reflect / project is an ongoing exhibition series featuring socially engaged video work by artists who identify as LGBTQIA+, Black, Indigenous, and/or persons of color.
The reflect / project exhibition series originated in fall 2020. This series grew from the racial reckoning, shifting policy regarding LGBTQIA+ people, and the global pandemic that cracked open a vision of long-standing inequity. reflect / project serves to amplify underrepresented artists while creating a public space for viewers to consider their position in our rapidly changing world. Artists have responded to violence and discrimination throughout history and the creative works that emerged have endured over time. They become the artifacts that society measures us by, how we are remembered, and a guide to the future.
Works are projected on the street-facing gallery wall of the subCulture Lab at Mid-America Arts Alliance for one month, with new content premiering on the first Friday of each month. Additionally, selected artists will be asked to choose two artists (of any discipline) whose work will be hosted online as a complement to the work displayed in the subCulture Lab.
June 4–July 1
Saint Louis Story Stitchers Artists Collective piece WADE is a work from the multi-year project titled, The WHY of MY City. The WHY of MY City captures and documents black history through written word and art and gives audiences insight into neighbors’ lives. The WHY of MY City and WADE were presented in 2020 with support from Mid-America Arts Alliance and the National Endowment for the Arts, Missouri Humanities Council, a state agency, National Endowment for the Humanities, Missouri Foundation for Health, and Kranzberg Arts Foundation. Story Stitchers published an album titled The WHY of MY City which contains WADE and a podcast series, StitchCast Studio Special Edition: The WHY of MY City in spring 2021.
Saint Louis Story Stitchers Artists Collective was founded in 2013 to combat gun violence. Incorporated as a charity in 2014, Story Stitchers creates a platform for community engagement through an artistic lens to shift perceptions and inspire hope for the Saint Louis community. Through a unique form of “urban storytelling,” Story Stitchers promote peace, understanding, and civic pride.
Saint Louis Story Stitchers Artists Collective, WADE, 2020; digital video, time: 5:48; Courtesy of the artists.
Music by Ntegrity and KP Dennis, with Stitchers Youth Council members Emeara, Branden, AnnaLise, Shawn, Cali, Rachel and She’Kinah
Engineering and Mixing by Ntegrity, Mastering by Preston Jones, Sawhorse Studio
Videography by Troy Anthony, Editing by Susan Colangelo
Joshua D. Williams is an African American / Biracial visual artist from Baltimore, Maryland, currently living in Saint Louis, Missouri. He works in drawing and painting through mixed media. He creates narratives through characters that reflect my cultural, racial, and political identity and views. The work is graphic and rough, displaying conditions in his world in an honest fashion.
This body of work is about understanding of self and black bodies as an African American man through multiple sources and collaboration. It covers possibilities for healing especially in urban and underinvested communities.
City Dance explores the beauty and innovation of the human form in a rough and difficult landscape. The work was created in a collaboration between St. Louis crump dancer Anthony Rhodes and Joshua D. Williams and artists at Saint Louis Story Stitchers. The video was created at a block party event near his neighborhood in St. Louis. After seeing the live dance performance, Anthony and Joshua started to work together and he photographed him dancing at the studio and then interpreted his movements through charcoal drawing on paper. A Story Stitchers videographer helped them put the final video together with original music from the Stitchers’ library of beats. The piece was created in 2020 for Saint Louis Story Stitchers’ The WHY of MY City program, which was funded in part by Mid-America Arts Alliance.
Joshua Williams (drawings) in collaboration with Anthony Rhodes (dance) and Saint Louis Story Stitchers (beats and videography), City Dance, 2020; video, dance, charcoal on paper, time: 2:01; Courtesy of the artists.
Cinderella Story explores a fantasy aspect, appropriating beauty as described by others and transforming it to fit my own narrative. Two figures are seen, a woman in front with the shadow of a large male that acts as her protector. At the bottom, a blue flower, a piece of cotton with thorns attached, and a picture of racial stereotypes, help to define the setting and environment in which the figures live, as a rough, difficult landscape. Cinderella, the main character, is based on the folk tale, and in the drawing our heroine finds her true love and prevails over cruelty.
Joshua Williams, Cinderella Story, 2021; oil on canvas, 24 x 18 inches; Courtesy of the artist.
Jordan Lee is a printmaker, sculptor, and digital artist based in St. Louis, MO. He is a B.F.A. candidate in Studio Art at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis.
His work is often experimental in approach and possesses a growing focus on the politics behind the violative use of surveillance technologies. More generally, his practice is centered around themes of surveillance, dehumanization, fracture between the self and the body, and white control of historical narratives. He explores the emotional experience of what it means to be monitored instead of seen. His process often involves using my body to simulate the experience of being observed through an inherently biased and reductive digital lens. He is deeply interested in how we respond when aware of how we are surveilled.
UCU is an interactive site-specific installation piece that was installed in the Walker showroom at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts. It was open to viewers for a single day from 8 am to 5 pm. For the piece, a semi-hidden camera was fixed to the ceiling above and slightly in front of the monolithic form attached to the wall. It was continuously recording and live-streaming to a computer hidden within the monolith. The recording was then displayed on a monitor, but with a delay.
