Artist Britt Ransom Employs her African American Family’s History to Explore the Legacy of Early 20th Century Civil Rights Pioneers
An exhibition at The Pitzer College Art Galleries combines rare historic photographs with sculptural objects and archival artifacts to explore the struggle for Civil Rights decades before the era of Martin Luther King.
Jan. 28–Mar. 25, 2023, Tues.– Sat., noon–5 p.m.
Britt Ransom: Arise and Seek examines the artist’s family history and its links to the Civil Rights movement in the early twentieth century. Focusing on Ransom’s great-great-grandparents, the exhibition documents Reverdy C. Ransom’s sixty-year career of activism and leadership in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, in partnership with his wife Emma. With Arise and Seek, the artist connects her earlier work on hierarchies of power in the human and natural worlds to systems of oppression that perpetuate structural racism and violence against people of color. Click here for description by exhibition curator Ciara Ennis, Director and Curator of Pitzer College Art Galleries.
Arise and Seek runs from January 28 – March 25, 2023, at the Nichols Gallery on the Pitzer College campus in Claremont, California. See calendar information and end of release.
“The spirit of John Brown beckons us to arise and seek the recovery of our rights, which our enemy has sought forever to destroy.” The exhibition begins with this declaration from a seminal speech by Reverdy Ransom. It was delivered in 1906 at the second meeting of the Niagara Movement, a precursor to the NAACP. This meeting, and his speech, were catalysts in the early fight for Civil Rights in the United States. More than 100 years later, Britt Ransom examines this history and its present-day impact through the visual language of racist monuments, historic site plaques, and excerpts from her great-great grandfather’s speeches.
The exhibition includes sculptural references to the Tawawa Chimney Corner House, in Wilberforce, Ohio. The house was the cornerstone of Reverdy and Emma Ransom’s activism. “Capturing elements from that site and presenting them as sculpture is a way of repositioning history,” notes Britt. She and her family members are in the process of restoring the nationally registered historic site into a community space for research, activism, and art.
Arise and Seek functions as a familial archive. The exhibition includes rare photographs such as the “multigraph” of Emma; a three-dimensional recreation of the now vanished 19th Century archway leading to Tawawa Chimney Corner House, and a time-line charting Reverdy and Emma’s lives and activism.
“Traditional archives present an institutional narrative,” says Ennis. “Queering the official archive by inserting marginalized histories and bringing them to the fore underscores their relevance to our current times.” The concurrent exhibition Maya Gurantz: The Plague Archives at Pitzer’s Lenzner Family Art Gallery also presents a nontraditional archive.
Britt Ransom is an artist based between New Orleans, Louisiana, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is currently an Associate Professor of Art in Sculpture, Installation, and Site work at Carnegie Mellon University. Her practice and teaching explore conflicts within our shared climate through digital fabrication and installation processes.