Claiming the Narrative

Main Gallery
February 4–May 22, 2022
Gallery View of Claiming the Narrative

Photo by Etienne Frossard

When we consider the history of portraiture and figurative painting, who do we find most often represented on the walls of museums? Whose stories are told and to whom are they directed? Who steers the narratives of art and history? Far too often, the answer to these questions has been “white men.” But when we answer the same questions with “people of color,” “queer people,” “women,” or “people from immigrant, diasporic, or colonized communities,” we expand the possibility of hearing a different story, repopulated with figures more reflective of who we are collectively.

Claiming the Narrative asserted the importance of asking these questions and highlights artists who suggest alternative answers. Centering subjects who have been marginalized, ignored, exoticized, or even erased from the narrative of Western art history, the eleven artists in this exhibition challenged assumptions about traditional portraiture, identity, history, and the power of the gaze. While some drew from Renaissance and other art historical traditions and others respond to popular culture, they all created new ways for us to see ourselves. Together, they provided a more authentic representation of contemporary life by broadening and diversifying the possibilities of figurative art.

Artists include: Tyler Ballon, Santiago Galeas, Alex Gardner, Todd Gray, Layqa Nuna Yawar, Shona McAndrew, Arcmanoro Niles, Ron Norsworthy, Ransome, Mickalene Thomas, and Philemona Williamson.

Baptism by Tyler Ballon
What's Left of Me (Wild Heart) by Arcmanoro Niles

Tyler Ballon, Baptism, 2018. Oil on canvas, 54 x 54 inches. Collection of Tamer Farooqui
Photo by Etienne Frossard

Arcmanoro Niles, What’s Left of Me (Wild Heart), 2018, Oil, acrylic, and glitter on canvas, 32 x 34 inches. Ann & Mel Schaffer Family Collection

Forgot My Wallet by Alex Gardner
Kaguya by Shona McAndrew

Alex Gardner, Forgot My Wallet, 2017 Acrylic on linen, 48 x 36 inches. Ann & Mel Schaffer Family Collection

Shona McAndrew, Kaguya, 2020, Acrylic on canvas, 48 x 38 inches. Collection of Charmaine and Roman Mendoza

Jefferson's Bedroom by Ron Norsworthy
Akwidaa | Luxembbourg by Todd Gray

Ron Norsworthy, Jefferson’s Bedroom (allegory #1), 2021, Color photograph collage on archival board and ethylene-vinyl acetate foam on wood panel, in artist-made frame, 46 x 54 inches. Courtesy of the artist

Todd Gray, Akwidaa | Luxembourg, 2019, Two archival pigment prints in artist’s frames and found frames, UV laminate 34 x 26 x 2 inches. Ann & Mel Schaffer Family Collection

Who Should Own Black Art? by Ransome
Ain't I A Woman by Mickalene Thomas

Ransome, Who Should Own Black Art?, 2020, Acrylic and collage on canvas, 36 x48 inches. Courtesy of the artist

Mickalene Thomas, Ain’t I A Woman (Keri), 2009, Rhinestone, acrylic, and enamel on panel, 36 x 28 inches.
Video (color, sound; 3:33 min.), Framed monitor: 17 ¾ x 24 x 5 ⅜ inches. Ann & Mel Schaffer Family Collection

Altaristx by Santiago Galeas

Santiago Galeas, Altaristx, 2020, Oil on canvas, 66 x 55 in. Collection of Jonathan Travis
Photo by Etienne Frossard

Embroidered Dream by Philemona Williamson
Layqa Nuna Yawar, WNY

Philemona Williamson, Embroidered Dream, 2021, Oil on linen, 48 x 60 inches. Courtesy of the artist

Layqa Nuna Yawar, WNY, 2020, oil on canvas, 60 x 36 inches. Courtesy of the artist