New U-M mural, exhibition by Detroit artist celebrate labor of Black women in America

Source: Michigan News

“Articulating Boom Shakalacka” by Sydney James (a self portrait), is part of “Watch Me Work — Portraits of Self,” an exhibition now on view on the exterior of the University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities Gallery. Image credit: Anthony Hughes

“Watch Me Work — Portraits of Self,” a new public art installation by Detroit artist Sydney James at the University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities Gallery, honors and celebrates the labor of Black women.

The installation, which was created as part of a fall artist residency with the institute, includes eight large-scale portraits on canvas depicting Black women at work in various roles, repositioning the narrative of their role in society from “less than or least of” to “deeply valued.”

“Sarah the Whatevershechoosestobe-(h)er” by Sydney James (pictured) is a new mural in the lobby of U-M’s Modern Languages Building. I Image credit: Amanda Krugliak

“James often uses women from her immediate circle as her models, including fellow artists, relatives and friends,” said Amanda Krugliak, curator and director of the Institute for the Humanities Gallery. “Consequently, the paintings feel intimate yet on a grander scale—and honor both the individual and community.”

With the gallery closed to the public due to COVID-19, “Watch Me Work” will be completely visible from the street. Artwork will be hung in the Washington and Thayer streets first floor windows of the institute, with two additional works visible through the gallery window on Thayer as part of a public celebration of these meaningful human relationships and connections.

Born and raised in Detroit, James often uses her art as a form of protest. Most recently, she completed “The Malice Green Mural Monument” on the side of the Hamilton-Tucker Gallery on the border of Detroit and Hamtramck. She has also painted murals in New Orleans, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Honolulu and Ghana.

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