MU intern Kat Cua curated the hall exhibit titled As I Am, the culminating project of her time at Sager Braudis. The exhibit features work by artists Laura Baran, Jarvis Boyland, Helen Hawley, and Simon Tatum, each of whom created portraits that document real-life individuals, most of whom the artist knows personally. Kat sought to use this exhibit as a way to combat the toxicity of the all-too-prevalent cultural norm of exceptionalism, reacting to the way it affects marginalized communities in particular. Exceptionalism deems people worthy and grants them visibility only when they are the most exceptional at whatever service they are able to provide, stripping individuals of the luxury to make mistakes and the comfort to be unremarkable. Exceptionalism only accounts for those who are the absolute best, failing to recognize that every human is worthy and valuable simply because they exist. Kat chose each of these portraits for its documentation of real people and its elevation of the everyday and celebration of the ordinary as opposed to the spectacular.
Helen Hawley, born in Missouri, now lives and works in Madison, Wisconsin, where she teaches drawing at Beloit College. She graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design and the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she received a graduate fellowship. Hawley’s multidisciplinary projects include sculpture, painting, artists’ books, prints, performance, and video. In this exhibit, Hawley is showing a monotype and oil paintings on paper that date back to 2009 and 2010 respectively. These quiet images depict candid portraits in domestic interiors, their soft and indistinct edges suggesting that little separates the interior body from the space it inhabits.
Laura Baran, born in New Jersey, now lives and works in the Hell’s Kitchen area of New York City. She graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York with a BFA in illustration. Baran is a figurative painter of portraiture and landscapes, drawing on her emotional responses to her surroundings to create her work. In addition to her painting, Baran also creates illustration work for national clients. In Baran’s paintings for this exhibit, she celebrates the functionality and beauty of everyday people, revealing a narrative of inspiration in the ordinary.
Jarvis Boyland is a painter who lives and works in Chicago, Illinois. He was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, where he also attended the University of Memphis and earned his BFA in painting. In his studio practice, Jarvis navigates the intersectional tropes of blackness in his paintings, drawing on his experience as a southern black gay male as well as his rejection of his conservative upbringing. Girl with the Hoop Earrings works to situate, centralize, and celebrate the black femme within the long history of portraiture, one that is largely white.
Simon Tatum is a multidisciplinary artist from the Cayman Islands who’s concerned with the local-global negotiation of visual culture and historical dialogue and questioning how local populations absorb global influences through visual media and inherited objects. In his work, Tatum challenges the appeal for marketable subjects and interrogates, analyzes and traces the global lineage of visual devices that are significant to the Cayman Islands such as religious symbols, post-mortem mementoes, documentary photographs, and tourist advertisements. Tatum’s work Miss contains two portrait drawings on paper. These drawings were made by rendering an original screen print transfer that was taken from an image in the Cayman National Archives called “Unidentifiable Caymanian Woman.”