Race and equity at center of SUNY Adirondack art exhibition

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October 25, 2021

College hosts show inspired by slave who bore Thomas Jefferson's children

QUEENSBURY, New York (Oct. 25, 2021) — SUNY Adirondack proudly announces an interdisciplinary art exhibition, “SALLY,” in the college’s Visual Arts Gallery in Dearlove Hall. 

The exhibition — which runs Nov. 4 through Jan. 27 — includes several on-campus events that address issues of race, including art, writing, history, film and performance. 

“‘SALLY’ extends into so much of SUNY Adirondack’s vision of embracing diversity and equity, creating conversation and encouraging community collaboration to address issues that affect us all,” said Rebecca Pelchar, assistant professor of art history and director of the Visual Arts Gallery. 

Curated by JoAnne McFarland and Sasha Chavchavadze, “SALLY” is inspired by Sarah “Sally” Hemings, an enslaved woman who had six children with Founding Father Thomas Jefferson. She lived on Jefferson’s Monticello plantation in Charlottesville, Virginia, for most of her life. When she had an opportunity to be freed as a teenager, she instead negotiated freedom for any children she bore (historians believe she was already carrying Jefferson’s child). 

The exhibition examines the lives and work of women like Hemings, whose destinies are woven in with those of the people they knew. Each work offers texts related to loss, as McFarland and Chavchavadze explore living with agency no matter the environment. 

“‘Sally’ isn’t just a name; it’s also a word that means ‘a sudden charge out of a besieged place,’ and that’s particularly apt,” McFarland said.  

“Looking at the historical context of gender equality, wealth distribution and racial tension in this nation — issues we still face today — is critical,” Pelchar said. 

The Visual Arts Gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday; and 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday. 


Related events 

• A reception sponsored by SUNY Adirondack’s Writers Project will be held at 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4, at the Visual Arts Gallery. Curator JoAnne McFarland will read from several of her books of published poetry. 

• Join the SUNY Adirondack community for a viewing of a documentary film about Sally Hemings, followed by a discussion with Connie Bosse, president of the local American Association of University Women branch; Wendy Johnston, associate professor of Political Science at SUNY Adirondack; and AAUW student representative Brianda Hayes at 12:40 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 17, in the Visual Arts Gallery. 


About the curators

JoAnne McFarland is founder and artistic director of Artpoetica Project Space in Gowanus, Brooklyn. The project explores the intersection of words, visual art, performance and installation. She is the former exhibitions director of A.I.R. Gallery in DUMBO, Brooklyn. McFarland’s artwork is part of the public collections of the Library of Congress, the Columbus Museum of Art and Dynegy Inc., among others. Her previous poetry books include “Said I Meant/Meant I Said,” a collaboration with poet Paul Eprile, “Identifying the Body,” “13 Ways of Looking at a Black Girl” and “Acid Rain.” 

Sasha Chavchavadze is founder of Proteus Gowanus, an interdisciplinary exhibition/event space in Brooklyn. Her community-based, interdisciplinary projects include “Battle Pass Collective,” “D’Amico Gowanus Laboratory,” “Museum of Matches,” and “Carnival of Connectivity.” Her paintings, drawings and installations have been exhibited widely, including at Cooper Union Gallery, and her collaborative projects have been presented at such prestigious venues as Museum of Modern Art.