A Small Nation of Folks: A solo exhibition by RANSOME

With this exhibition I would like to share the beauty of being Black along with the diversity that empowers the Black community and each individual. With the support of the Gibbes Museum of Art, I present: A SMALL NATION OF FOLKS

As W. E. B. Du Bois did at the turn of the last century, I am challenging negative stereotypes and presenting a counter narrative to the one perpetuated by the media and (dominant) culture. Hopefully my work will continue the exploration of how systemic racism shapes the way Black people are seen in this country and the world. By reframing the inequities and prejudices in American culture, I create alternative, more inclusive narratives to present an expansive, multidimensional view of the Black community.

This exhibition combines works from previous exhibits along with six new works. Fifty small portraits of African American men and women were created at the Gibbes Museum of Art during my six-week residency in May and June of 2023. These portraits, along with thirty abstract works, were exhibited in I AM WHO YOU SEE I AM at the Woodstock Artist Association and Museum in Woodstock, NY from October 13 to November 12, 2023.

The 20 x 24 inch portraits are from a series of twelve works on canvas of children eating ice cream and were previously on view in UP SOUTH REFLECTIONS ON THE GREAT MIGRATION at Opalka Gallery at the Russell Sage College in Albany, NY. These paintings reference pre-civil rights movement African American children who consumed white American culture through magazines, newspapers, books, and radio.

Altar is a shrine, a sacred or holy space dedicated to a specific deity, ancestor, hero, saint, or similar figure of respect, a place of veneration or worship. In this case, the altar is for the Black folks who moved, who migrated, or who relocated in the hopes of finding safe places where they could grow into their true selves. A shrine often contains idols, relics, or other such objects associated with the figure being venerated. The suitcases, cotton, jars, and candles are relics of the folks who continue to search for a better life here in America.  

The six larger 30 x 30 inch works on wood panels were created for this exhibition. These portraits of ancestors, aunts and uncles, and cousins deconstruct stereotypes in an homage to Du Bois’ 1900 exhibit A Small Nation of People. They are collages made by combining acrylic paint and an array of found, made, and purchased papers. My process is a conceptual statement about the legacy of an often-overlooked people seen as a monolithic group rather than as individuals. All the portraits in A SMALL NATION OF FOLKS are imbued with the complexity and dignity of the subjects’ distinct individualism.  

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