Cultural Arts Gallery Newsletter

Reflections on Colorism: Art as the Alternative Mirror
Painting by Rachel Jones entitled Regenerate

Curated by Dr. Sarah L. Webb
February 28 – April 5, 2019

Reflections on Colorism investigates the history and trajectory of colorism-bias based on skin tone, hair texture and other racialized features within and across races-through documentary and speculative works of art. This exhibit juxtaposes traditional, mainstream attitudes about complexion and other racialized features with imaginings of new narratives and alternative visions. This exhibit is curated by Dr. Sarah L. Webb, creator of Colorism Healing, and Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Illinois Springfield.

For nearly a decade, Dr. Webb has pursued ongoing work in public advocacy, creative writing and academic scholarship on the international phenomenon of colorism. Her curation of Reflections on Colorism investigates her theory on healing and resistance. Here, she posits that colorism is a warped mirror image problem. A mirror is anything we refer to, consciously or not, for feedback about ourselves. A mirror is warped to the extent that it disempowers or disenfranchises those reflected in it. Speculative mirrors expose the distortion of warped mirrors by revealing positive or subversive alternatives. Speculative mirrors help us conceive of theories that resist harmful ideology. Newly aware of the distortion of warped mirrors and newly equipped with the tool of speculative mirrors, we may choose to engage in self-reflection—the process of composing one's own affective and empowering or tactical self-concept. Projecting one's self-reflection to a public can spark speculation or serve as a speculative mirror for others, perpetuating the healing process or resistance movement.

Dr. Webb will discuss historical and contemporary imagery that has constituted colorism’s warped mirror and articulate how the exhibited artworks serve as speculative mirrors that offer alternative avenues of self-perception.

Reflections on Colorism is the most recent project of Colorism Healing, an international initiative started by Dr. Webb in 2013. Colorism Healing’s flagship project has been the writing contest and anthologies of poetry and prose. Because colorism is a form of degradation steeped in visual perception, engagement with visual art has been a necessary and fruitful evolution in the overall mission. In this current iteration of her work, Dr. Webb begins the process of scrutinizing the parallels and intersections of text and image.