Monday, July 09, 2007

Integrated Art

I never want to be thought of as an Angry Race Woman. Someone who can never appreciate the beauty around her because she is always ranting and raving about some injustice that the MAN has thrust upon her people.

Clearly, as evidenced by this blog, I am obsessed with racial issues, but I'm always on the look-out for signs of progress and thoughtful integration, not just instances of racial inequities. BUT, I think I'm going to have to put on my Angry Black Woman hat for a moment.

Yesterday I took my two SpaNegro boys to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It was pay what you want day, so the hubby and I decided to beat the heat and expose the boys to some culture at the same time. No agenda, just a chance to show them what "art" looks like in a big museum. After some exciting hands-on crafts we headed to the Arms and Armor exhibit, dashed through the special exhibit on William H. Johnson and then strolled through the great hall to view some of the modern and contemporary artists. We really wanted to show our older son some Joan Miro paintings because they show a striking similarity to the artwork he brings home from kindergarten!

As we're walking and the boys are gazing at the different paintings on the wall, I find myself looking for any paintings by or of people of color. After a short while the kids started getting antsy and we knew we would have to leave soon but I almost started feeling desperate to show them something, anything that would prove to them that people that looked like them were part of this amazing display of art. Granted we pointed out Picasso, Miro and Dali, Spanish artists, but the work of the Negro was nowhere in sight, save the Johnson exhibit in a separate hall downstairs.

By chance we noticed a Diego Rivera mural behind the staircase on our way out, so we felt we were getting closer to some colored people's art. Just as I was about to curse out the curators, the experts and the board of directors of the Philadelphia Museum for not including Black artists in this massive building, in a city with a double digit Black population, I noticed a flyer at the information desk. Right there in front of me there was a listing of all of the "African-American Works on View." Ooops. Glad I didn't open my mouth. And next to that there was a similar listing of Latino Works on View. I just didn't know where to look.


Three massive floors of phenomenal art, whole galleries dedicated to, American art, European Art(early and modern), Costume and Textiles, Asian Art, the aforementioned armor and only 15 pieces of artwork done by African-Americans are on display. And of those 15, two are cups and two are pieces of furniture, meaning one would be hard-pressed to know that a person of color created them. The contributions of Black-American artists in the Philadelphia Museum of Art can be listed on a single sheet of paper. The Latinos' contributions at least, stretched to two.

It would be one thing if Black people and Latinos just weren't an artistic people and had nothing to contribute to the art world, but we know that's not true which makes this all the more painful to accept. Except for special exhibitions, why are the works of Black and Latino artists not on the walls with their contemporaries? Why is there not a Black American or African gallery? Why is there no Latin American gallery? Is it racism? Is it ignorance? Is it apathy?

Whatever the reason, a great city like Philadelphia who wants to be the Next Big City, will never get my vote (even though I live here now) if their world famous museum doesn't include the work of the world's artists. They promote their "international collection of nearly 225,000 works of art," but fail to mention that the colored people's work didn't make the cut. And obviously if they are putting out flyers highlighting the works of African-Americans and Latinos (which coincidentally are almost all Mexican not a reflection of the diversity of Latino artists) then they know that people want to see works by artists of color.

Shame Shame Philly Museum. It's time to integrate your walls.


cloudscome said...

Great post! You should publish this further, like maybe in the paper or something. More folks need to read this.

Miss Profe said...

I found my way to your blog via Multiracial Sky. Like you, I don't want to be another Angry Woman of Color. It's not healthy, doesn't contribute much, and besides, I need my health and sanity to be of any good in this world.

Anyway, I appreciated your museum story. My brother and I visit a major museum about once a year, and like and appreciate all types of art. We have, however, found our way to such exhibits as Jacob Lawrence, and the Malcolm X papers which are on repository at the Schomburg in NYC. I say, we "found our way" because these exhibits aren't widely advertised, and unless one is a part of a group or organization of color, or knows sombone who is, such events quietly pass by without the proverbial blip on the screen.

BTW: I concur with cloudsome: you should publish your post on "Integrated Art."

Anonymous said...

There should be more black artists represented but it would disturb me if everything were segregated. We can hold our own in the halls with everyone else. We Black people need to educate ourselves about our own great artists and insist they be represented with all those considered great.

Anonymous said...

Why do you have to refer to your kids as SpaNegroes instead of their names or just "my kids and i went to the museum"? Why does their ethnicity have to be the aspect of them that you refer to? I wonder if your kids will grow up well adjusted.