Vanessa German: Miracles And Glory Abound
January 27, 2019 - April 20, 2019
Vanessa German is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is founder of Love Front Porch and ARThouse, a community arts initiative for the children of her historic Homewood neighborhood. German’s work, which she terms “power figures,” is rooted in spirituality and ritual, most notably the central African tradition of nkisi nkondi or minkisi figures, characterized by protrusions of nails, signifying awakening and healing. Drawing on her experience living in Homewood, the historic African American neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, German sees herself as a citizen artist and activist and creates her work in response to the ricochet of systemic, institutionalized racism, violence, and brutality facing her community.
In the exhibition Miracles And Glory Abound, German explores the power of stories. How do tales that pass down from generation to generation change with each retelling? How do the alterations of truth affect our understanding of history and shape current ideologies?
When the story of George Washington leading Continental army soldiers across the Delaware River on December 25, 1776 is told most Americans think of the painting of a heroic Washington standing in a small, crowded boat thrusting forward through icy water. The large painting by Emanuel Leutze (in the Met in New York City) has been reproduced in history books, adorned classroom walls, and has illustrated the story of that fateful winter night for over 150 years. Despite its iconic status, Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851) contains many visual fabrications, mythologizing rather than portraying an accurate retelling of the historical incident.
Miracles And Glory Abound is drawn from both the visual and emotional concept of the iconic painting. Using her own power-figures to imitate Leutze’s composition, Vanessa German creates a conversation about public memory and the rewriting of history through the lens of privilege. The exhibition explores the complicated and nuanced history of the United States and how that history relates to our current suffering in the echoes of violence, hate, and, materialism.