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Gallery C3 at Alchemy exhibit’s message: Be water
Connects disenfranchised people with water
 
Published Saturday, June 13, 2020 9:23 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

PHOTO | ASHLEY MAHONEY
Scott Summers' work is among the exhibits at "H20/20, Elemental Retribution" at Gallery C3 at Alchemy.

Water can teach a lot about injustice.


“H20/20, Elemental Retribution” explores this theme through art. The exhibition was scheduled to open in April at Gallery C3 at Alchemy (2517 Distribution St.). Then COVID-19 happened. Curator Janelle Dunlap and 11 artists held the opening celebration on June 5, with social distancing measures in place. It remains on view through Aug. 2.


The show features artists from Charlotte in Anderson Brasileiro, Ajane’ K. Williams, Jonathan Cooper, MyLoan Dinh, Malik J. Norman, Helms Jarrell, Scott Summers, as well as artists from Columbia, South Carolina, in Cedric Umoja; Pasadena, California in Madison Elaine and Chicago in Tanya Scruggs Ford.


“This is an exhibition that initially was meant to highlight the issue connecting disenfranchised people and communities with the element of water,” Dunlap said. “I noticed that there was this repeating element of water and justice. Whether you are a native tribe fighting for sacred land, because people want access to that water, or you are a refugee who has to cross water in order to get to a space where you feel safe. I felt that water was the connecting element between all of those stories. It just so happens a pandemic broke out in the midst of planning this show. What we see is somewhat a reflection of pre and post-COIVD-19.”


The show includes multiple mediums, such as Cooper’s untitled photography series featuring New Orleans and New York City during the beginning of COVID-19. Cooper contracted the virus but ultimately recovered.


“Beneath the surface of troubled waters, there’s much hope for staying above water,” his artist statement says.


While Cooper’s experience is more immediate, MyLoan Dinh’s mixed media piece summons memories from long ago, when she and her family sought refuge in the United States from Vietnam. Her piece “One Nation…for ALL” speaks to that journey. The art includes life vests, whistles and paint on wood to create an American flag. When she and her family were crossing the Pacific Ocean toward the United States, they had to wave an American flag for U.S.forces to take them in.


“It’s not white flag—it’s not a show of surrender,” Dunlap said. “It’s almost saying, ‘rescue me. Take me in.’ It’s literally seeking refuge. I haven’t really liked the visual of the American flag the last couple of years, but this helped me reclaim a little bit more pride in it — just knowing at one point a symbol of an American flag was significant. It didn’t threaten you. Learning her story and connecting the dots. That was a full transformation, just in that moment, when I realized the value of what that flag meant to her family.”


Dunlap hopes those who view the exhibit leave feeling empowered by the artists who used their stories to connect.


“I’m hoping also that people see and recognize the connecting threads and the deeper messages behind the work, which was again initially to connect people from various backgrounds to the similar story of having water as a part of their crisis—our historic personal narratives, but maybe this will help connect dots for folks, that when we talk about crisis, when we talk about social issues, it’s everything,” she said. “It’s not just race. It’s something as simple as water, and access to water, and clean water, or having to navigate oceans and seas to get to a safe space. Often times, your race is a face in that, and contributes to that crisis.”


Live art has been on hiatus due to the pandemic, as most galleries and museums remain closed. While several offer virtual programing, the in-person experience cannot be replicated.

“I really see this as a welcome back—welcome back to the resurgence of some normalcy,” Dunlap said. “However, things have had to shift. Things have had to change. I’m looking forward to welcoming the creative community with this show.”

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