SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC NEWS) — One artist attempted to rewrite the past and change the future in an exhibit at the Point of Contact Gallery in Downtown Syracuse. Fabiola Jean-Louis is a Haitian artist, whose exhibit, “Rewriting History,” was on display at the gallery for the past three months. The exhibit consisted of her hand-painted paper dresses and shoes, as well as photographs of women of color in her dresses.
For most exhibitions, a catalogue is written by academics or fellow artists about the work and how it speaks to them. The catalogue for “Rewriting History” was written by Syracuse University professors Yvonne Buchanan, Tanisha Jackson and PhD candidate Shana Gelin. Gelin is not an artist, as she is seeking her degree in the counseling program. Nonetheless, Gelin said people can interpret different things about the meaning of Jean-Louis’s work.
“So I think for me it brings freedom. And it brings a position for Black women to be in spaces where they are not normally seen and to say: you exist here and you are supposed to be here,” Gelin said.
Syracuse residents had to experience the exhibit in a different way than past years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The gallery put in several restrictions to keep everyone safe, including requiring visitors to make reservations to visit the exhibit and having all of their conversation about the exhibit virtually. Last week, the gallery invited the community to participate in a Zoom call where they could connect with Jean-Louis and all of the catalogue writers. However, the director of the gallery, Sara Felice, said the conversation touched on more than just the exhibit.
“The conversation was really about artists paving the way for social justice and about areas we all need to reflect on even as a global community,” Felice said.
This exhibit came to Syracuse at a time when conversations about race are happening more frequently. During the past year, there have been more conversations about Black voices in all fields including art, due to the prevalence of racial injustice and the the Black Lives Matter movement. Nonetheless, Gelin said these conversations should have been happening a long time ago.
“This already should have already been a conversation. This maybe should not even be a conversation, it should already been applied,” Gelin said. “I think that is why it’s so important, if it hasn’t happened before, to have the conversation now.”
Even though COVID-19 has changed the present, it could not stop Jean-Louis from attempting to rewrite history.