Charlotte Street Foundation exhibit confronts incomplete histories of America

Le’Andra LeSeur, In Reverence (An Honoring), 2018, Still image captured at venue.

Alvar Negrete-Baños

The Charlotte Street Foundation Gallery recently opened a new art exhibition, “With Liberty and Justice.

Artists from across the country have paintings, sculptures, photographs, videos and poetry on display. The exhibition provides views from different racial and cultural backgrounds that create a more complete image of American history.

“I ask that you enter this space with a lens of empathy,” Kansas City artist Courtney Faye Taylor told visitors. “Most of all, I ask that you be changed.”

Walking through the gallery is like walking through a picture book. The pieces pop out of the ground and rope you into the stories and histories which are often forgotten or pushed aside in the United States. Andrew Mcilvaine is a local artist and UMKC graduate that was featured at the event. His works “Ascensión” and “Flotator” are displayed at the exhibition, and tell the story of a family crossing the Rio Grande. 

(Andrew Mclivaine, Flotador, 2020)

In his research, Mcilvaine found that these scenes tend to occur in the darkness of night and early morning. The cobalt blue and white paint he chose as a medium shifts the scene from shapes obscured in darkness to a clear image of human beings making a grueling crossing.

“Visibility is a big part of these works,” said Mcilvaine in an interview about his contributions to the exhibition. “I want these images to be viewed by more people and for longer periods of time.”

This aspect is reflected in the other works in the exhibition as well. Each piece adds a different story or explores a different experience in America. 

Courtney Faye Taylor is a poet and mixed media artist. Her work “Light Attire” is a chaotic and striking piece made using mutilated images and descriptions of Black women and girls from wanted and missing posters. 

“‘Light Attire’ is my way of ensuring that Black women and girls do not disappear from our consideration,” Taylor said. “It’s my way of saying our lived experiences, our value, and our humanity are deserving of memory.”

Unlike most of the other pieces, the desolate white background and disconcerting images have a chilling effect. It brings attention to a more cruel and severe narrative driven to the margins of everyday life.

The variety of pieces and tones represented in the exhibit reflect the vastly different lives and challenges that Americans have to face depending on the color of their skin or the language they speak at home. 

“Don’t be ashamed of your past; own that past and use it to your advantage,” said Mclivaine. “It’s a strength, it’s a superpower.”

“With Liberty and Justice” is located at CSF Gallery at 3333 Wyoming Street, Kansas City, MO. It will be open until Oct. 23, and Charlotte Street Foundation will also be hosting other events associated with the exhibition. For more information, visit Charlotte Street Foundation’s website.

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