In 2008, Macaya Gallery director and curator Patrick Glemaud attended a climate change conference in Uganda. There, Rwanda President Paul Kagame spoke of the catastrophic war between the Tutsi and the Hutu. Their war erupted over a politician who incited violence over the radio — not dissimilar, Glemaud notes, to Donald Trump’s hostile temperament and language during his campaign for U.S. president.
“The way Trump incites violence against Muslims or Latinos, it’s dangerous,” he says.
As the 2016 presidential election campaigns began to take shape, Glemaud, who is still a practicing renewable-energy lawyer with the Ontario Bar Association, grew more dissatisfied and fearful of Trump’s messaging. Now, with only a couple of weeks before Election Day, Glemaud will open his gallery to present “American Banned,” a politically charged exhibit featuring works addressing police brutality, censorship, and white privilege from artists Chor Boogie, Stuart Sheldon, and Ashley Reid.
“I like artists who try to express their own interpretation of what they’re going through within society, within the environment [in which] they live, and within themselves,” Glemaud says.
Chor Boogie, who is known in Miami for the boombox mural he painted on the outskirts of Wynwood along I-95, will exhibit pieces from Divided States of America, a series he created in anticipation of the 2012 election. Though four years have passed, nothing has really changed in Boogie’s eyes; the artist says he still distrusts our elected officials. If anything, he says, it’s only gotten worse.
“To me, it’s a puppet show,” he says.
The series features In God We Trust, a porcelain skull covered in U.S. dollar bills, with its third eye perfectly centered on the bill’s “Eye of Providence,” known to represent the eye of God watching over mankind. For Boogie, the skull represents the duality and latent hypocrisy between capitalist greed and religious piety — founding elements of our nation, the artist believes.
United States of Murder, by Stuart Sheldon
Courtesy of "American Banned"
Stuart Sheldon, known for deconstructing printed material and rearranging it in circular collages, was also inspired by the political system’s unfair and manipulative tendencies. In I’m With the Banned, Sheldon raises awareness about injustices occurring throughout America. In one piece, Sheldon rips apart an article about voter fraud and reconstructs it parallel to a photo of voting lines in Arizona, where queues snaked around the block due to reduced polling locations. Voters waited for eight hours, discouraging many of them from actually casting a ballot. Just below, Sheldon includes an old ad from the 1800s depicting a line of slaves.
“Disenfranchising people is just a very small step to enslaving them,” Sheldon says. “I’m trying to manifest fairness by showing how grossly unfair these things are.”
Sheldon says he sees this year's election season as a grotesque perversion of American equality. As a white man, he says, he embraces his identity and the innate privilege associated with it, and he hopes that as an ally, his work can enlighten these perversions.
African American 2, by Ashley Reid
Courtesy of "American Banned"
If Boogie and Sheldon are reacting to the election season in a direct, political, semiacademic approach, artist Ashley Reid challenges preconceived notions of what “political art” can be. Her pieces, from her series White Power, have a hint of anarchy and a slap of kitsch, taking the elegance out of her subject matter.
All the way in the back of Macaya Gallery, Reid’s multimedia video piece will screen. In it, a large twerking butt will be slowed down, removing all sexuality and sensuality from the cheeky flesh.
Historically, people of color have been twerking for a long time. But now, because of the appropriation of black culture, it’s a mainstream thing. Reid hails from Atlanta, where strip-club culture, much like Miami’s, is a part of daily life. She says she wanted to remove the taboo and the mysticism from the act.
“Twerk is a piece where I have a macro-vision of what an ass looks like when it’s twerking, to get all the imperfections in slow motion, to take the sexuality out of it,” Reid says.
Over the image, Reid lays the audio of an argument she had with her husband in which only her voice can be heard.
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“The things I’m saying — that I’m tired of him mocking me, that I’m a female... overlaid with such a sexualized, aggressively imperfect image of a woman’s ass bouncing at you, it gives you a unique visceral response,” Reid says.
Not far away, she will perform Privileged, Please Help, in which Reid disguises herself as a white homeless man who asks for help for being privileged, not for being disenfranchised.
October 25 through November 11 at Macaya Gallery, 145 NW 36th St., Miami. A reception and special performance by Ashley Reid will take place October 27 at 6 p.m. Admission is free. Visit macayagallery.com.