“How we find relief” Mott-Warsh Gallery exhibit examines human experience of overcoming stress

By Tom Travis

The newest exhibit at Flint’s Mott-Warsh Gallery asks the question, “How do people find relief amid life’s daily barrage of challenges?” The exhibit, called, Whatever Gets You Through the Night, explores this many-sided topic, according to a press release from the gallery. The exhibit will be on display until Aug. 20, 2022.

Artists featured in the exhibit include Mary Lovelace O’Neal, Adrian Piper, Derrick Adams, Charles White, Elizabeth Catlett, Dawoud Bey, Kerry James Marshall, Whitfield Lovell, Barbara Chase Riboud, Carrie Mae Weems, Samuel Levi Jones, and more.

“I feel more than ever that it is essential for artists to make work that celebrates Black culture. As a Black man, I am aware of my vulnerability and susceptibility to trauma and oppression on a daily basis…there are images that are less important for us to see than images of joy,” Derrick Adams says on his website.


Michigan artist Charles McGee, Ancestral Spirit, 2005, Acrylic, pigment, fabric on board. ©Estate of Charles McGee. (Photo by Tom Travis)

Mott-Warsh Collection curator Stephanie James says of the theme, “A popular myth of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries is that the world used to be a simpler place, and that life in modern times has become increasingly chaotic and complex. The reality is that life has been perpetually hard for most people. The COVID pandemic has certainly intensified our daily challenges.

Samuel Levi Jones, Doom, 2021 Deconstructed law books on canvas
45 x 50 inches (114.3 x 127 cm) © Samuel Levi Jones.
(Photo courtesy of Galerie Lelong & Co.)

“Societal challenges have become pressing personal struggles: our health and wellness, our economic stability, systemic disenfranchisement, racism, xenophobia, isolation, and more,”  James says. “Amid these personal and shared trials, how do we cope? Where do we go to seek relief? Who or what makes us feel better?”

James has selected figurative and abstract artworks from the Mott-Warsh collection that convey some of today’s anxieties, and juxtaposed them with other works that reference things that help us “…get through the night.” Nature, spirituality, personal relationships, self-medication, gaming, and commemorative celebrations are among the subjects represented.

Mary Lovelace O’Neal, Racism Is Like Rain, Either It’s Raining or It Is Gathering Somewhere, 1993, Acrylic on Canvas. © Mary Lovelace O’Neal. An abstract acrylic on canvas painting.  (Photo by Tom Travis)

Included in the exhibit is a video in the Mott-Warsh Black Box Video Gallery by South African artist Mohau Modisakeng, titled Zion, which lasts 28 minutes and 55 seconds, the press release explains.

Zion is from a series of works by Modisakeng that deal with the relationship between body and place. They address the idea that all people are meant to belong somewhere, some place — yet there are millions of people that are unsettled, in search of refuge, migrating across borders and landscapes for various reasons.

Zion is a 28-minute film featured in the gallery’s Black Box theater. (Photo by Tom Travis)

With Zion, Modisakeng uses material, metaphor, and the black body to draw parallels between the histories of violence and displacement experienced by Black Africans in South Africa and African Americans in the United States.

Mott-Warsh Gallery is located at 815 S. Saginaw St., Flint, MI 48502. (Photo by Tom Travis)

The Mott-Warsh Gallery is located at 815 S. Saginaw St., Flint, MI 48502. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday;  11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday;  and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. the second Friday of each month for Flint ARTWALK.

Call 810-835-4900 or visit www.m-wc.org for more information.

The Mott-Warsh Gallery, according to their website, is the permanent home of the Mott-Warsh Collection, a privately-owned, publicly-shared fine art collection that comprises over 800 works by artists of the African diaspora and those who reflect on it.

The primary intent of the collectors was to bring art into non-traditional venues where it could be encountered by people as they went about their daily lives. They formed community partnerships with institutions that had an interest in making the collection visible to their memberships, clients, visitors, and participants.

Today, rotating exhibits of the Mott-Warsh Collection artworks can be found in the public library, churches, health clinics, colleges, and universities, and more in the greater Flint region. The collection also lends to
internationally and nationally touring museum exhibitions.

The Mott-Warsh Gallery features expansive exhibitions drawn from the collection and facilitates community engagement with art through its programs.

EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at tomntravis@gmail.com

Author: Tom Travis

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