A paper collage series honoring black excellence and contribution in our community by Artist Sarah Drake
Although I’ve been a painter & mixed media artist for many years, because of health issues, I took up paper collage in November 2016. As such, I’m still learning this new technique and what it means to me as a creator, but already know I prefer ripping paper to cutting. At first, I ripped because it was easier on my pained body, but then it became cathartic. What I found was that the rips began to have representation; I was tearing away at the layers of the issues I talk about in my artwork like racism, water and sanitation access, and women’s rights. Once torn, the paper became like puzzle pieces of rebuilding and restructuring into an aesthetic that imagines what could be if these issues didn’t exist. However, even when we dismantle the many facets of institutional racism and socio-economic exploitation, things aren’t smooth and pretty. There are still scars of the past, which the rugged look of ripped paper in my artwork represents.
When I was invited to exhibit artwork December 2017-February 2018, I began to wonder what I’d create. Kwanzaa, MLK Jr Day and Black History Month occurred during the exhibition, coupled with the new realization about my paper ripping, I was inspired to create a body of artwork about African and African American women. The goal was to show black women from our community in artwork, positively without stereotypes, and the impact they are making in my life and lives of others. I also wanted black women to see themselves in and own the artwork. I decided to expand the series to tell stories of overlooked, unseen, misunderstood, misrepresented, black women and it grew to included not only women from central MN, but Burkina Faso and celebrity black women who work for social justice. The series grew to include men based on inspirations from Colin Kaepernick taking a knee, police and gun violence, and other issues that plague black men and boys. This series is a learning opportunity for the viewer to see people in our community through my eyes, perspectives and lived experiences. I hope viewers leave inspired to take action against discrimination, having learned something about our diverse and beautiful community, and remember the beautiful contributions black people give to our lives every day, not just during Black History Month or on MLK Day.
Display of Artwork: A portion of sales are donated to herARTS in Action. A conscious effort was used to create space between the pieces exhibited because people were forced onto slave boats and crammed into tight spaces.
About the artist: Sarah Drake is an award-winning artist and founder of herARTS in Action, a nonprofit providing art opportunities for marginalized groups in Central MN and access to water and sanitation in Burkina Faso. She’s also a mother to biracial daughter and has worked on civil and human rights for two decades. www.sarahdrakeart.com @sarahdrakeart www.herartsinaction.org @herartsinaction
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