Shanequa Gay: I Come As Us & Lorna Ruth Galloway: Halftone Half-lives
Contemporary artist Shanequa Gay is a native of Atlanta, GA where she continues to live and work. Widely acclaimed for her paintings and illustrations, Shanequa has also received accolades for her advocacy of visual art projects that challenge the violence and injustices committed against the black body in America and across the globe. Her current body of work integrates imagery of the black body into paintings, toile patterns, found objects, and video media, addressing its use and control for decorative purposes. Shanequaʼs art is regularly featured in exhibitions by museums and galleries throughout
the U.S. including the Chattanooga African American Museum, the Hammonds House Museum, Emory University, Wofford College and the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center.
Her works are collected by individuals with notable collections such as Samuel L. Jackson and public and private institutions.
When Gay started exhibiting her work, she had “unconsciously chosen to give black women centrality and power in her art,” which excluded men and created a sacred space for women, as depicted in the series The Southern Way, in which women are portrayed in their Sunday churchgoing best.
In light of the prevalent police brutality against black men, the fear Gay faces when her 18-year-old son goes out into the world is a grave concern shared by many parents of black children. After hearing the horrific personal stories of people who had been beaten or killed by police officers, Gay had a dream where she saw men running in the woods shape-shifting between deer and men while being chased. Initially, it was her way of responding to all the violence that was going on in our nation, most specifically toward Black men. In 2008, The FAIR GAME Project was born. Gay created her own narratives pulling from media, poetry, folklore, African and Greek mythologies, and using wood panel, oil, acrylic and vinyl paint to communicate her vision. Gay uses her art as a platform to advocate for issues she is most passionate about. The FAIR GAME Project is inspired by the artist’s belief that African American males are being hunted like wild game. Inspired by the work of Kara Walker and Aaron Douglas, Gay employs black silhouettes against colorful, patterned backgrounds of deer-men being chased. Her goal is to develop a visual language that helps people see how police brutality is affecting Black men, Black families and the greater population. Gay observes, “What’s so great about mythology is the way it collapses hierarchies by creating hybrid forms of animal and man to enforce morality, but also create these dualities of fear and intrigue, beast and god. Contemporary American culture creates heroes out of the bad guy as the audience cheers extreme violence in movies and television as they would cheer for their favorite sports team. We are seeing this same mindset being reenacted in real life. We are a desensitized, violent culture. The discussion should be how do we turn away from this?” Several of the FAIR GAME Project pieces of the deer-men will be included in the Sumter exhibition.
We are excited to have Gay on-site for several days in Sumter creating an installation of a black and gold patterned wall as a homage to Black women who have died as a result of racial violence – Korryn Gaines, Sandra Bland, Renisha McBride and Erica Garner.
Lorna Ruth Galloway is a Miami-based artist who grew up in South Florida a block from US Highway 1. The aesthetics of the American roadside have been an integral part of the formation of her visual world-view. Works in photo-based printmaking techniques, screen printing, Polaroid transfers, and large tiled wheat paste installations explore space, time, nostalgia, and the mediated experience.”
Galloway received her MFA in Visual Arts from Florida International University in 2016 and her BFA (Magna Cum Laude) with a focus on Printmaking from Florida Atlantic University in 2011. She was the Helen M. Salzberg Artist in Residence at the Jaffe Center for Book Arts in 2012.
Galloway’s 2016 exhibition Deadpan Realities was an ingenious mash-up of today’s video-game culture, historical Pop Art, and contemporary art making. Its foundation was the extremely popular video game Grand Theft Auto V (a favorite of the artist’s). Galloway’s halftone prints explore homage and appropriation, reality and commodity. The iconic scenery in the video calls to mind Pop Artist Ed Ruscha’s iconic photographs of gas stations. Galloway’s practice has been greatly influenced by Ruscha. She adds her own level of appropriation, and “reclaims” what she terms “the supposedly banal.” She incorporates cellphone camera snapshots–to capture the deserted Ruscha-like urbanscapes – resulting in exceptional explorations of mediation, materials, and image making.
Grand Theft Auto V is set in the fictional city of Los Santos, a sprawling metropolis modeled after Los Angeles. The landscape is populated with 1950s southern California-based vernacular architecture. Galloway is recreating Ed Ruscha’s Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1963) using photographs of gasoline stations from Grand Theft Auto V. Images are captured during game play using a cell phone camera. Gas stations are situated in the picture plane as close to Ruscha’s as possible. Photographs are then uploaded to Rockstar Games Social Club, an online platform similar to Instagram, for other members to see. Galloway downloads the photographs and uses Photoshop to create halftone separations for screen-printing. The halftone, a logarithmic transformation of an image into a series of tiny dots to simulate a continuous tone image, exaggerates the digital, screen-based aspect of the image. At the same time, it references the tradition of photographic reproduction in printmaking.
Galloway combines two seemingly irreconcilable modes – charcoal and silk screen, with the use of a digital image sourced from a video game. Printing with charcoal creates a grayscale image. Moving away from the full color, obviously digital image, the screen prints become more abstracted. The images are screen printed using a powdered charcoal. She pushes, drops, and scatters the charcoal dust over a fine mesh screen that sits above bright white sketch paper. The unpredictable movement of the charcoal creates spontaneous marks both inside and outside of the image area. The tight weave allows for super-fine detail so text is still legible in some parts of the final prints. The dust that the process of screen printing in deep black charcoal creates exaggerates the halftone of the photographic stencil used. Charcoal blown across the paper while screen printing outdoors leaves gestural lines, and areas where the charcoal has fallen against the paper are speckled, like that of mold.
The gasoline stations’ corporate icons serve as signifiers to the viewer but only those familiar with the video game will realize these brands don’t really exist. The gas prices serve as an indication of the time the photo was taken. This practice creates images of an “AnyTown, USA” that are simultaneously a delicate homage to the places and a blurred disappearance of them.
For the Sumter County Gallery of Art exhibition, in addition to the color halftone photographs and charcoal screen prints, Galloway plans an installation that will engulf the viewer in a multi-dimensional construct of scenes in South Carolina that the artist captured on visits to the state – Sumter County and Summerton – the rural landscapes of South Carolina. Visually stimulating imagery of natural areas and roadside structures will be warmly coated in multi-colored lights.
As with all the exhibitions the gallery presents, it is a community effort made possible by our sponsors: Sumter Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Ralph and Toye Canty, The Glenmore and May Sharp Trust, and a grant from the Sumter County Cultural Commission which receives support from the John and Susan Bennett Arts Fund of the Coastal Community Foundation of SC, the SC Arts Commission and the Nat’l Endowment for the Arts.