The Flaten Art Museum, located in the Center for Art and Dance on campus, is currently showcasing a powerful and meaningful art exhibit titled, “Liberatory Adornment.” This exhibit features art in several different mediums, from the visionary artists Pamela Council, Yvette Mayorga, and Kenya (Robinson). The exhibit as a whole is a celebration of Black, Latinx, and queer lives that simultanously adresses the power and the struggles of these communities. A central theme is consumerism and commodification in the complex process of self-definition.
Council’s sculpture “Blaxidermy,” a combination of the words blaxploitation and taxidermy, features whirling oral sex toys that lap up Luster’s pink hair lotion from a repurposed chocolate fountain. The hair lotion in this original piece references the artist’s childhood memory of defending themselves against violence, while the whirling sex toys symbolize empowerment and healing. On the walls surrounding “Blaxidermy” are silicone prints of shoe patterns. These pair modern sneaker culture with the sensing body.
Mayorga’s featured works include paintings with a thick application that resembles a frosting-like style, inspired by the painter’s aunt, who is a skilled cake architect. Exhibition Curator Jillian Hernandez writes that Mayorga’s art focuses on “The entangled experiences of Latinx consumption and leisure, sexualtiy and beauty, juxtaposed with capitalist exploitation and impending deportation or death.” These themes are depicted through contrasting imagery of pleasure, fear, and product.
Kenya engaged in a style of art I had never experienced before. It utilized stylized audio and thematic imagery in order to convey a powerful message. Her exhibits draw on elements of ASMR and self-help videos, and feature immersive soundesign and striking Black femme inspired imagery and genius.
All together, “Liberatory Adornment” is extravagant and gorgeous. Woven throughout the stunning work of these artists is vibrant imagery, thoughtful audio, and meaningful reflection on the beauty and struggle of Black, Latinx, and queer communities in America. I could not recommend the exhibit enough to all members of the St. Olaf community, staff or student. The exhibit is open to the public Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m and will run until Jan. 23.