For the past decade, artist Deborah Grant has interwoven historical accounts and personal experiences with references to contemporary political and social issues in her ongoing series Random Select. Grant culls material from a variety of sources including magazine photographs, comic books, published texts, and art historical reference books which she masterfully translates and brings together via her signature drawing method to create highly personal, non-linear narratives that investigate politics, race, and cultural identity. Grant’s Christ You Know It Ain’t Easy!! (the installation takes its title from the Lennon/McCartney song “The Ballad of John and Yoko”) combines painting, drawing, and collage to recount the fictional meeting between African-American folk artist Mary A. Bell and renowned modernist painter Henri Matisse. Mary A. Bell (1873–1941), a deeply devout Catholic domestic servant who produced over a hundred drawings after she had retired from service, never received formal artistic training. Rendered through graphic silhouettes, intricate line drawings, and collaged photographic elements, Grant’s fictionalized narrative provides an alternate account of the legacy of modernist painting, one not told in the history books.
Curated by Claire Gilman.
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