Visual Arts Center of New Jersey’s Winter/Spring Exhibitions Open February 4

Claiming the Narrative, on DisplaySummit, NJ (February 2, 2022)—The Visual Arts Center of New Jersey (VACNJ) will open the Winter/Spring exhibition season with three new shows on Friday, February 4. The exhibitions will be on view through May 22.

The Main Gallery show, Claiming the Narrative, is a group exhibition that raises the questions, “Whose story gets told on museum walls?” and “Who tells the story?” Centering subjects who have been marginalized, ignored, exoticized, or even erased from Western Art History, the eleven artists in this show challenge assumptions about historical narratives, “classical” portraiture, and the power of the gaze. Collectively, they seek a more authentic representation of contemporary life by broadening and diversifying the possibilities of figurative art. Artists featured include: Tyler Ballon, Santiago Galeas, Alex Gardner, Todd Gray, Layqa Nuna Yawar, Shona McAndrew, Arcmanoro Niles, Ron Norsworthy, Ransome, Mickalene Thomas, and Philemona Williamson.

Concurrently, Jess T. Dugan: Seen will be on display in the Art Center’s Mitzi and Warren Eisenberg Gallery. Dugan is an artist whose work centers around an exploration of identity—particularly gender and sexuality. Drawing from their own experience as a queer, non-binary person, Dugan employs traditional photographic techniques to create color portraits that reflect the complex beauty and humanity of their subjects. This focused exhibition highlights color portraits from their recent and ongoing projects To Survive on This Shore and Every Breath We Drew, and includes a reading area where Dugan’s three fine art photography books will provide a more comprehensive view of their work. Conveying a sense of both directness and intimacy, Dugan’s portraits and self-portraits encourage empathy and understanding and underscore the importance not only of seeing but of being seen.

The work of Parvathi Kumar, collectively titled Everyday Blackness, will be on display in the Marité and Joe Robinson Strolling Gallery I. Beginning in June 2020, Kumar photographed and interviewed 25 Black women in the New Jersey area to showcase their collective courage, tenacity, and resilience. Responding to the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests as well as the global COVID-19 pandemic, the New Jersey-based photographer wanted to document and share the vast goodness she observed in this group of womena goodness that prevailed over the pain people were feeling. Her efforts resulted in the book, Everyday Blackness: Celebrating Exceptional Women, published in 2021. Ranging in age from 19 to 86, the women featured represent a broad array of professions and experiences. This exhibition includes portraits of all 25 women and features quotations and brief bios from each subject.


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

Collin (red room), 2020

 Jess T. Dugan, Collin (red room), 2020, pigmented inkjet print, 40 x 30 inches.
Courtesy of the artist 

Whitney Smith

Parvathi Kumar, Portrait of Whitney Smith, 2020