Evan Deroche – October 18, 2020
Southeastern’s Contemporary Art Gallery is exhibiting the work of New Orleans-based artist Ruth Owens with an installment titled “Black Outdoors: Crossing Boundaries”. The exhibit is free to the public and will remain open until Oct 29. Gallery Director Cristina Molina said in a Southeastern press release, “The exhibition will debut a selection of works that expands the narrative around racial identity. Putting forth the concept that identity is fluid and open, Ruth Owens’ subjects cross boundaries that hold in fixed and stable constructs.”
Ruth Owens was born in Germany in 1953. Her father was a black U.S. service member and her mother a white German. Owens’ experiences in a mixed military family laid the foundation for her cultural identity and artistic practices, Molina said. Her family can be seen in one of her works titled “Good Family,” a larger-than-life 64″ x 70″ painting. According to an SLU Contemporary Art Gallery social post, the piece was modeled after a moment of a home video.
Visual art student Corey Saltaformaggio said that the first thing he noticed in the exhibition was a video piece which included home footage. He said, “You got to see what her life was like growing up in Germany.” He also said that there were multiple small-scale studies of larger paintings.
Art Gallery student worker Kat Schepker said that having a female-only exhibit is important to the Southeastern art community. She said, “We don’t see a lot of female artists. Since my time at the gallery started last summer, I’ve never seen a show with just a female artist.” She added that it is important to give a platform to black female voices.
On Oct 13, the Gallery held a public Zoom meeting with Ruth Owens, Cristina Molina, and Kristina Kay Robinson as part of the exhibition. Robinson is a writer, curator, and visual artist from New Orleans. The virtual conversation covered Owens’ painting and video works shown in the Southeastern’s Contemporary Art Gallery.