Friday, August 26, 2016

Tangled Roots

Cynthia Groya
Artist Reception Sunday, September 11, 4:00 - 6:00 pm
MUSE Gallery Philadelphia
52 N. 2nd St., Philadelphia Center City
Show Runs from September 1 to October 1, 2016

America’s complex history is a maze of conflicting accounts. While historians and filmmakers on either side of the aisle present countless representations of the way things were, slavery’s unresolved legacy prompts new considerations of things past. While few historical narratives have included African-American perspectives, David Brooks, in a recent NYT op-ed How Artists Change The World, reminds us that escaped slave Frederick Douglass used his freedom to turn stereotypes of “inferior, unlettered, comic and dependent” African-Americans “upside down” by projecting his dignified presence with160 dignified photographic portraits, and in the process “redrawing people’s unconscious mental maps.” (Henry Louis Gates Jr.) Brooks writes that artists, by “implanting pictures in the underwater processing that is upstream from conscious cognition” have the opportunity not to “change your mind,” so much as “smash through some of the warped lenses through which we’ve been taught to see.” Fortunately, more of these stereotype-smashing images from the past are making their way through the water, influencing a changing awareness of our country’s past. Could conscious cognition be far behind?

Tangled Roots, the solo exhibition at MUSE Gallery September 1 - October 1, 2016, is an ongoing effort to “smash through” some of the stereotypes indelibly written on our “mental maps” by the historical narratives of the past. These artworks are not visual recreations of historical events, but rather expressive abstractions referencing the Civil War, the Gettysburg Address, the Emancipation Proclamation and the tangled roots of slavery in our country. Contemporary mixed media paintings of reverse painting on layers of plexiglass, video conversations discussing the relevancy of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and collage works turning cultural assumptions “upside down” are offered not to change the viewers mind, but to suggest alternative re-imaginings of the mental maps we create for ourselves. 

 Southern Cross Composite Version 6 small file
IMAGE: Southern Cross
"Southern Cross" is based on the lynching of 3,446 African Americans between 1882 and 1968 and the song Strange Fruit, written by Abel Meeropol and made famous by Billie Holiday. The title is inspired by the work of Theologian James H. Cone's The Cross and the Lynching Tree. Strange Fruit was a protest song against the brutality of lynching and indicted racism in America, fueling the rise of the civil rights movement of the 1950's and 1960's.
119" x 90" x 1.75" 9 mirrored plexi-paneled vitrines, mixed media with barbed wire, metallic powders and crystal prisms, inscribed with poetry by Countee Cullen, Claude McKay and Abel Meeropol, set in a gridded metal framework.

Testing (whether that nation)
IMAGE: "testing..."
"testing..." is based on a passage from the Gettysburg Address delivered by Abraham Lincoln at the battlefield commemorating the more than 51,000 soldiers that lost their lives during the three days of battle at Gettysburg during the Civil War.
30" x 36" Acrylic, glass, ash and mixed media on plexi-panel, birch base

For more information, contact Cynthia Groya at
Artist’s website:

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