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‘We the People (Our Love Will See Us Through)’ exhibition at Brandeis

Marla McLeod, an artist who explores black identity and social constructs in her pieces, exhibited her work at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis. The exhibition, titled “We the People (Our Love Will See Us Through)” consists of various clothing pieces and paintings on display. 

The exhibition explores the “false and pervasive narratives surrounding Black bodies while re-presenting the historical figures and characterizations of James Baldwin, W.E.B. Du Bois, and the harmful stereotype of the ‘mammy,’” according to the exhibition page. The exhibition juxtaposes “larger-than-life portrait painting with handmade textiles and garments,” according to the page

The title of the exhibit, “We the People (Our Love Will See Us Through),” references a song by a musical artist from the ’60s—Nina Simone. In one song she sings, “If some tears come our way, the sun skips a day, we still have each other, and our love will see us through,” according to the exhibition page. 

The other part of the title “We the People” references the U.S. constitution. According to a Boston Globe article, McLeod blends together personal, societal and historical aspects throughout the exhibition.

The oil paintings on display are meant to show the lack of Black women as the main subject of art in the West, according to the page. According to the description, the textile pieces are “inspired by techniques, symbols, and traditions of Mali mud cloths.” McLeod has also sewed the names of Black female figures such as Angela Davis and Sojourner Truth, according to the Globe article. Some of the clothes also include quotes by notable figures. 

One piece on display, called “Baldwin,” was inspired by writer and activist James Baldwin. The design of the dress featured Baldwin’s name down the back. Throughout the design are quotes from Baldwin stitched onto the fabric, according to a photo from the Boston Globe article. 

The exhibition featured a variety of art forms, one titled “American Dream: 229 Black Lives in 2018,″ which is a work that has 229 bits of twine which hang from ornate shelves. They are meant to represent the 229 people that were killed by police in 2018, according to the Globe article. The pieces of twine are 79 inches long each, which is meant to represent the average lifespan of Americans, according to a 2018 statistic McLeod found. McLeod then knotted black yarn from the bottom, until she reached the age at which the victim died, to show how their lives were cut short, according to the article. 

According to a Globe interview with McLeod, the piece was difficult for her to make. She tracked down the age of each of the individuals killed and knotted the thread to that age, then she continued the thread to 79 inches. McLeod used a contrast in color to represent the amount of years taken too early, according to the article. 

The exhibition was displayed from Aug. 2 to Oct. 29 in the Kniznick Gallery at the Women’s Studies Research Center where an Arts Program which reflects the values of the Center Scholars is run, according to their page. McLeod also did various talks throughout the time the works were on display.

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