On Saturday, Oct. 5, Gallery Aferro on Market Street held its opening night for three new exhibitions: “The Social Justice Collaboration Quilts Project” featuring the “Quilts of Angola Prison” (Quilts Project), “Still Living Out Loud and Elevator Music 6: SiIvaGunner” (Elevator Music).
Each of these exhibits serves a different purpose, displaying the vast variety of messages that artwork can send to its viewers. The “Quilts Project,” curated by Maureen Kelleher and located in the Gallery Aferro Main Gallery, is a call to bring attention to social justice issues present in the criminal justice system and prison industrial complex. The exhibit features 31 quilts that were created by the joint efforts of free people and lifers serving in the Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as Angola Prison.
Kelleher came across the idea for the “Quilts Project” through her job as a private investigator. “I was working on a big amnesty case. The guy was charged for murder but was president of the drama club in the prison and so he invited me to the banquet they had each year. And so, I met Kenya and kept in touch and from there the idea of quilts came up and so we had to do something with quilts.” Since then, Kelleher has been working with the hospice program at the prison for this project.
The quilts cover a broad range of topics and people including James Baldwin, Eric Gardner, Harriet Tubman and slavery. Many of the ideas for the quilts originate from the inmates and Kelleher helped bring their ideas to life. Candice Nicholson, the gallery manager, commented that “most of the quilts have a social justice theme but some do not and are just palette cleansers. Some are symbolic and not a direct message, leaving them open for interpretation.”
“The Quilts Project” also includes an audio component to go along with ten of the quilts. Nicholson explains, “the audio starts with thirty seconds of music, followed by the quilter talking about their inspiration for the quilt, what it meant to them and the program. It’s followed by 30 more seconds of outro music.”
“Still Living Out Loud,” curated by Evonne M. Davis and on display in the Eleta J. Caldwell and Rodney M. Gilbert Memorial Gallery, takes a much lighter turn by presenting the work of Geri Hahn. Hahn is a self-taught and emerging artist at the age of seventy-four years old. For much of her life, no one outside of her family saw Hahn’s work. The works on display are embroidered versions of some of her earlier works as well as newer works that she has created.
This collection of abstract art brings together the sounds, words and emotions in Hahn’s life. Hahn is a “synesthete,” meaning that when one of her senses is activated another unrelated sense is also activated. As a result, Hahn can “see” every sound that she hears and feels. The artwork that is on display in the exhibit displays Hahn’s visualization of what she “sees.”
The third exhibit is “Elevator Music 6: SiIvaGunner,” curated by Juno Zago. Unlike the first two, Elevator Music is a mainly auditory exhibit. SiIvaGunner is a YouTube channel that claims to upload original high-quality video game music while in reality the channel uploads various remixes, advertising them as the original.
The exhibit is a collection of their remixes of classic and new video game music. “Elevator Music” also features an early-1900s refurbished Otis Elevator in order to allow listeners to feel the elevator vibe while listening to the music.
All three of these exhibits are open to the public for free and will be on display until Nov. 22.
Photos by Birju Dhaduk