“Trading in Traffick” Challenges Capitalism with Memes

by | Dec 5, 2019 | ART

At The Well Art Gallery in Blackwell, Ricky Parker’s latest art exhibit explores the American Slave Trade and its capitalistic roots starting this Friday. 

This Friday, a local artist and professor at Virginia Union University is bringing a meme-themed art show to Manchester’s The Well art gallery. Ricky Parker, Creative Director of Dream For Purpose, will open his “Trading in Traffick” exhibit, with eight individual pieces on display.

“Trading in Traffick” examines the American slave trade, revealing Parker’s research findings on the period in history. The exhibit stretches back 400 years to the first appearance of slaves in the New World in 1619, and reaches as far forward as the beginning of the Civil War. As he touches on the slave trade, Parker also offers critiques of capitalism in relation to the American society.

“I believe the foundation of capitalism in America is slavery,” said Parker. “[It] was a business model in America… some of the first millionaires in America were slave owners.”

The pieces are mostly two-dimensional works, though “Trading in Traffick” will also include structural sculptures. While the majority of the exhibit is framed, the works don’t resemble traditional paintings or illustrations — instead, Parker took a different route by displaying the works in a new medium.

“The majority of it is memes,” said Parker. “[That’s] really the theme around it.”

Parker began his research and work on “Trading in Traffick” more than a year ago, and began the project as a way to learn more about the history of African-Americans and their African descendants.

“[It was] just not knowing my origin,” said Parker “It wasn’t a conversation that I could have with my parents… I was just trying to figure out what could happen before [1619] to make [slavery] a thing.”

As he finished “Trading in Traffick,” Parker chose The Well to host the exhibition, for the gallery’s ability to be a safe area to have a tough conversation. In Richmond’s Blackwell neighborhood, The Well is located at 1309 Hull Street.

Interested viewers can visit The Well to see “Trading in Traffick” starting this Friday, December 6, at 7pm. For more information about the exhibition and Parker’s work, check out The Well Art Gallery on Facebook, and Parker’s organization, Dream For Purpose

All Images and Photos via Ricky Parker

Jonah Schuhart

Jonah Schuhart

Jonah Schuhart is a Senior Broadcast Journalism Student at Virginia Commonwealth University. Jonah hopes to use his work to spread goodwill and a positive message. Despite this healthy outlook, he survives solely on a destructive diet of Japanese action games and Cheetos.

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