To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Rose Art Museum hosts Lyle Ashton Harris’ ‘Our first and last love’

Since Feb. 9, the Rose Art Museum has hosted an exhibition of Lyle Ashton Harris’ work entitled “Our first and last love.” The title of the exhibition is referenced in one of Harris’ pieces, where a red neon sign reading “our first and last love is self love.” This Rose exhibition serves as an examination of Harris’ career and was curated in collaboration with the Queens Museum in New York. It has works that Harris created relatively recently and works that he created during his time at Wesleyan University.


Harris, born in the Bronx in 1965, works in many mediums including photography, collage and performance art to explore themes of gender, sexuality, belonging and more. He attended Wesleyan University as an undergraduate and later received an MFA in photography and media from the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. Harris’ work has been exhibited in the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and several other institutes across the world. His work has also earned him a National Endowment for the Arts Regional Fellowship and a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship. He currently works as an assistant professor of art and art education at New York University, and lives in both New York and Ghana.


The exhibition focuses on an “examination of otherness and belonging” of Black and queer people, and includes several pieces from Harris’ “Shadow Works,” which are carefully designed collages of Ghanaian textiles, pieces of shells and/or pottery along with portions of Harris’ own hair, according to the Rose website. These works also include “earlier artworks and reference materials, personal snapshots, and handwritten notes … to shed light on Harris’s layered approach to his practice.” These works touch on themes of “legacy and inheritance to the history of discrimination and violence against Black and queer communities that persists today,” according to The Bay State Banner.


Several of these Shadow Works were on display as part of this collection. Harris has described these pieces as “unique mixed-media assemblages … [that are] selectively appended with the artist’s personal mementos … resulting in a fusion of historical and contemporary global cross references to induce a revelatory slippage between the personal and the political,” according to his website. The Shadow Works are made of Shakespeare, with every piece of these collages being of significance to the artist in one way or another.

Harris is excited to have his work featured in the Rose Art Museum because he “understands the importance of students engaging in a wide breadth of artistic experiences” as a professor at NYU. This exhibition began on Feb. 9 and will remain open until July 2. To register to visit “Our first and last love” or any other Rose Art Museum exhibition, guests should visit the museum’s website.

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