The brightly colored patchwork textile—inspired by powwow garments, the artist’s grandmothers’ quilts, Native American cultural traditions, and other sources—both hides and reveals text from a Janis Joplin song: Try (Just a Little Bit Harder). It is a proposition, or maybe a command.
Jeffrey Gibson is half Choctaw and half Cherokee, grew up in Germany, Korea, and the United States, and studied art in the United Kingdom. He culls inspiration from an endless well of multicultural sources, personal, popular, and political, historical and contemporary. In material choices like rawhide, thimbles, and his own shirts, he examines complicated questions of self and identity and challenges existing notions of what it means to be “traditional.”
From the exhibition: Give a damn. (June 30 – September 30, 2018)
When I saw Jeffrey Gibson’s piece I’M GONNA TRY JUST A LITTLE BIT HARDER, I thought about the rural upstate community where I live and the protests calling for change.
It is easy for white people, myself included, to take advantage of our privilege by ignoring systemic racism even while believing in the need for racial equity. It is clear that believing is not enough. Action is required.
I love where I live. So acting on my beliefs means I have a responsibility to make sure all individuals feel welcome and safe in my community.
So I commit to trying harder by: 1. continuing to educate myself so I can be better prepared for challenging conversations and 2. forming partnerships within my community to push back against intolerance.
I know these efforts will be difficult and ongoing, but the only way I could fail is not to try.