“Our act of making art is our act of action,” Mack-Watkins said. “It’s a resistance.”
#TheBrowniesBook; #ChildrenOfTheSun; #ChildrenLiterature; #AfricanAmericans
New York/Canadian-Media: A short-lived but influential publication “The Brownies’ Book: A Monthly Magazine for the Children of the Sun” edited by W.E.B., a pioneer in children’s literature, celebrated African-Americans with positive images, stories, and poetry at a time when caricature toys were the norm.
One among the many artists inspired by this magazine which ran from January 1920 to December 1921, Jennifer Mack-Watkins’ upcoming solo exhibition at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center in Vermont draws from the publication’s illustrative imagery.
One image in particular of a photograph of thousands of Black people marching down Fifth Avenue in New York resembling a celebratory parade provided the catalyst for her show.
“This is beautiful, they’re all dressed in white — it must be a glorious, great occasion,” she recalled thinking. “Then after reading more, I realized, wow, it’s not what I thought it was.”
The image provided a wild contrast to the reality of the actual protest taking place in the names of those who had recently been killed in a race riot in St. Louis and other acts of violence toward Black people across America.
When Mack-Watkins, raised in the South and based in New York, was asked to take her art to Vermont, her search for a particular moment in history to raise awareness among the people led her to the magazine and to a Vermont poet named Daisy Turner, who as a schoolgirl in 1891 took a defiant stand against racism.
Going against the instructions to recite a poem written by a white person while holding a caricatured Black doll, she improvised with her own poem.
Inspired by both Turner and the magazine, Mack-Watkins created 11 silkscreens and two-color lithographs and named it “Children of the Sun,” which will be on display from March 17 through June 13, both virtually and in person.
Using doll imagery as a narrative framework in the show to explore the exhibition’s themes as well as audio recordings by Turner, including her recitation of the 1891 poem, is intertwined with a modern-day…