Beginning Friday, Jan. 24, the Wilson Gallery will be welcoming the mixed-media artwork of Tyanna Buie. The exhibit, which is titled “The Familial Gaze,” will be welcomed with an opening reception from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Jan. 24. Buie herself will be attending the reception to speak about her work.
The artwork is primarily large-scale screen prints and is an autobiographical reflection on Buie’s experiences as an African American woman growing up in foster care around the Chicago area.
According to Tai Lipan, director of university galleries and instructor of art, the work is not meant to be seen as immediately challenging or negative simply because of the tough subject matter.
“I think it’s important to keep in mind and appreciate that it’s not an overtly negative experience for Buie,” Lipan said. “It’s a lot to have gone through, and there’s this sense of trying to grow and understand that is a part of her process. But the work has this very positive feeling. You can have hundreds of artists work on the same work, but their different perspectives can color the way that you see them. In her work, you see an optimism that I think is important to recognize.”
The screen prints, which will be the largest works the Wilson Gallery has had in some time, are heavily layered with photographs of Buie’s experiences in the foster care system.
“The size of the screen prints is not an easy undertaking,” explained Lipan. “The scale is very interesting and dramatic. The texture and quality of the layering includes various photography aspects that are figurative. In some, she collages clothes or artifacts into them. Some works in the show may be focused on just a lamp. But you may see that lamp in other pictures, and you can connect it back to a certain place or context. It’s not just photographic, but has a lot of tangents in it as well.”
Lipan went on to explain that she hopes that the work will be able to connect with various crowds who come to see the different pieces.
“I always want the work that we show to be cross-disciplinary with lots of different perspectives to it, even if we have a main idea or a main target audience,” Lipan said. “If it touches on the interests of broader groups, that’s always a good thing.”
Those who come to the opening reception on Jan. 24 will be able to hear Buie’s personal remarks on her work, something Lipan believes is essential to understanding the artist’s perspective.
“As a curator, I don’t want to talk about someone else’s experiences,” said Lipan. “Buie is reticent about her work being seen as a negative experience, because it’s not. It’s important for people to hear that coming from her, and not from my writing on what I think her work is about.”
Those who cannot make the Jan. 24 opening reception can still hear and read Buie’s statements on her work outside of the Gallery’s entrance anytime they visit.
“The Familial Gaze” will be open to visitors until April 3, which is a substantially longer time for an exhibit to be shown compared to past exhibits at the Wilson Gallery. Different programs will be scheduled around the exhibit for the duration of its residency at AU.
“The Black Student Association approached me about doing an exhibit on campus, but I told them that we would need a little more lead time,” Lipan explained. “I told them that the function of the Wilson Gallery is to be a place where we can show work from outside the area that works as a powerful model of whatever topic we would want to talk about. The students were interested in having a community aspect to it, but the community aspect probably won’t be phased in until later. You may see programming about that at the show or in the future.”
Lipan hopes that this will enable more students from different fields and interests to visit the gallery while Buie’s works are there.
“The gallery’s job and art’s job, in general, is to be a bridge between communities,” Lipan said. “Art is not supposed to be just for artists. My whole goal is for the gallery to be for all of AU. It’s for everybody.”