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Misplaced birds, the divine feminine, and the multiple dimensions of truth

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A visitor at the Jacob Lawrence Art Gallery admires "Faisal, Aaron, and Wednesday the Owl. " by C. Davida Ingram during the opening night of "A Book With No Pages" on February 6th, 2018.

In the early 1940s, Seattle artist Jacob Lawrence produced 60 masterful paintings called “The Great Migration” which chronicled the exodus of African-Americans from the South to the North in the early 20th century. Decades later, Seattle artist C. Davida Ingram created a series of visual art to contribute her chapter in narrating the human experience of African Diaspora. 

On Tues. Feb. 7, Ingram’s exhibition “A Book with No Pages” opened at the Jacob Lawrence Gallery located on the ground floor of the UW’s Art Building. Ingram is this year’s Jacob Lawrence Legacy Resident. Since 2015, the Jake’s artist-in-residence program has aimed to feature art that reflects experiences of the African Diaspora.

In “A Book with No Pages,” Ingram’s work honors black Seattle artists including Jacob Lawrence, Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence, James Washington Jr., and Barbara Earl Thomas to produce a series of photographs that consider radical black imagination in this political moment of the Trump era.

The exhibition consisted of multi-sized printed photographs, with some printed ultra-sheer cloth, and two digital videos. The photo series is made up of portraits of either individuals or a few people and are strung together by common objects intentionally placed in the photos. Repeatedly, Ingram’s photos show birds perched on the arms of the photographed and are backdropped with a grayish-blue seascape. 

The digital videos made a particularly visceral impact. In the piece entitled “After Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha: David and Randy with Meditation on Ochun,” the subject of the video inhales and exhales with fur crossed over his chest; the video shows only his lips and the ebb and flow of subtle movements reflected in the movement of the animal fur, a movement quickly translated to the viewer’s body. 

Near the end of the natural progression of photographs, a powerful shift occurs; Ingram’s introduction of the color pink seems to represent a reorientation into a position of power. Pink roses and a pink parachute boldly bring the photographed woman a new lightness and divinity.

In an Instagram post about a photograph directly preceding the introduction of pink into the series, Ingram wrote: “What is the divine feminine in ordinary time? How do feminine principles awaken us to deeper beauty and witness? Black women have long been my muses because I find answers to these questions loving myself and other powerful black women and nonbinary people who are divining truths. Our beauty is wise. Enduring. Accepting. Transformative. Awake to Life. Aware of Power.” 

Ingram’s photographs speak to gender, race, and social relationships accompanied by a powerful reimagining of the possibilities of this expression and power. 

From beginning to end, Ingram’s exhibit brought about varied feelings and questions within me. Its depth speaks to the growing tensions around race, gender, and identity while also illustrating the freedom and triumph possible in identity exploration. If you have the chance, I would definitely recommend checking out “A Book with No Pages” before it closes on Feb. 28.


Reach Wellness Editor Mira Petrillo at arts@dailyuw.comTwitter: @mirap 



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