaving various crafts materials, she wants to create a visual language. A language that preserves tradition and creates a discourse that has people question their own preconceptions of Indigenous Arts.
Mona Cliff, (Hanook-gah-neeh/ Spottedcloud)
Mona is a multidisciplinary visual artist who explores contemporary Indigenous identity and culture through traditional Native crafting methods such as seed bead embroidery and fabric applique. Beadwork and sewing applique have been the primary foundation of her artistic practice. Mona acquired a B.F.A. in Printmaking from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, WA. She has two site-specific beaded pieces in the permanent collection at the Kansas City Museum. She has recently concluded a commissioned beaded piece spanning 17 ft. for the Kansas City Airport Terminal’s 1% for the Arts Program. She concluded several public art projects in the summer of 2023, which include four murals in the Kansas region, including Haskell Indian Nations University.
Mona works as a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion field representative for the Native communities of Kansas for the Kansas Creative Arts Industry Commission. For her upcoming 2024 exhibitions, she will have a large-scale beaded piece at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington D.C. for the Women to Watch exhibition and a large beaded piece at the Autry Museum in L.A. Mona is an enrolled member of the Gros Ventre tribe (A’aninin/Nakota Nations) of Ft. Belknap, MT. She is married and has three children, ages 13, 14 and 16 years old. She currently resides in Lawrence, Kansas.
For some, monsters are not myths but walking, breathing entities who inspire fear and hatred for simply existing. As an African American male, Dadisi Curtis Jr. is perceived as a monster. Through his work, he reclaims the semblance of his humanity. Super Predator is not merely a phrase coined by Hillary Clinton; it is an example of how People of Color are viewed to justify their adverse treatment and incarceration as individuals. These racist connotations are placed on children, who accept the negative factors attributed to them throughout popular media and the nightly news.
Through his work, Dadisi brings the viewer into the environments of his youth; providing alternative perspectives of social justice. Alternating between black light and white light denotes a shift in cultural perspective, from the traditional Western view to one highlighting the experiences of Black People in America. What is unseen by some and plainly visible to the other. Utilizing printmaking and photography, Dadisi crafts moments that embody a teleport into a familiar, simulacrum of a cinematic scene. His goal is to give the viewer a glimpse into the reality of these constant encounters that People of Color live through so that the viewer can better understand the divisions of race privilege.
In this work, Dadisi seeks to address influences from a younger age. They manifest as stills from films in black cinematography and their influence during the developmental stage. The work also has a secondary purpose: defining Black Culture for those outside it. If and when these films are viewed outside their intended demographic, they reinforce expectations and stereotypes that apply to all People of Color. This assault creates an acceptance by the individual’s young mind that it is being projected onto. After being called a monster your entire life, the prideful accept it and lean into it. The children of Black Frankenstein accept their role at an early age, even with the understanding that the hero always dies.
Dadisi Curtis Jr. was born March 11, 1994, and raised in Canton, Ohio, to a mixed race family. Raised in a single-parent household, his mother encouraged self-expression and love for the arts. The oldest son and middle child of seven created an environment that placed importance on the value of family and friends with an emphasis on expressing their individual experiences as well as his own. Obtaining a BFA from Kent State University in printmaking with a focus on photography helped create a style that mimics his experiences. After acceptance and graduation with an MA and MFA from the University of Iowa, Dadisi has integrated sculpture, print, photography and performance into a series of interactive installations. Dadisi’s work draws upon experiences as a biracial man, his interests in Black Cinematography and the fight against the demonization of Black People in popular media. These interests stem from an inner-city upbringing that was then molded by a Pan-African studies course and organization engagement. This provides a platform to address issues of interpersonal, systematic and institutionalized racism. Through an expanded practice of printmaking that encompasses installation, fabric silkscreen, photography, and digital media; Dadisi aims to provide alternative perspectives of social justice through the political use of art. Using material like UV light as a metaphor for these perspectives, he creates scenes highlighting the experiences and encounters of People of Color in America.
Josie Del Castillo was born and raised in Brownsville, Texas, a border town located across from Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico. As a first-generation Mexican American from La Frontera, she is proud of her bi-cultural and bilingual upbringing. Josie is committed to breaking the negative representations of the area perpetuated by politicians and the media who target and dehumanize the hardworking people of this region.
