One of the most striking and timely exhibitions I’ve witnessed in years brings issues of civil rights to the fore through the lens of the camera. As hate crimes against Muslims, Hispanic Americans, Blacks, ethnic minorities and the LGBT community surge following the US election, the Fogg Museum’s “Vision and Justice: The Art of Citizenship” gets our attention at the same time we reflect on Martin Luther King’s legacy.
Sarah Lewis (Harvard’s Departments of History of Art and Architecture and African and African American Studies) links art, social justice, and African American culture, inviting us to re-experience the beauty and pain of American history through selected photographic images. In this visual display from as far back as the Civil War, Ms. Lewis exposes our capacity for injustice, while reminding us of our belief in humanity. She beckons us to look back and move forward in the spirit of compassion, good will, and positive change.
In the midst of the Civil War Frederick Douglass told the public that our country’s progress would emerge from its citizens’ exposure to pictures rather than conflict. Lewis gives us face to face contact with decades of injustice while simultaneously reminding us that we are empowered to change our world. Images like, I AM A MAN, a slogan that challenged and struck down legal segregation, coupled with photographs from artists like Gordon Parks and Kara Walker are poignant symbols of our responsibility to stand up and take action as we look toward an uncertain future.
Immerse yourself in history; take a stand today.
Nancy Harris Frohlich
“If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.” ~ John F. Kennedy