Past Exhibit: “Contemporary Artists Respond to the New Orleans Baby Dolls”

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“Contemporary Artists Respond to the New Orleans Baby Dolls” is an exhibition of art about and inspired by the Baby Doll masking tradition.

There are few artistic representations of this little known tradition. The artists will be able to create works about a visually undocumented practice dating back to around 1912 that has endured as a living art form through the current day. The artists and the Xavier University of Louisiana students who will produce the show will be engaged in the important work of educating, preserving and making contemporary a cultural heritage that has gone virtually ignored.  The show will open in the Spring of 2015 at the George & Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art in New Orleans.


Who Are the Baby Dolls? The Baby Dolls are groups of  women and men who used New Orleans street masking as a form of fun and self-expression in a time when it was usual for women to do that.  Wearing short dresses, bloomers, bonnets, garters with money tucked tight, they strutted, sang ribald songs, chanted and danced often with mock bands on Mardi Gras and St. Joseph feast night.  The practice started around 1912 and while it waxed and waned, has endured to the present day.

Purposes of the Exhibit:  The goals of the exhibition are to tell the story of the New Orleans Baby Dolls through the visual arts and to have students demonstrate what they are learning in their studies to an actual show.  Xavier University Department of Art students (under the guidance of Department Chair, Ron Bechet and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Kim Vaz-Deville) are producing an exhibition where they will apply what they are learning about policy and procedures involved in art management to an actual show.

The Art: The work in this show by established and emerging artists will include a variety of media: painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, printmaking, and graphic arts etc. by established and emerging artists.  While work by all professional and emerging artists is enthusiastically welcomed, a special aspect of the show is to highlight what Martin Payton calls “The Xavier School of Art.” Work by Xavier University faculty and alumni will be featured using the Baby Doll masking practice theme as a catalyst.

Where: The George & Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art is an institution that collects, interprets and preserves the visual aesthetic of people of African descent in North America and beyond. Through innovative programs and exhibits that engage versatile audiences, the McKenna Museum seeks to make African Diaspora fine art accessible to visitors of all ages. The institution also actively identifies and presents emerging artists alongside well-established fine arts masters. Located in New Orleans, the McKenna Museum is committed to the preservation of the distinct culture found within the African American community of Louisiana.

The Artists: The artists will be invited from a general call. These artists can be trained and experienced or self-taught. All are encouraged to participate in the process. The work will be selected by three jurors: Professor Ron Bechet, Mora Beauchamp-Byrd, Ph.D., Pamela Franco, Ph.D., and Sarah Clunis, Ph.D. based on the quality and the potential to bring a fresh viewpoint to the history and culture of the theme of the “Baby Doll” tradition.

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CALL TO ARTISTS “Contemporary Artists Respond to the New Orleans Baby Dolls”

Xavier University of Louisiana and the George and Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art are pleased to announce a “Call to Artists” for the exhibition “Contemporary Artists Respond to the New Orleans Baby Dolls,” scheduled to open on Friday, March 27, 2015.

Who Are the Baby Dolls?

The Baby Dolls are groups of black women and men who used New Orleans street-masking tradition as a unique form of fun and self-expression. Wearing short dresses, bloomers, bonnets, garters with money tucked tight, they strutted, sang ribald songs, chanted and danced on Mardi Gras Day and on St. Joseph feast night. The practice emerged around 1912 and, while it waxed and waned, has endured to the present day.

The Exhibition

“Contemporary Artists Respond to the New Orleans Baby Dolls” is an exhibition of art about, and inspired by, the Baby Doll masking tradition. There are few artistic representations of this little-known yet significant New Orleans tradition. Selected artists will create works that make reference to a largely-undocumented practice dating back to c. 1912 and that has endured as a living art form through the current day. The show engages in the important work of educating, preserving and ensuring the contemporary relevance of a cultural heritage that has gone virtually ignored. The goal of the exhibition is to convey the story and contemporary relevance of the New Orleans Baby Dolls through the visual arts.

Background and Rationale

This exhibition was created to engage the contemporary visual arts community in a dialogue that examines the meaning and relevance of traditional cultural forms in contemporary times. Now past its 102nd year, the Baby Doll tradition is as important today in its meaning and interpretation of today’s issues as it was in 1912. The goal of this exhibition is to discover newer ways of engaging in dialogue about contemporary issues that emerge in examining the Baby Dolls: issues of resilience, independence, feminine identity, and the emergence of the meaning of
culture-building in today’s visual art practice.

Process

“Contemporary Artists Respond to the New Orleans Baby Dolls” is open to living artists working in the United States. All mediums are accepted including, but not limited to, painting, sculpture, design, glass, metalwork, photography, video, mixed media and installation art. The size of the work is open to the interpretation of the artist, but may be considered in the context of a group show with spatial limitations.

Artists must submit a statement of interest (1-4 below) through electronic
submission to: artaboutbabydolls@gmail.com. by March 12-14, 2015.

1. Cover sheet: contact information with name, address, phone number, and email address, website, and all social media
2. Statement of interest: a narrative describing the proposed work, media/materials, installation needs approximate size and reflective statement on how the work relates to the exhibit theme
3. List of work with title and interpretative statement (if submitting more than one)
4. One page bio
Images of the work must be submitted by February 1, 2015 for juried selection.

If selected, artists must deliver their works to the McKenna Museum, 2003 Carondelet Street, New Orleans, LA 70130 by March 20, 2015. Accepted works must be hand delivered or shipped. Artists are responsible for all shipping expenses to and from the McKenna Museum. All pieces should be ready for hanging or prepared to be installed. Sculptures must be able to be displayed on a pedestal or the floor. Accepted artists must arrange for their own insurance needs if artwork is being shipped and when on exhibit.

