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a historic journey

"I began to realize the many layers to freedom and this was a layer."

- Audrey Johnson-Gibbs

Curator: Audrey Johnson-Gibbs

2003.46j (Ernest C. Withers)

Ernest C. Withers  (American, 1922–2007), Untitled, from the portfolio I Am A Man, Photographs: 1956–1968; portfolio: 1994, Gelatin-silver print, Sheet: 19 7/8 x 16 in. (50.5 x 40.6 cm), Toledo Museum of Art (Toledo, Ohio), Mrs. George W. Stevens Fund, 2003.46j. © Dr. Ernest C. Withers, Sr. courtesy of the WITHERS FAMILY TRUST

Think of the word that connects each of your pieces together
Confliction

How do you feel connected to these images, to the artist?
"To look at those photographic images I see conflict. My folks struggling to find their place and give themselves relevance to a place in this white European world. A group of black men holding signs declaring they are MEN, they have a VOICE and they are PRESENT during the time of the Civil Rights Movement. The story runs much deeper and at this point, I leave my people to discover the story and draw their own conclusion. I photograph people's places and things as I see them, hoping to give my views on what I see and feel at the time. I also challenge them to look closer and find something in that photograph that speaks to their Spirit."– Ernest Withers

2007.7a–mm (Lorna Simpson)

Lorna Simpson (American, born 1960), Wigs , 994, Waterless lithographs on felt, Overall: 72 x 13 ft. 6 1/2 in. (182.9 x 4.1 m), Toledo Museum of Art (Toledo, Ohio), Gift of Mrs. Webster Plass and of Miss Elsie C. Mershon in memory of Edward C. Mershon, by exchange, 2007.7a–mm. © Lorna Simpson. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth 

"Hair is such a defining image snatcher for black women, as well as a symbol of our diverse beauty. I love the simplicity of the images in this photographic display as well as, the complexity of each photo separately. As a photojournalist/documentarian I always gravitate towards the whole situation and the individual circumstances that are taking place. I basically think like that in general."– Lorna Simpson

How do you feel your choices connect to Juneteenth?
Understanding Juneteenth and what took place, to bring us to celebrate that time in USA history was not easy for me. I could not let go of how this could come to pass, and that no one informed us of such a relief of the suffering that had taken place. I began to realize the many layers to freedom and this was a layer. We are still peeling back the layers in 2021, while layers are being added. To whom much is given much is required... these two pieces of photographic work represent to me that the conflicts that go with moving forward in the USA never end. We are continuously pushing through the darkness into the light with constant hope of a brighter future.

About the Curator: Audrey Johnson-Gibbs

Audrey Johnson works as EMIS Coordinator and Community Engagement lead at Achieve Career Preparatory Academy. Audrey is a graduate of Bowling Green State University, Bachelors of Science in Technology, and a discipline in Visual Communications Technology/Photography. Originally from Canton, Ohio, she has resided in Toledo, Ohio for over 30 years and calls Toledo home. A former Executive Director of the Collingwood Arts Center, Audrey is also a photographer, artist, consultant, youth advocate, Mom, podcaster, home restorer, gallery owner, and woman of so many more talents and skills. She was the owner of Tilmann Art Gallery previously located in downtown Toledo. As a creative in her daily walk, Audrey continues to create new possibilities in the community.

About the Artist: Ernest Withers

Ernest C. Withers (1922–2007) was an African American photojournalist. He documented over 60 years of African American history in the segregated South, with iconic images of the Montgomery bus boycott, Emmett Till, Memphis sanitation strike, Negro league baseball, and musicians including those related to Memphis blues and Memphis soul. In 2010, it was revealed that Withers was recruited and paid by the Federal Bureau of Investigations' COINTELPRO program to inform on the US Civil rights movement for nearly two decades beginning shortly after his first photograph of Martin Luther King Jr. From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Withers

About the Artist: Lorna Simpson

Lorna Simpson (born 1950) first became well-known in the mid-1980s for her large- scale photograph-and-text works that confront and challenge narrow, conventional views of gender, identity, culture, history and memory. With unidentified figures as a visual point of departure, Simpson uses the figure to examine the ways in which gender and culture shape the interactions, relationships and experiences of our lives in contemporary America. In the mid-1990s, she began creating large multi-panel photographs printed on felt that depict the sites of public – yet unseen – sexual encounters. Over time she turned to film and video works in which individuals engage in enigmatic conversations that seem to address the mysteries of both identity and desire. Throughout her body of work, Simpson questions memory and representation… Using the camera as a catalyst, Simpson constructs work comprising text and image, parts to wholes, which comment on the documentary nature of found or staged images. From https://lsimpsonstudio.com/bio

About TBAC

The Toledo Black Artist Coalition’s mission is centered around creating avenues of artistic agency through advocacy, education, and activism. Throughout history, the African American perspective in the arts has been omitted, leaving a void within many mainstream cultural institutions. In reality, Toledo, Ohio has a rich legacy of African American artists who formed collectives to provide resources and education within the greater community. The Toledo Black Artists Coalition is a new wave formed within the context of the current national and international movement to heal a nation traumatized by the effects of white supremacy embedded within every facet of society. It is our ongoing goal to create pathways for artists of color and combat racial inequality as it continues to manifest within and in relation to Toledo institutions of culture.

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About TMA

Since its founding in 1901, the Toledo Museum of Art has earned a global reputation for the quality of our collection, our innovative and extensive education programs, and our architecturally significant campus. Thanks to the benevolence of its founders, as well as the continued support of its members, TMA remains a privately endowed, non-profit institution and opens its collection to the public, free of charge. Our mission is to integrate art into the lives of people, and we are accountable to ourselves and to our community that each action TMA takes reflects our four core values of Diversity, Community, Innovation, and Trust.