St. Paul, MN
For We the People, Minnesota Museum of American Art (the M) has invited four guest curators to select work by prominent local and national artists that sheds light on the complexities of contemporary American experience. This exhibition continues the M’s engagement with critical issues about American art which began two years ago with the show American Art: It’s Complicated.
“We the people,” the opening words of the U.S. Constitution, serves as a national slogan and a rallying cry. But who constitutes the “we” in that formative phrase? More to the point, which people and whose stories aren’t represented in the language of national unity?
In response to those questions, Christopher Harrison (independent curator and artist), Johnnay Leenay (Minnesota Museum of American Art), Mary Anne Quiroz (Indigenous Roots Cultural Center), and Maggie Thompson (Two Rivers Art Gallery) present artworks with disparate cultural points of view. Artists include Star Wallowing Bull, Zackary Drucker, Rico Gatson, Susan Hauptman, Nooshin Hakim Javadi, Steve Ozone, and others.
Curator Johnnay Leenay says, “I am positive that each person you ask would define ‘America’ differently. My American experience has been a queer experience, and I know that that identity makes me interact with questions of national identity in a different way.” She goes on: “This exhibition reflects the interpretations of four individuals from four different backgrounds, offering four different definitions of what it means to be American which, when combined, tell a more holistic story of ‘we the people.’”
We the People includes more than 35 pieces in all media–including photography, painting, sculpture, textiles, video, and sound installation. A number of these works point to narratives of LGBTQIA identity and experience, while other works highlight perspectives of indigenous artists and artists of color. During this time of division, the curators’ selections offer a more expansive, inclusive understanding of who we are as a nation, making visible both the fault lines and points of confluence running through our collective body politic.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website