The visual similarities between the faux-concrete material and the displayed image of the floor invite the viewer to examine the monolithic form more closely, and to ponder the connection between the artificiality of material and the translation of the physical space into digital space. One might assume that the monitor is displaying a static image. However, upon approaching the work, one discovers that they are being surveilled from above. The delay in the video makes this realization sudden and more unexpected. In order to investigate and approach the work, the viewer unintentionally participates in the piece. The process of observing is therefore inextricably tied to the experience of being observed. The delay and perspective of the surveillance camera combine to create a feeling of disorientation, as the space and body of the viewer are flattened, and they must observe their movements and actions after the fact. Some participate in the piece by making separate and distinct movements and waiting until they can observe them on the screen. The situation creates a somewhat destabilizing sense of time and removes the ease at which one can act and observe themselves simultaneously. The surveilled image of oneself may be experienced as more of a separate entity.
UCU explores the defamiliarizing and alienating experience of unintentionally entering a situation where you participate in your own surveillance.
Jordan Lee, U C U, 2020; enamel paint, acrylic paint, wood, insulation foam board, iPhone, laptop, and computer monitor, 80 x 25 x 5 inches; Courtesy of the artist.
Jordan Lee, installation view of U C U, 2020; enamel paint, acrylic paint, wood, insulation foam board, iPhone, laptop, and computer monitor, 80 x 25 x 5 inches; Courtesy of the artist.
Jordan Lee, Swimming, 2021; collaged digital scans, 300 x 375 inches; Courtesy of the artist.
Jordan Lee, Down beat / Beat down, 2020; charcoal on wood panel, 16 x 21 inches; Courtesy of the artist.
Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA) is pleased to present the final lineup of outstanding artists for the reflect / project series, which features video work projected in person at M-AAA headquarters and through an online gallery with supplementary works chosen by the featured artists. Artists Xochitl Rodriguez, Brian Ellison, Sav Rodgers, and the Saint Louis Story Stitchers were selected from a competitive pool of applicants from across the six-state M-AAA region (Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas). All in-person exhibitions will occur nightly at M-AAA headquarters, 2018 Baltimore in Kansas City, Missouri, from 6:00–10:00 p.m., and the digital exhibition will accompany right here.
Artist Sav Rodgers of Olathe, Kansas, presents No Reason for Celebration, an archival documentary project that juxtaposes the early gay liberation movement with modern LGBTQ+ rights activism. Relying solely on the archival footage sourced by the filmmakers, this project highlights how trans people are often shunned from their own movements for the sake of “progress.” The sharp juxtaposition of these images promises to leave an impact that leaves viewers questioning, “What exactly have we been celebrating?”
Sav Rodgers is a filmmaker, writer, podcaster, film festival professional, and nonprofit executive. His work tends to center on the queer experience through a comedic or personal lens. He is the director of CHASING CHASING AMY, an upcoming feature documentary about the cultural impact of Chasing Amy (1997) on the greater LGBTQ+ community and the profound, lasting impression on his own life. Rodgers also delivered a TED Talk on the subject titled, “The rom-com that saved my life” in 2018. In 2019, he received the Filmmaker of the Year Award at the Austin Revolution Film Festival.
To view Rodriguez’s April exhibition, visit this page.
April’s exhibition is from El Paso, Texas artist Xochitl Rodriguez. Grown Without Water is a collective video/oral history project that explores how the US/México border between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez marks and defines perseverance on a twenty-first-century border. Confronting tragedy and magic at once, the film, documenting and translating the stories of real women who are between the ages of twenty-eight and thirty-eight, provides an alternate lens through which to view border crossing, tragedy, and brown-skinned women.
Xochitl Rodriguez was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. In 2009, she accepted an invitation from Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck as Bhutan’s first artist in residence. In 2011, Rodriguez moved to the middle of America to participate in the Charlotte Street Foundation’s Urban Culture Project. She returned home to initiate the Caldo Collective, a non-profit organization. In 2016, she organized Boundless Across Borders—a womxn’s march on the border and Braiding Borders | Trenzando Fronteras. In 2018, Rodriguez and her daughter served as ambassadors for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation’s We Will Not Be Tamed Campaign. The artist also was awarded an Interchange grant, M-AAA’s program that supports artists working as change agents and connectors in the region.
To view Ellison’s May exhibition, visit this page.
May’s exhibition is from Houston, Texas artist Brian Ellison. UnMASKunlinity, which explores the complexity of African American masculinity by documenting the daily lives of the Black experience and same-gender loving comradery, simultaneously creating safe spaces for Black men to engage in this dialogue. By dismantling the stigma associated with Black masculinity and speaking about subjects that are traditionally taboo in the Black community, the film impacts viewers and participants by allowing them to gain perspective on how the emotional boundaries that were created centuries ago, beginning with American slavery, have been passed down—reflected in how today’s Black men understand and experience their emotions.
Brian Ellison is a self-taught photographer, cinematographer, and conceptual visual artist. He is the director and producer of the film UnMASKulinity and the founder of The Black Man Project. Ellison believes there is no limit to self-expression and that art is a universal language that can be the catalyst for healing. Through his lens, Ellison documents the everyday Black experience such as gentrification’s impact on historical communities, under-publicized Black love and comradery, parenthood, and the persistent courage of Black women and men.
reflect / project is an extension of Mid-America Arts Alliance’s Interchange program in collaboration with its Arts and Humanities Programming Division. It is supported in part by the City of Kansas City, Missouri Neighborhood Tourist Development Fund.