Estimated reading time: 2 minute(s)
Dating back to the Dred Scott case in 1857, as well as Missouri’s designation as a slave state in a pre-Civil War America, St. Louis has a long history of segregation, a regional wound that was reopened on August 9, 2014 in Ferguson when Michael Brown was shot and killed. From that tragedy a new Civil Rights Movement began, and with it a Black arts renaissance in St. Louis.
As James McAnally describes in his article for vice.com, “A Radical Black Arts Renaissance Is Reshaping A Fractured St. Louis,” two of the major artists that represent this new movement are Katherine Simone Reynolds, who uses her body to explore notions of Black beauty and love through dance, video, and performance art, and Damon Davis, best known for co-directing the documentary on FergusonWhose Streets? which brought him to a national stage and a TED Fellowship, all the while running the music label Farfetched and being a prolific visual artist whose work can be found in the Smithsonian Museum of African American History.
Both artists, McAnally discusses, had new exhibitions at St. Louis’ The Luminary, an independent art space opened ten years ago by McAnally and his partner Brea McAnally. He mentions that Davis decided to opened Darker Gods, an “afrosurrealist epic” in St. Louis despite offers from both coasts. “So many run to seek validation from the art world at large, like if it doesn’t happen in New York or L.A. it doesn’t matter,” he said. “I think the folks here should see this work first, because it is about exploring and creating a new universe, a new world, new experience and ideas. We don’t get that from running to the old structures off the bat.”
McAnally writes that Reynolds is attempting to reframe Black love and beauty by confronting the restrictions Black bodies still experience in public and art spaces equally. Mane ‘n Tail, a show that Reynolds sees as a social construction in and of itself, brings together ten female-identifying artists of color in the intersectional context of a beauty supply store. According to Reynolds, the work “discusse[s] the interwoven lives of the community and the beauty supply, and wonder[s] why there are still major cultural barriers that collide in these spaces.”
McAnally’s article shows that in the Black-led creative community that is remaking itself within a post-revolt St. Louis, Reynolds and Davis are just two of the artists continuing to push themselves towards a better world, and daring to drag the rest of the world along with them.