Watching displays of police violence towards BIPOC communities throughout North America, artist Crystal Noir found herself facing a fear of being who she is: a Black woman.
Those feelings led her to delve deeper into the relationship between BIPOC communities and the criminal justice system — exploring the disproportionate harms that BIPOC people face from routine police interactions, and the mental health trauma suffered by BIPOC communities because of institutions that were founded on “outdated colonial ideals.”
The result? A series of Afro-Surrealist artworks that make up the new exhibition at the Gallery at Queen’s Park.
Guilty As Skin is on at the gallery from Feb. 1 to 26.
“This work challenged me not only to further explore the imposed war waged on minority bodies, but also associate important connections between larger themes of settler colonialism, gendered violence and environmental exploitation,” Noir said in a press release.
Her chosen style, Afro-Surrealism, was a critical one.
“It is more than just an artistic expression, but a political one and a form of self-assertion — created as a movement for resistance to white supremacist rationality through artistic declaration dating back to the 1940s,” Noir said. “Meant to showcase the everyday lived experience of minority groups, Afro-Surrealism allows for the distortion of reality for emotional impact.”
Symbolism and metaphors present viewers with the effects of all forms of oppression; each piece has numerous double meanings that challenge the viewer to push past their first interaction with the work, Noir notes.
“From the deconstructed heads of each figure, custom metallic colours that illuminate in low-light conditions and impasto brushwork synchronized to the state of each subject’s psyche — every choice is as deliberate and intentional as the brutality in question and meant to communicate my feelings about this communal violence,” she said.
Pan African colours — red, black and green — are used throughout the series, chosen for their symbolism to the Blood, the People and the Land. And, Noir noted, red serves a double meaning: an acknowledgement and recognition of the missing and murdered Indigenous women of Turtle Island (North America).
“Having one’s identity dismantled, marginalized and regulated to non-human status demands both awareness and action,” she said. “This series was created as a personal call to action to end the unjust policing of minority and disenfranchised bodies, and state-sanctioned acts of violence used as a tool to oppress BIPOC communities.”
Check out Guilty As Skin at the Gallery at Queen's Park
The Gallery at Queen’s Park is in Centennial Lodge, near the bandshell. It’s open from Wednesdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
You can meet Crystal Noir during a Third Sunday at the Gallery presentation, set for Sunday, Feb . 19 from 1 to 3 p.m. She’ll give an artist talk and visual presentation, followed by a Q&A.
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