In order to highlight the beauty and richness of her Mexican American culture, Josie’s work primarily consists of vibrant figurative oil paintings; a combination of nude self-portraits, people in her community, and the scenic landscapes of the Rio Grande Valley. Through her work, Del Castillo wants to share her most vulnerable experiences, which have been hard to navigate through but are necessary for her growth and appreciation of her body. Her artwork allows her to explore and appreciate her body and understand her transition into motherhood. As women, we are constantly criticized by societal expectations and standards of what it is to be an ideal woman and mother. Del Castillo wants to use her work to address these issues and to give representation to the women who struggle with identity, body image, and overall womanhood.
Josie Del Castillo is a Brownsville artist who received her Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in the Spring of 2020. Del Castillo has exhibited throughout the Rio Grande Valley, and other Texas cities such as Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, Amarillo, and Lubbock. She has shown in out-of-state exhibitions in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Albuquerque, Chicago, and New York City. Del Castillo’s work focuses on the representation and empowerment of the women’s body and embracing growing up as a Mexican American in La Frontera. Her body of work combines self-portraits, portraits of people from her community, and landscapes from the Rio Grande Valley.
Hiromi Iyoda makes figurative and narrative sculptures, and her work is based on her past and current life experiences. Her work is constantly evolving into different styles by using different techniques, especially those that excite her most. This series of artworks is called Alienated and using the pottery wheel as a tool; she creates multiple parts and later assembles them to make the robot figures. She refers to these robots as her “mini-Me,” who represent her as an immigrant. Even after living in the United States for years, she still feels alien to some people and situations. Hiromi uses the robots to display her humor, loneliness, and other emotions.
Hiromi Iyoda was born in a small town in Japan. Growing up with a modest background, a sketchbook and coloring pencils were the best toys to play with. Hiromi was always creative and inventive to make her own toys. Eventually, Hiromi traveled to the United States to further her education. Hiromi makes figurative and narrative clay sculptures, and her work is based on her past and current life experiences. She holds a BFA in Ceramics from California State University of Long Beach and finished her MFA at the University of Nebraska Lincoln. Hiromi attended multiple residencies such as Red Star Studio Kansas City, Niv Art Centre India, Archie Bray Foundation Montana, and Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, and Iowa Ceramics Center. She is currently a full-time ceramic professor at Fresno City Community College.
Navajo artist Matthew A. Kirk is a self-taught painter based in Queens, New York. Born in 1978 on the Navajo reservation, Matthew moved to Wisconsin as a toddler, where he experienced a lack of Indigenous representation. Since 2003, Matthew has participated in twenty group shows and held eight solo shows. He has exhibited in Wisconsin, NYC, Chicago, Portland, Finland, and Miami. Matthew’s work resides in the permanent public collections of several museums and other prominent collections of indigenous art. Matthew has had his work critiqued in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Modern
Matthew Kirk’s cultural roots were rarely acknowledged in his home state of Wisconsin. This drove his current work to explore Indigenous symbols, values, and meaning. Matthew explores the themes of identity, belonging, family, and environmental uncertainty using diverse techniques, found objects, and non-traditional materials.
Chandler Martin strives to capture memories and recreate personal events by sculpting gestural figures carrying the spirit of a particular moment. By depicting the actions of everyday life, Chandler shows the viewer that despite how different we may be from each other, we can connect through our collective nostalgia and past experiences. Chandler explores his own nostalgia and feelings of joy and loss by carving a repeated texture on the figures. The figures are depersonalized by removing individual features, making them more relatable to viewers. These figures reveal his cherished memories, and he hopes to bring out sentimentality in the viewer as well. The lack of specificity in my figures alludes to the way memory works; we remember some details distinctly, and others are a blur. We may remember the people we were with, our location, or the feeling we had in the moment, but not the exact details. Like our own unreliable eyesight or memory, the initial impression of the figures at a distance may change as the viewer moves closer to the work. The tactile nature of the textures is tempting, and they need to be touched to be fully understood. Chandler’s work is a record of his artistic expression but is full of contradictions and imperfections, just like human memory.