Jury:

Pamela Franco, Ph.D. – Dr. Franco, a native Trinidadian, earned a PhD in art history from Emory University in Atlanta. Prior to her appointment at Xavier University, she was an Assistant Professor of Art History at Tulane University. She was a member of the Newcomb Gallery Advisory Board. She has been instrumental in organizing symposia and exhibitions on African and Caribbean Art.

Mora Beauchamp-Byrd, Ph.D., is an art historian, curator, and an arts administrator who specializes in African American Art, the art of the African Diaspora, 18th century British art and visual culture, and contemporary British art with a particular focus on British artists of African, Asian and Caribbean descent. Dr. Beauchamp-Byrd is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Art, Art History and Visual Studies at Duke University. She has most recently served as Interim Executive Director at the New Orleans African American Museum of Art, Culture and History (NOAAM). From 2008 through 2013, she served as Assistant Professor of Art History, Department of Art, and Curator of University Art Collections at Xavier University of Louisiana.

Ron Bechet is the Victor H. Labat Professor of Art at Xavier University of Louisiana. A native of New Orleans, he began drawing in the fourth grade, studied
art at the University of New Orleans and went on to earn a graduate degree from Yale University. He his art teaching career began at Delgado Community College, then at Southern University in New Orleans and, since 1998, at Xavier.

Sarah Clunis, Ph.D., interim director African American and Diaspora Studies and assistant professor of Art at Xavier University of  Louisiana.  She received her PhD in Art History from the University of Iowa. She specializes in Arts of Africa and the African Diaspora from traditional to contemporary. She has worked for over 20 years with private collections of African and Diaspora art in Europe, the US and the Caribbean. She has done extensive work with University collections both with university museums [including Xavier’s art collection and galleries and with collections management of smaller endowments for growing institutions. Dr. Clunis has also taught art history for over 20 years at a various public universities and HBCUs including Xavier and SUNO. Her research has included looking at the history of African art and display of African objects in Western museum settings as well as looking at the influence of African aesthetics and philosophy on the arts, religious rituals and cultural identities of the African Diaspora.  Dr. Clunis is originally from Kingston, Jamaica.

Daniele Gair is the Manager and Registrar for the Xavier University Art Collections. Ms. Gair received her B.A. in English, with a minor in Women’s Studies, from Newcomb College of Tulane University. A writer by trade, she has spent many years researching and writing about 18th– and 19th-century art and antiques for the commercial sector. Her love of the written word has also led her into publishing: she was a contributing editor of Nineteenth-Century European Painting: From Barbizon to Belle Epoque by William Rau, and contributed to Making New Orleans: Products Past and Present by Phillip Collier. A believer in making art an integral, accessible part of life, she co-managed an art gallery/snowball stand both pre- and post-Katrina. As a New Orleans native with roots in beautiful St. Charles Parish, Daniele relishes all the things that make New Orleans unique, and she is thrilled to be a part of the Baby Dolls exhibition. In her down time, Daniele enjoys reading many books at once, finding new music, winning at trivia and spending time with her husband, 2-year-old son, family and friends.

 

IMPORTANT DATES
July 8, 2014 Open National Call For Artists
August 23, 2014 Submission of Interest
February 1, 2015 Artists submit images of proposed work for jury
February 21, 2015 Artists notified of jury results
March 12-14, 2015 Works delivered to McKenna Museum between the hours of 11-4pm; for assistance contact Jennifer Williams at 504-586-7432.
March 27, 2015 Exhibition opens
June 4-6, 2015 Artists pick up their work from the McKenna Museum between the hours of 11-4pm

The George & Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art is an institution that collects, interprets and preserves the visual aesthetic of people of African descent in North America and beyond. Through innovative programs and exhibits that engage versatile audiences, the McKenna Museum seeks to make African Diasporan fine art accessible to visitors of all ages. The institution also actively identifies and presents emerging artists alongside well-established fine arts masters. Featuring the private collection of Dr. Dwight McKenna, the Museum presents works by local and internationally-renowned artists such as Henry Ossawa Tanner, William Edouard Scott, Clementine Hunter, Ernie Barnes and Ulrick Jean-Pierre. Located in New Orleans, the McKenna Museum is committed to the preservation of the distinct culture found within the African American community of Louisiana.

Exhibit Organizers:

Kim Vaz-Deville grew up in New Orleans and attended St. Mary’s Academy and Tulane University’s Newcomb College. She earned her doctorate in Educational Psychology from Indiana University in Bloomington. She is the author of The ‘Baby Dolls’: Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition (Louisiana State University Press). Her book served as the basis for a 2013 major installation on the Baby Doll tradition at the Presbytere unit of the Louisiana State Museum as part of the museum’s permanent display on the history of Carnival in Louisiana.

Ron Bechet is a native of New Orleans and a relative of the early jazz pioneer Sidney Bechet. He began drawing in the fourth grade, studied art at the University of New Orleans and went on to earn a graduate degree from Yale University. He his art teaching career began at Delgado Community College, then at Southern University in New Orleans and, since 1998, at Xavier. Even though he is a celebrated and accomplished artist, he feels he learns as much about himself and his art while teaching as his students do in their own studies. One of the biggest influences on his recent work was fellow Xavier Art Professor and renowned sculptor John T. Scott.

Jennifer Williams is Museum Director and Curator of The McKenna Museum of African American Art. She received her B.A. in History with a concentration in Art History from Georgia State University in Atlanta, GA. With the guiding spirit of her parent’s dedication of serving others throughout their lives, she moved to New Orleans to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA coordinating projects with the Tulane University Center for Public Service at a community center in the 7th ward. Serving 3 terms over, her commitment to social justice has grown.

Contact information: Telephone: 504-520-7553; Email rbechet@xula.edu