JoAnne McFarland & Sasha Chavchavadze, co–curators
Sasha and I have had many discussions over the past three years about how to flourish as artists, creating work that energizes us, and that opens paths to community with others.
Our discussions have gone very deep. We’ve worked to develop common understandings that feel clear and concise. For instance, when we speak of “artist” we mean—someone who creates an arresting presentation of evidence of a human life. We believe that, from an early age, all humans beings will do this, and many place tremendous value on the process; a few make doing so their life’s work.
Our discussions have led to several collaborations and exhibitions: Sediment at PS 122 Gallery, Said I Meant at Artpoetica Project Space, Alluvium at South Slope Local, and As Above So Below at The Gowanus Dredgers Boathouse. Now, we are launching SALLY, an exhibition occurring simultaneously at three venues: The Gowanus Dredgers Boathouse, The Old Stone House & Washington Park, and Artpoetica Project Space. SALLY refers to Sally Hemings, a bi–racial slave woman who had six children with American Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, and also sally: a military sortie out of a besieged place.
We chose these three unorthodox venues to emphasize our belief that the fruits of creativity shine in community spaces that have other uses in addition to displaying art (in contrast to the typical museum, or gallery).
For SALLY, we selected twenty–one 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 we encourage 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?
SALLY is our latest portal into working dynamically in our own practices, and supporting the work of other artists. We expect SALLY to grow in the coming months as we encounter more artists interested in reanimating the narratives of women in the past who can serve as catalysts in this radical present, and who are motivated to create evidence of their own lives for future generations. This archive of material related to past and present female makers will provide the enduring fulcrum of SALLY.