Firehouse Art Center’s Latest Exhibit Explores Marginalized Groups
The Firehouse Art Center brings together three artists who have a personal relationship with marginalized groups, whether current or historic, in their latest exhibit, “A Place in History.” The exhibit opens on Wednesday, June 27 and runs through Saturday, July 28 at the downtown gallery, 667 4th Ave.
Glen Moriwaki, Michael Brohman and C. Maxx Stevens each have a personal relationship to marginalized groups. These artists bring their experiences and memories to “A Place in History.” The exhibit contends with memory, both individual and collective, and how self-perception and past experiences alter how people compile their own cultural and personal narratives. Importantly, these artists subvert expectations and stereotypes, revealing how communal trauma induces deeply personal revelations of truth.
Glen Moriwaki’s work forms a starting point to understand how we perceive history, when so many stories are unknown to us, or in some cases literally hidden from us. His work stems from the Japanese interment camp Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming, which opened 75 years ago. It was here that his parents and his 97-year-old uncle (a Longmont resident) were interned during World War II. In processing the experiences his family had, he exasperates the idea of freedom with a large wall installation comprised of 70 sheets of watercolor paper painted with free-flying birds, tumbling across the sky at will. A companion piece next to the installation is a silent video portraying images of confinement.
Of his work, Moriwaki states, “Art is a powerful force to connect people in divisive times. Having grown up as a Japanese American in a postwar California that was once galvanized against my immigrant community, I have been searching for ways in which art can reach out to both the individual and the larger community over issues no longer historical but contemporary and universal.”
Michael Brohman sets the stage from a different angle, creating works that tell the story of systemic oppression in a myriad of ways. In his formative years, Brohman struggled to find his identity as a gay man raised in a condemning religion. He uses his work to consider forced categorization, and he also uses branding and labeling of people in a unique way.
Brohman says, “Words are used as descriptors to affirm inclusion or to alienate. Language is used subtly with verbal microaggressions or directly as a display of dominance and hierarchy. It categorizes and separates individuals into groups with preconceived attributes or inferiorities.”
C. Maxx Stevens then shifts our perspective from an outside, collective conscience to the inner self and devotes her work to telling her story while affirming her family and cultural traditions. She explores the pre-conceived notions of what Native American art is and “should” look like.
Stevens explains, “My work evolves around the notion of memory/life and narrative/fiction. Negotiating with these stereotypes can be time consuming as I don’t feel I need to explain the way my work has evolved or what it means. In the two bodies of work in the show, they are based on my process of using materials and being contextualized with my beliefs as a native artist. The spheres are personal and the two-dimensional works are contextualized on my life and memory views of both the native and non-native societies.”
Each artist grapples with these concepts as inheritors of marginalized status, but they do so as individuals, and the strength of the experience lies in the ways they challenge our expectations for such work.
“A Place in History” will run from June 27-July 28 at the Firehouse Art Center. Friday, July 13 the Firehouse will host an Opening Reception from 6-9 p.m. during the Downtown Longmont Creative District’s monthly 2nd Friday.
The Firehouse Art Center is located in historic downtown Longmont at the corner of 4th Avenue and Coffman Street. They are open Wednesday through Sunday from noon-5 p.m. For more information, visit firehouseart.org.