Sonya Clark: Finding Freedom opens at Jepson Center

Sonya Clark: Constellation-Creation

As a mixed media artist Sonya Clark work has used everyday items to address tangled histories, cultural heritage and identity and now her latest work Sonya Clark: Finding Freedom has found its way to the Telfair Museums’ Jepson Center and will be on display there from Oct. 1, Jan. 17, 2022.

“Many of my family members taught me the value of a well-told story and so it is that I value the stories held in objects,” said Clark. 

Sonya Clark is a Professor of Art and the History of Art at Amherst College(MA) and was a Distinguished Research Fellow in the School of the Arts at VA Commonwealth Univ. 

On Sep. 30 at 6 p.m. Clark will present the 2021 Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Lecture to open her exhibition. 

Following the lecture will be the Telfair Museums’ Friends of African American Art (FAAA) 2021 Small Works Members Exhibition opening reception. 

“I want people to know and to see the diverse group of multi-talented artists that make up part of FAAA and how they shape its core. They range from college students, college grads, up-and-coming, mid-career to well-known world class artists,” said Calvin Woodum, artist (Cal Wood Art) and FAAA Chair.

Friends of African American Arts, or FAAA, is a member group of people across genders, ethnicities, and ages brought together by their appreciation of the artistic and cultural contributions of African Americans. Woodun wants people to know that local artists take pride in belonging to an art group that is so much bigger than them.

 “I want people to know they have a vested interest in what we have right here at our fingertips and what we have right here in our own backyard. When they familiarize themselves with our illustrious founder, Dr. Walter O. Evans, they will be in awe of his accomplishments and want to be part of his legacy. As we all know, Savannah, is no stranger to making history, being history and sharing its history with the rest of the world,” said Woodum.

Sonya Clark: Finding Freedom is part of Telfair Museums’ Legacy of Slavery in Savannah Initiative, a multiyear project which engages local Savannahians, artist, scholars, and activists to consider how the legacies of slavery still manifest in the city. 

This exhibition is organized by the Phillips Museum of Art at Franklin & Marshall College in collaboration with Telfair Museums and is curated by Amy Moorefield. The presentation of this exhibition at Telfair Museums is curated by Erin Dunn, associate curator of modern and contemporary art.

“After doing my independent research of her, I was pleasantly surprised to hear her say something I have thought and said rather recently. From a March 2019 interview with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Clark talks about racism. 

She states that her father used to say racism was like a mental illness and that it was also something highly contagious. When I heard her say this, it certainly struck a chord with me. Hearing someone I’ve never met share a parallel thought I’ve had reminds me of how much of a connection we artists have,” said Woodum.

Finding Freedom’ consists of a large-scale canopy quilted together from cyanotype reactive fabric squares that were made with the help of workshop participants over the course of Clark’s various residencies.

“I gained an appreciation for craft and the value of the handmade primarily from my maternal grandmother, who was a professional tailor,” Clark has said. 

Draped as a night sky overhead, the work offers a celestial viewpoint that encourages us to consider freedom seeking enslaved individuals whose forced labor built the wealth of this nation.

Often under cover of night with bounty hunters at their heels, they used the constellations like the Big Dipper to orient their way North along the Underground Railroad—a network of people, safe houses, and clandestine routes used by enslaved people in the early to mid-19th century to escape from states, such as Georgia, that sanctioned slavery, into Northern states and Canada.

Clark work has been exhibited in over 400 museums and galleries in the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe, and Australia. She is the recipient of a United States Artist Fellowship, a Pollock-Krasner Foundation award, an 1858 Prize, and an Anonymous Was a Woman Award.

For more information about Sonya Clark: Finding Freedom, FAAA and more visit telfair.org


 

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