Britt Ransom: Arise and Seek

January 28 – March 25, 2023

Multigraph photographic portrait of Emma Ransom, the artist’s great-great grandmother.

Britt Ransom: Arise and Seek

“The spirit of John Brown beckons us to arise and seek the recovery of our rights, which our enemy, has sought forever to destroy” – Reverdy C. Ransom

The sculptural practice of Britt Ransom explores the transformation of data and material through digital fabrication processes such as 3D scanning, 3D printing, laser cutting, and computer-controlled milling. While earlier works have employed these methods to analyze human, animal, and environmental relationships, Arise and Seek utilizes them to examine the artist’s familial history and its links to the Civil Rights movement in the early twentieth century. In doing so, Ransom connects her earlier work on hierarchies of power between human and non-human agents to other systems of oppression that perpetuate structural racism and violence against people of color. 

Arise and Seek begins with a speech given in 1906 by the artist’s great-great grandfather Reverdy C. Ransom. Titled “The Spirit of John Brown,” the lecture was delivered at the second meeting of the Niagara Movement, a precursor to the NAACP. This meeting, and Ransom’s speech, were key catalysts in the early fight for Civil Rights in the United States. More than100 years later, the artist examines this history and its impact on the present through the visual language of racist monuments, historic site plaques, and excerpts from her great-great grandfather’s other speeches. Functioning as a familial archive, the exhibition documents Reverdy C. Ransom’s sixty-year career of civil rights activism and leadership in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, in partnership with his second wife (and the artist’s great-great grandmother), Emma. By inserting herself into this narrative, the artist underscores the significance of this critical history and affirms the linkage between the past and the present.

Arise and Seek includes sculptural references to the Tawawa Chimney Corner House, in Wilberforce, Ohio. Originally home to Civil Rights activist Bishop Benjamin Arnett, the nationally registered site became the cornerstone of Reverdy and Emma’s activism, bringing them in contact with key activists of the day including W.E.B. DuBois, Ida B. Wells, and Jane Adams as well as President Franklin D. Roosevelt. A portrait of Emma is presented as a multigraph—an early photography technique that used mirrors to capture a sitter’s image multiple times. Incorporating the viewer in the image, this technology is adopted by the artist to implicate audiences in the struggle for civil rights and to highlight the cyclical history of inequality.

The artist would like to extend her deepest thanks to the following individuals who have contributed generously to this exhibition in the form of archival material and oral histories: Ariel Arnett, great-great granddaughter of Bishop Arnett; Yvonne Mizell, the artist’s cousin, and granddaughter of Reverdy C. Ransom; and Curtis Ransom, the artist’s uncle, and grandson of Reverdy C. Ransom.


Programming

Britt Ransom will give an artist talk in Nichols Gallery, January 28, at 1:30 pm.


About the artist:

Britt Ransom (she/her) 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. 

Ransom is the recipient of the Hopper Prize, Joan Mitchell Center Residency, Los Angeles Clean Tech Incubator (LACI) Residency, ZERO1 American Arts Incubator Fellowship, Santa Monica Camera Obscura Residency, Workshop Residence-San Francisco, The Arctic Circle Residency, and the College Art Association Professional Development Award. Her work has been shown most recently at the Contemporary Art Center New Orleans (New Orleans, Louisiana), Honor Fraser (Los Angeles), Royale Projects (Los Angeles), Torrance Art Museum (Torrance, CA), Schering Stiftung (Transmediale, Berlin), Texas Women’s University, The University of Dallas, and the Chicago Artists Coalition.

Her writing has been published in the Leonardo Journal published by MIT Press (2019), The 3D Additivist Cookbook (2016), and The Routledge Handbook on Biology in Art, Architecture, and Design, Routledge Press Essay (2016), and In and Out of View: Art and the Dynamics of Circulation, Suppression, and Censorship (2021).

Prior to teaching at Carnegie Mellon, Ransom was an Associate Professor of Sculpture/4D at California State University Long Beach (Long Beach, California) from 2015-2022. While at CSULB Ransom served as the Associate Director for the School of Art and the Program Head of Sculpture. She was also the Assistant Professor of Digital/Hybrid Media at Southern Methodist University (Dallas, Texas) from 2011-2015.

Ransom was the 2017 SIGGRAPH Studio Chair and the the 2019 SIGGRAPH Art Gallery Chair and Curator which serves over 16,000 attendees in Los Angeles. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the New Media Caucus, an international non-profit association formed to promote the development and understanding of new media art. Ransom is a direct descendent of civil rights activist Reverdy C. Ransom and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Emma S. and Reverdy C. Ransom Foundation. Ransom is half black, queer, and was was born in 1987 in Lima, Ohio. She received her BFA from The Ohio State University in Art and Technology (2008) and her MFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago in Electronic Visualization / New Media (2011).

Curator:

Britt Ransom: Arise and Seek is curated by Ciara Ennis, Director and Curator of Pitzer College Art Galleries. Ennis received a PhD in Cultural Studies and Museum Studies from Claremont Graduate University and an MA in Visual Arts Administration, Curating, and Commissioning Contemporary Art from the Royal College of Art, London.


Reception
Sat., Jan. 28, 2023
1 – 3:30 p.m.

Exhibition
Jan. 28 – Mar. 25, 2023


Visit

Pitzer College Art Galleries are currently closed for installation and will be open to visitors, beginning January 28, Tuesday – Saturday, 12:00 – 5:00 pm.