Portraiture is a longstanding genre in the history of art, designed to document a living subject and preserve their likeness for time immemorial. Often focused on capturing the physical appearance of subjects, traditional portraits can simplify individuals’ changing and manifold identities. Breaking away from strict historic traditions and reinventing new methods of visual representation, contemporary multimedia artists expose the often unseen, internalized, and personal identities that are shaped by a myriad of social, cultural, and political experiences. Challenging the conventional practices of portraiture, and in support and celebration of inclusivity and diversity, New England Now: People presents a multifaceted, collective portrait of today’s “New Englander.” Representing each of New England’s six states, ten talented artists utilize unique methods and materials for exploring selfhood and community through their distinctive identities, experiences, and perspectives. Together, the artists’ voices, in unison with their multimedia works of art, offer a focused reflection of our region and nation. New England’s diverse population—representing a multitude of ethnicities, cultures, traditions, and identities—shapes and defines this beautiful and complex part of the world.”
New England Now: People—the second exhibition in Shelburne Museum’s biennial series—is intended to provoke and facilitate critical and timely discussions centered on the topics of identity, equity, and inclusion, in a way that challenges visitors’ assumptions and opens conversation that may, at times, be difficult. The featured artworks honor the vital role that individuality and diversity play in contributing to vibrant, thriving communities in New England. Moreover, many of the artworks in the exhibition allude to important issues threatening our peoples and communities, such as systemic and structural racism and injustice and discrimination based on ethnicity, class, religion, sexual orientation, ability, and gender identity. Presented at a time of reflection and action in the wake of the profound events that have shaped the past year and beyond—from the global pandemic to the reckoning around racial injustice and inequity—this exhibition charges visitors to consider how these realities affect their own lives and identities as well as that of their neighbors and their communities
The participating artists whose work is featured in this gallery include Melonie Bennett, Sammy Chong, Kate Gridley, Margaret Jacobs, Evie Lovett, Toby MacNutt, Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, Cobi Moules, Nafis M. White, and Erik Williams of Black Frame Vision.