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31 Aug 2018

Philadelphia Photo Arts Center asks ‘Who is art for?’ with multi-neighborhood Women’s Mobile Museum

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August 31, 2018 Category: Entertainment Posted by:

Earlier this year, the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center (PPAC) introduced the Women’s Mobile Museum – a year-long residency and apprenticeship program led by internationally renowned South African artist-activist Zanele Muholi in her first major US-based project, in collaboration with 10women artists of different ages, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds. Beginning in September 2018, the artists and Muholi will take their finished projects on the road in a six-month traveling exhibition that challenges social and economic barriers of the traditional art world and asks the question: Who is art for?

Since February, the female poets, photographers, painters and digital artists have been collaborating with one another and Muholi to create art reflective of their individual and collective experiences. Through the combined apprenticeship and Women’s Mobile Museum exhibition, the program combats the challenges that economically-disadvantaged women experience in art spaces, such as a lack of artistic resources and opportunities to showcase their work, and little or no access to higher education and professional training. The apprenticeship has provided the artists with funding, access to previously unavailable tools and resources, exhibition opportunities and formal training. In its final form, the Women’s Mobile Museum will remind visitors that art can and should be done by, seen by and feature all people, taking it outside its typical Western worldview lens. The artists are:

Afaq: an artist, activist, and educator whose body of self-portraiture seeks to challenge, confront, return, and respond to the Western gaze.

Shasta Bady: an aspiring scientist, visual artist, and sporadic papermaker whose project “As Above, So Below” is a study of public transportation – SEPTA – and its architectural spaces, portraits of passengers, and continuous movement.

Davelle Barnes: a meme curator, a film ethnographer, a social poet and a former Army Sergeant whose project “Unsat” is a visual critique of the racist, body-shaming rules and regulations she experienced during her time in the Army.

Tash Billington: an artist specializing in visual art, spoken word and engaging with community members. Her project “Philly Natives” pays homage to those who have overcome obstacles such as poverty, violence, racism, classism, over-incarceration and the public school-to-prison pipeline.

Iris Maldonado: a Reiki practitioner, poet and photographer. Maldonado uses self-portraits to explore womanhood, relationships, family bonds and emotional abuse. Her goal is to awaken a consciousness, asking women to take a good look at themselves and see their own value and strength to reject the negative messages of an abuser.

Danielle Morris: a self-taught photographer who mainly works in street and self-portraiture. In her project “Larchwood”, she explores Black memory and the nostalgic components of her childhood that have shaped her life.

Shana Roberts: a multi-disciplined artist who continuously explores and discovers new ways to express herself. Her project “Black Incandescence” is a record of Black turmoil and resilience that emphasizes a stark societal juxtaposition and the state of constant worry and unease Black people in America experience.

Carrie Anne Shimborski: an abstract painter, Master Doodler, and an emerging photographer. Her works are part of her poetic archive that prompt observers to delve deeper to unlock the mystery of each subject.

Muffy Ashley Torres: a multifaceted and self-taught artist whose project explores the greater themes of love, loss and displacement she and her family have experienced in her lifetime.

Andrea Walls: uses the mediums of poetry, photography and digital collage as tools for resistance. In “North from Here: A Series of Disembodied Portraits” she responds to the global experience of forced displacement of both wild and human populations.

Each artist has a different skillset and style; and collectively, their work tells a greater story of marginalization, discrimination and lack of representation. Individually, each piece connects observers to each artist’s personal story and experience. Through self-portraiture and candid photography, the photographs tell stories of love, loss, discrimination, freedom and insecurity. Collectively, their work tells a greater story. 

“These women have come together to share their personal struggles, while simultaneously giving a voice to the overarching struggles their audiences have dealt with their entire lives,” said Lori Waselchuk, exhibitions and programs coordinator at PPAC. “These artists have not been given a voice or a place in their world – the art world – until now, and they’re using this newfound platform as an opportunity to change the conversation and expand the lens through which art is viewed.”

The Women’s Mobile Museum was brought to life largely thanks to PPAC’s partnership with Muholi, who worked with the artists to find their voices, hone their crafts and tell their stories. A visual activist/photographer, Muholi’s self-proclaimed mission is ‘to re-write a black queer and trans visual history of South Africa for the world to know of our resistance and existence at the height of hate crimes in SA and beyond.’ She has made it her life’s work to make underrepresented people visible, believing that the museums of today are biased, and provide an inaccurate representation of history by framing it from a western, colonial worldview. Through her own work and, now, her involvement in the work of others, Muholi hopes to rewrite the history books, populate museums with new voices and address the various barriers that prevent many people from becoming culturally and economically engaged in the arts.

The Women’s Mobile Museum will be traveling to:

  • September 22 – October 13, 2018: Juniata Park Boys and Girls Club, 1001 E Cayuga Street
  • October 27 – November 17, 2018: Dixon House in Point Breeze, 1529 S 22nd Street
  • December 22, 2018 – March 30, 2019: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA)
  • January 10 – March 30, 2019: Culminating Exhibition at PPAC, 1400 N American Street #103

In addition to the Women’s Mobile Museum exhibitions, Muholi and the artists will be featured at Conversations@Moore at Moore College of Art & Design Graduate Studies on September 20. The women will be discussing the project in a panel discussion format.

To learn more about the Women’s Mobile Museum, Zanele and the artists, visit: and follow @womensmobilemuseum on Instagram.

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