Jumping Off The Tightrope

by | Jan 9, 2020 | QUEER RVA

Artists Mahari Chabwera and Micah David Scott tackle the question of evolution through art with their new exhibition, Evolution Of The Sacred Self, which opens Friday at Iridian Gallery at Diversity Richmond.

Diversity Richmond’s Iridian Gallery premieres its first new exhibition of the year (and the decade, depending on how you count it) tomorrow night, with the opening of Evolution Of The Sacred Self. The show features work from two painters, Mahari Chabwera and Micah David Scott, both of whom are 20-something painters from Virginia who identify somewhere on the LGBTQ spectrum.

The central question asked by Evolution Of The Sacred Self is: “How do we navigate society, self, and sexuality? Is it like walking a tightrope? Or is it something else?” As co-curators Lora Beldon and Dr. Lauranett Lee point out in a statement, our modern society is hypersexualized, in a manner that has strong influence on who we are. This is a particularly pointed situation for LGBTQ people of color like Chabwera and Scott; in particular, Chabwera has had art pulled from public view even as she received a public art grant. However, what mainstream society can’t handle will be displayed fearlessly at Iridian Gallery.

“This show is important to me both personally and professionally,” Dr. Lee, a public historian, explains. “I, too, was born in Virginia. I teach in the academy and I serve in the community. As a public historian I am invested in exploring our past through history and our lived experiences, connecting past and present. The art of Chabwera and Scott offers an opportunity to free fall as we each consider our own evolution of the sacred self.”

Mahari Chabwera. Photo courtesy Iridian Gallery

While both artists are still young, both have seen the effects of personal evolution in the art they create. “When I first started making art I did not want to see myself in my subject matter. I wanted to make art to help me understand the world outside of me. I wanted to understand and experience things that I didn’t see on a regular basis,” Scott said in a statement. “Now I see myself in my art repeatedly. I often use myself as a reference in my art because I am the most readily available model for my subject matter. Whereas before I did anything I could to avoid being in my artwork, now I do not mind seeing myself appear in my work. I now create art that helps me understand myself and people like me.”

Chadwera’s work has also evolved. She states that when she began work on her current series, she wasn’t thinking about her identity. However, her work has become much more intentional as she has felt a responsibility to speak about her history. “I’m using my life’s practice as an act of creating a cosmology ingrained in remembering our spirits innermost connectivity and potential; which is, the possibility of total spiritual and bodily freedom,” Chadwera said in a statement. “An existence without compressions.”

For Beldon, Iridian Gallery’s liaison, who is co-curating the exhibition with Dr. Lee, Evolution Of The Sacred Self reflects exactly the kind of art that Iridian Gallery hopes to share with the world. “Iridian seeks to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ artists,” she said in a statement. “Both Ms. Chabwera and Mr. Scott are very much in touch with their evolution. We as the viewer need to ask ourselves the questions, how did you see yourself in the past? How do you see yourself now? Have you changed? Then, think about the artists you are viewing.”

Micah David Scott. Photo courtesy Iridian Gallery.

There will be abundant opportunity to reflect on all of these questions at the opening for Exhibition Of The Sacred Self, taking place on Friday, January 10 from 7 to 9 PM at Iridian Gallery. The event is free and open to the public. For more info, click here. If you can’t make it, artwork will be on display until Saturday, February 22 during Iridian Gallery’s normal business hours. Iridian Gallery is located within the Diversity Richmond complex at 1407 Sherwood Ave.

Top Image: Mahari Chabwera’s Under Maya’s Bloom We Had Known Power; It’s The Fire Next Time (left), Micah David Scott’s Introvert (right). Images courtesy Iridian Gallery

Marilyn Drew Necci

Marilyn Drew Necci

Former GayRVA editor-in-chief, RVA Magazine editor for print and web. Anxiety expert, proud trans woman, happily married.

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