Chandler Martin was born in Chicago, Illinois and raised in Plano, Texas. In 2015, he received his BFA in Ceramics from the Kansas City Art Institute. He is actively involved with various art organizations in the Kansas City metro area. As a current Belger Crane Yard Studios studio member, Chandler continues to develop his figural sculptures and studio practice. His sculptures explore nostalgia for past events and potential dreams for the future. His work acts as a bridge in time, providing intangible memories with a physical form to express some of the ambiguity of nostalgia.
The intersections of identity, material culture and personal histories are the basis of Jada Patterson’s work. She is deeply interested in Black hair and body adornment traditions, especially those related to girlhood. Her work often embeds these traditions, as adornment was a passageway for stepping into my womanhood.
Her work consists of hand-sculpted, cast and crafted objects in predominately clay and beeswax and found and inherited objects used for assemblage. Materials used as protection and sealants are heavily prioritized in her work. Black soap, shea butter and beeswax surfaces reference their ritualistic uses to heal, protect and seal hair and skin, and bring Black Folks closer to our ancestors whenever we cloak ourselves in it. This extends into other materials in her work, such as hair used in protective styles and objects like brooms used in rituals to tend to place and imbue power in the everyday.
Assembling hand-crafted and found objects is Jada’s way of telling a story or lettering a poem. Most of the stories work to remember girlhood and offer some reflection and healing for herself and those who feel called to.
Jada Patterson is a multidisciplinary artist and craftsperson born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Their work spans ceramics, sculpture, and traditional craft mediums such as broom-making and basketry. Working primarily in clay, beeswax and assemblage, Jada explores beauty, adornment, girlhood and material culture related to the human condition. Jada began their studies at the Kansas City Art Institute, where they received their Bachelor of Fine Arts in Ceramics and Art History. They’ve continued their studies as a fellow, mentor and resident at art and craft schools across the country, including the Ox-Bow School of Art, Charlotte Street Foundation, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, John C. Campbell Folk School and the Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences. Jada is currently based out of Pittsburgh, PA, pursuing their practice full time and teaching new young artists.
Joey Quiñones creates mixed media, figurative, often large-scale sculptures as a way to explore the issues of race, class, gender and sexuality. Their work highlights how our engagement with these concepts is highly ritualized and often unexamined. By juxtaposing objects for the home with archival historical research, Quiñones asks viewers to think about how narratives of domesticity, family, and womanhood are complicated by a history of slavery, stolen labor, and racism, particularly in the U.S. and the Caribbean. They work with many materials, but they consider fibers and ceramics foundational to their process and thinking because of their long history and aesthetic traditions in places like West Africa, Spain, and the Americas. The work shown in the exhibition, In this Body, I Persevere, highlights what it means to be both and neither. Francis is highly visible in his grief but silenced. Pay it No Mind is a reliquary in honor of Marsha P. Johnson, one of the most prominent figures of the gay rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s.
Joey Quiñones creates figurative work in order to explore Afro-Puerto Rican identity. They were selected an Emerging Artist of 2020 by Ceramics Monthly, was a Manifest Gallery Annual Prize Finalist, and received an Honorable Mention for the James Renwick Alliance Chrysalis Award. Their work has been shown at venues such as the Belger Arts Center, the Akron Art Museum, the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati and the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento. They have an MFA in Studio Art from Indiana University, Bloomington, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Iowa. They are currently the Artist-in-Residence, Head of Fiber at Cranbrook Academy of Art.
Mei Lam So’s work explores the process of acculturation through socio-cultural and psychological adjustments of bicultural Asian immigrants. Framed within the cultural influence and familial relationships, Mei looks at how immigrants change their behaviors, beliefs, and values towards themselves and others to analyze how identities are formed and negotiated. This negotiation of identities conflicts between accepting the new culture while upholding traditional values; a conflation of identities leading to confusion and a sense of disassociation where one feels like a stranger to themselves. Through paper, textiles, and ceramics, Mei forms spaces and narratives, sharing her experiences with the paradoxes of her shifting identities.
Relying on nostalgia as a coping strategy to reconcile her bicultural identity, my recent work focuses on memories. Specifically, memories that establish a connection between her identity with cultural objects and physical spaces that she associates with her family. Recreating these scenes juxtaposes tangible and intangible memories that postulate the happenings between “then” and “now” while exploring emotions and experiences surrounding isolation, separation, and absentness affected by environmental changes. By reconnecting with her past and presenting a current view, Mei invites viewers to a conversation about memories, reflection, and what happens “in between.”
