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MacKenzie Art Gallery opens show exploring "myths and meanings" of whiteness

Leader Post logo Leader Post 2022-08-08 Larissa Kurz
A replica of the famous Apollo Belvedere statue is part of the Conceptions of White exhibit, which opened at the Mackenzie Art Gallery on Saturday, August 6, 2022 in Regina. © Provided by Leader Post A replica of the famous Apollo Belvedere statue is part of the Conceptions of White exhibit, which opened at the Mackenzie Art Gallery on Saturday, August 6, 2022 in Regina.
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The MacKenzie Art Gallery has debuted a new curated exhibition set on examining the origins, expansion and present reality of “whiteness” as a racial invention and social construct.

Titled Conceptions of White, the exhibition opened Saturday and features a curated collection of works meant to “examine the existential, experiential, and ethical dimensions of engaging in classifications of whiteness.”

“I t’s an exhibition that examines the myths and meanings behind the idea of a white race, which is a relatively recent invention that has really helped shape the modern world,” said co-curator Lillian O’Brien Davis.

“We’re trying to take a view that examines a wide range of approaches to understanding or thinking about this idea of a ‘white race.'”

Conceptions of White brings together a slate of artworks, both historical and contemporary, each offering insight into whiteness as an identity and how it continues to broaden and change how people think about racial identity.

“As you’re walking through the exhibition, you’re going to see contemporary reflections, work that’s responding to contemporary society,” said Davis.

“And then you’ll see historical perspectives that are trying to draw a line and understand how this idea of a ‘white race’ evolved over thousands of years.”

Davis and co-curator John G. Hampton, also MAG executive director and CEO, conceptualized the exhibition together.

“It’s framed through a biracial lens, with both John and myself seeking a clearer understanding of our own relationship to whiteness,” said Davis. “John is coming from a Chickasaw and mixed European background, and I’m coming from a Jamaican Canadian background.”

“(Whiteness) is something we want to bring forward when talking about equality issues, and thinking about how art is made and how we think about the institutions that we operate in.”

Artists included in the exhibition come from a breadth of backgrounds, said Davis, and the exhibition intends to speak to an equally inclusive range of audiences.

“The show wants to highlight the cultural harm caused to racialized communities,” said Davis. “But it also explores the impact of these classifications of humanity on white people, and how it affects the psyche of our collective society.”

 Conceptions of White, which opened at the MacKenzie Art Gallery on Saturday, examines the origins, travel, and present reality of “whiteness” as a concept and a racial invention that classifies degrees of civility/humanity. © TROY FLEECE Conceptions of White, which opened at the MacKenzie Art Gallery on Saturday, examines the origins, travel, and present reality of “whiteness” as a concept and a racial invention that classifies degrees of civility/humanity.

Davis described each piece in Conceptions of White as a perspective, with the intent of confronting how the adoption of a whiteness ideology has affected how we perceive and engage with racial identity.

The collection includes a varied range of mediums, including copies of historical classics like the Apollo Belvedere, a famous Roman sculpture with its original residing in the collection at the Vatican Museums.

More modern perspectives include artists like Fred Wilson, with a piece created using found objects that suggests breaking away from Western visual tradition, and Saskatchewan artist Barbara Meneley, whose work explores settlers’ relationships with treaty lands.

Toronto-based artist Jeremy Bailey has also created a set of custom augmented reality filters, made famous by popular mobile app Snapchat, as a “tongue-in-cheek parody” of tech startup solutions.

“It addresses progressive white audiences as a potential market to disrupt the anxiety created by increasing awareness of white privilege,” explained Davis. “It’s looking at a serious topic, but taking kind of a humorous direction or a lighthearted direction.”

In viewing the collection, Davis hopes the curated works will spark conversation about the role of race in modern society, and corresponding issues like inequity, power and privilege.

“(We want people) creating opportunities for knowledge sharing, connection and acceptance,” said Davis.

Conceptions of White is open to public viewing and will remain on display until Nov. 13.

lkurz@postmedia.com

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