JoAnne McFarland & Sasha Chavchavadze, co–curators


DNA evidence suggests that Sarah ‘Sally’ Hemings and Thomas Jefferson had several children together. While a teenager in France with Jefferson’s family, Hemings had a chance at full freedom, but returned to America with Jefferson in 1791 when he was 47 years old.

SALLY explores how contemporary conceptions of white/black, male/female, young/old, rich/poor reflect or disrupt earlier cultural norms, and how connection, which all humans crave, happens across differences. The exhibition unites an eclectic array of artists and thinkers who use their practices to strengthen community and open dialogue around complex, often divisive issues.

The SALLY Project showcases artists at different stages of their lives and careers, making different kinds of work using different media, from different backgrounds, cultures, races, and ethnicities. In this way the curatorial premise encourages a vibrant mix of viewpoints around the theme of living with agency and radiance in spite of, and perhaps even due to, challenges in one’s environment.

This moment in human history is unique in that technological advances, including the internet and social media systems, are disrupting the status quo on multiple levels: gender dynamics, racial and class divisions that have historically stratified societies, controls on creative output and audience building.

Relevant questions directly or obliquely addressed through SALLY are:

—How do educational and art–related environments use language to reinforce exclusivity through jargon that distances some potential audiences?

—How do influencers and critics use their reactions and analyses of creative output to control artistic visibility and its fruits, and ensure that some makers remain in the shadows?

—How do museums and galleries become encoders of values that preserve the status quo, rather than actors for inclusivity?

The SALLY Project opened in October 2019 at three Brooklyn venues concurrently: The Old Stone House & Washington Park, The Gowanus Dredgers Boathouse, and Artpoetica Project Space. The project will continue in 2021 in Wellfleet, MA, SUNY Adirondack, and  the Long Beach Gallery on Long Island. SALLY will highlight the work of artists interested in reanimating the narratives of women from the past who can serve as catalysts in this radical present. A website that archives materials related to past and present female makers serves as the fulcrum of SALLY.


For more information:


Artists represented in images:

Jee Hwang

Carole Kunstadt

Robin Holder

Philemona Williamson

Fabiola Jean–Louis (left): Shanti Grumbine (right)

Hong Zhang