Mei Lam So is a Minneapolis-based visual artist whose medium includes printmaking, textile printing, and ceramics. She received her BFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her MFA in Printmaking and Ceramics from the University of Iowa. Originally from Hong Kong, So’s work explores topics surrounding the acculturation process of bicultural Asian immigrants and she has exhibited her work nationally.
Water, a wellspring of existence, exhibits a dual nature- simultaneously serving as a life-giving force and being wielded as a tool of aggression when transformed into a barrier for migrants navigating the “border.” This work establishes a profound link to the ancestral journey of José Villalobos’ family across this boundary, a voyage undertaken outside legal confines, prominently embodied by his mother. The narratives shared by her regarding the arduous passages through bodies of water and arid terrains encapsulate an intricate tapestry of heritage, shaping the very essence of the artist’s identity.
José Villalobos was born in 1988 and grew up on the US/Mexico border between the sister cities of El Paso, TX and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Villalobos is a recipient of the Joan Mitchell Painters & Sculptors Award and the Tanne Foundation Award. Villalobos has also been selected for the Joan Mitchel Foundation Residency Program and Artpace International Residency Program. His work has been exhibited in nationally and internationally recognized exhibitions, such as Trans America/n: Gender, Identity, Appearance Today at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, TX; Xican a.o.x Body, Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture of the Riverside Art Museum; Desert Rider, Phoenix Art Museum and Denver Art Museum; De Los Otros, Artpace, San Antonio, TX; I Saw The Sign, Tucson, AZ and an upcoming international museum solo exhibition at Museo de Arte Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.
José Villalobos’s work is included in the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art, Mexic-Arte Museum, Austin, TX, the City of San Antonio Public Collection, TX, Albright College, Reading, PA, and SoHo House International in Austin, TX.
Pablo Villicana Lara never intended to become an artist, he was just always observing, always drawing, always making, and always creating. Through rough patches in life, it was the one thing that kept him grounded and focused, that kept him moving forward. At first, watercolors were intimidating and, from what he had heard, the most difficult to work with, and that proved to be true at first, but the challenge kept him working towards understanding all you could achieve with the medium. Pablo likes the balance between realism and the painterly aspects of watercolor. Realism has always been intriguing to him because of its technical aspects, but he also enjoys when you let a medium do what it does naturally, the happy “accidents” that enhance the final results.
Art has been a way for Pablo to stay connected with his Native Mexican culture. Portraits of family members and people that carry on traditional aspects of the culture, clothes and ceremonial regalia that integrate symbols of our environment, animals and legends. Still-life paintings include traditional objects such as baskets made from local plants and pottery created with local clay. Be it people, objects, wildlife or landscapes, it all reflects Pablo’s deep respect and connection to Mother Earth and his culture. With each painting, he tries to achieve a high quality of light you can almost feel, clarity of color, strength of composition, and a sense of spirituality.
With each painting, Pablo Villicana Lara tries to achieve a quality of light you can almost feel, clarity of color, strength of composition, and a sense of spirituality through his strong connection with his culture. Pablo was raised in both Mexican and American cultures. Most of his images reflect his deep respect and connection to his Mexican/Native heritage. After creating with oils for several years, as well as, ceramics, pastel and textiles, discovering the quality of light and clarity of colors that could be achieved with watercolors changed the course of Pablo’s artistic career and has been his primary medium for the past 33 years.
Pablo received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from St. Mary’s College in Moraga, CA and Master of Fine Arts in Drawing from College of the Arts in Oakland, CA. He has been an art instructor for the past 31 years and guest demonstrator for various art societies and has conducted watercolor workshops. Currently, he is an adjunct professor at Merritt College and Las Positas College in the San Francisco Bay Area. Pablo has received awards, including Best of Show for the Society of Western Artists, and many first, second, third and honorable mention awards with the California Watercolor Association. His work has been included in the American Watercolor Society, Transparent Watercolor Society, Northwest Watercolor Society, and the International Guild of Realism and International Watercolor Society.