New Orleans artist Ruth Owens to be featured in Contemporary Art Gallery

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Dylan Meche/The Lion’s Roar

Located next to Strawberry Stadium, the Contemporary Art Gallery is a part of the Department of Visual Art + Design. The upcoming exhibit will feature the works of New Orleans artist Ruth Owens. Visitors are required to wear face coverings inside the gallery and are asked to maintain a six-feet distance from each other while inside.

While the Contemporary Art Gallery is often used to showcase student works, it also features works from other artists.

From Oct. 8-29, the gallery will host a collection titled “Black Outdoors: Crossing Boundaries,” featuring artwork by Ruth Owens. The display will include both paintings and video artworks.

Cristina Molina, director and curator of the Contemporary Art Gallery, shared why she decided to feature Owen’s work in the gallery.

“Ruth Owens is a skilled painter and video maker who lives and works in New Orleans,” explained Molina. “In her painting, Ruth Owens often references scenes and relatives in family photos and home videos. I thought that featuring both of these media together, painting and video, in one venue would allow the viewer to make the visual connections between Ruth’s process and final product.”

Owens’ work includes depictions of people of color that are not usually seen in the media.

“Conceptually, Ruth’s artwork situates figures of Black individuals in lush outdoor landscapes, something that we don’t normally see depicted in mainstream imagery, advertising and other media unless it features a person of color experiencing an act of violence,” said Molina.

 

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On Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 12 p.m., a public Zoom call will be held between Owens, Molina and Kristina Robinson, an editor for Burnaway magazine.

“Throughout the conversation we will discuss Ruth’s process for making this work, her research and the themes surround the exhibition,” said Molina. “The public will be able to access the call via Zoom. Information will be posted on the gallery’s website under the ‘visiting artists series’ tab.”

Molina shared a statement from Owens about the collection.

“The black and brown bodies in this exhibition venture into the outdoors, which has been historically an uninviting or dangerous space for people of color,” stated Owens. “The Great American Outdoors and the Arian alpine landscape have taken on meaning as a place for spiritual, physical and psychological growth that does not include Black people. ‘Black Outdoors’  crosses this boundary and examines both the healing power and the dangers faced by Black people in this space.”

Molina mentioned that Owens’ work is especially relevant now due to recent instances of violence against people of color that have gained attention through the media.

“I think this subject matter has always been poignant, but currently we are in an era where a bird watcher like Christian Cooper cannot even go about his outdoor hobby without experiencing acts of hostility and violence,” commented Molina. “At this time, we cannot ignore the racial injustices faced by Black people, which is what makes Ruth’s artwork all the more relevant. Ruth’s artwork proposes a tension in the outdoor landscape as both restorative and dangerous for people of color.”

Molina described why she thinks this exhibit will leave a strong impression.

“I think this exhibition is most powerful because throughout, we see figures joyfully recreating in these outdoor spaces with a sense of ease, which is something all people should be allowed to feel while outdoors, but currently does not seem available to all people,” commented Molina. “Ruth’s artwork imagines a time when the restorative experience of communing with nature will truly provide a respite for all.”

“Black Outdoors: Crossing Boundaries” will be on display at the Contemporary Art Gallery, adjacent to Strawberry Stadium. The gallery is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays, and 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Friday. The showcase is open to the public at no cost.

 

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