I Am My White Ancestors premiere makes a splash

We did it! I Am My White Ancestors premiered from September 26-October 28 and exceeded all my hopes of attendance, publicity, and response. Gallery Director Kate Simmons commented that the show had more publicity, more class attendance, and discussion than any other show in the gallery's history. I thank the Alexander Gallery and Clackamas Community College for the courage to host the show and welcome this discussion into their school community. Here are links to two of the articles written about it.

White Like Them: Anne Mavor examines racism and classism through the lens of her ancestors, by Emily Green, Street Roots, September 30, 2016

Art, essays, talks bloom after PCC event, by Casey Parks, The Oregonian, October 23, 2016

Photo by Jim Skates

Photo by Jim Skates

Last Monday we took down the show, wrapped up the portraits and curtain rods and stowed them in my studio. How can just a few boxes and tubes contain the massiveness of this project? But then I designed it to be easy to ship and install.

The project actually lives in the ripples that continue to spread out into the world. The ripples are the responses of other people in discussions, written comments, school assignments, newspaper articles. They also are contained in the hearts and minds of those who stood before the portraits, listened to the audio stories and read the signage. And even in the minds of those who read about it in the newspaper and heard a friend talk about it but never visited the show.

View of exhibit at the Alexander Gallery, Clackamas Community College. Photo by Jim Skates

View of exhibit at the Alexander Gallery, Clackamas Community College. Photo by Jim Skates

So what was the response? Amazement, interest, and curiosity, were the most common that I observed. Even if a person knew about the project and had heard me speak about it, the experience of seeing the full exhibit was powerful. One friend remarked that viewing the show was a sensuous experience she didn't expect since the portraits contained so many layers of information: costumes, skin, props, painting, facial expression, color, shapes, details, texture. Several people had ideas about turning it into a theatrical show. I love that idea. Collaborators, step up!

Gallery talk to students at Clackamas Community College. Photo by Jane Keating

Gallery talk to students at Clackamas Community College. Photo by Jane Keating

Another common comment was how timely the topic is and surprise that I started it three years ago. It has always been timely. Maybe the difference is that white people are finally starting to wake up. On the other hand, could the idea of this project have planted a seed that is now sprouting? All through the three years of preparation I have been talking and writing about the idea to anyone who would listen. Probably even to some people who didn't want to listen. I wonder if each time I said "I Am My White Ancestors" out loud was like a little bolt of truth shooting out into the world. It was an act of courage on my part every time.

Race Talks features What Does It Mean to Be White in America?

On July 12th, 2016, seven Pacific NW writers included in the anthology What Does It Mean to Be White in America? shared our composite reading during Race Talks. The writers are me, Tereza Topferova Bottman, Carol Weliky, Leah Mueller, Janie Starr, Jan Priddy, and Patrik McDade. The video includes Donna Maxey explaining Race Talks, editor Gabrielle David's intro to the book, and our reading. I am proud to share an essay about my installation I Am My White Ancestors.