Benton Museum of Art: Black Artist Exhibition

Institution: Pomona College

PERFORMANCE: NIC Kay: pushit!! [an exercise in getting well soon]

Drone footage

From Saturday, February 29, 2020
5 p.m. Performance, Office of Black Student Affairs
6 p.m. Discussion with Pomona College Professor of English and Africana Studies Valorie D. Thomas: NIC Kay’s Get Well Soon Project: Between Performance and Performativity, Museum of Art

With pushit!! [an exercise in getting well soon], performance artist NIC Kay investigates the possibility of wellness for Black bodies in a system that is not built for Black people to be truly well. The saying “Get well soon!” is a cultural trope that is deeply embedded in the neoliberal cultural economy. Why must we be #carefree and #joyfilled? Whom does this shift away from #blacklivesmatter and #sayhername conversations truly benefit? What is wellness in a culture that touts speedy recovery and self-help, while living with the constant of Black death and trauma?

The discussion following NIC Kay’s performance questioned when Black performativity ends and when a performance starts. This performance asked, can resistance be choreographed? Problematic representations of the Black body as a sight for entertainment and stereotyping pervade the history of Black performance. Black bodies in public space are both hyper-visible and invisible, a threat or too insignificant to be cared for. This event challenged audiences to revisit their own viewing positions.

pushit!! [an exercise in getting well soon] was supported by the Marian and Charles Holmes Performing Arts Fund at The Claremont Colleges.

Produced in partnership with OBSA’s 4th Annual Black Intersections Conference

Performance footage

EXHIBITION: Alison Saar Of Aether and Earthe

The Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena and the Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College, (formerly Pomona College Museum of Art) in Claremont are partnering to present Alison Saar: Of Aether and Earthe, an exhibition of artist Alison Saar’s work connected to myths and archetypes, invisible bodies and hidden histories, and timeless paradigms of grounding and transformation. Highlighting the dualities that are woven throughout her art, Alison Saar: Of Aether and Earthe explores and complicates the binaries of body and spirit, earth and air.


The exhibition title, Of Aether and Earthe, with its esoteric, alchemical connotations emphasizes this idea of dualities. In ancient and medieval science, aether represented the fifth element—a cosmic essence that exists in and around the other elements of earth, water, air, and fire. For Saar, this title suggests transformations of elemental properties: with aether representing the spiritual and non-material, and earthe—with the archaic spelling—suggesting a rootedness to physical materials.

Alison Saar: Of Aether and Earthe—one exhibition at two venues (the Benton is up through May 16; and the Armory will open later this year)—will offer a survey of Saar’s sculptures, installations, paintings, and drawings. The Armory will showcase work that suggests elements of fire, air, and aether, while the Benton will highlight work that emphasizes grounded, earthly, and watery qualities.

EXHIBITION: Alison Saar Imbue

Saar has created a new public artwork at Pomona College’s Benton Museum. The sculpture, a 12-foot-tall figure, represents Yemaja, a Yoruba deity, the goddess of all waters and mother of all living things. Yemaja is found throughout Africa and the Americas, and a protector of women and children with cleansing and healing attributes. The exhibition of sculptures and paintings also includes studies and maquettes related to this new work, providing insight into Saar’s research practice and artistic process.

The exploration of Saar’s process connects with the Armory’s interest in inclusive dialogue at the intersection of art, education, and community. The Armory will highlight a selection of Saar’s site-responsive installations and sculptures created by Saar over 30 years, such as Sapphire (1985), which depicts a female bust whose breasts have been built to serve as doors that open to a fiery heart, along with the restaging of Catfish Dreamin, a mobile sculpture of a house and 6-foot catfish that are mounted on a pickup truck, which will travel between the Armory and the Benton. The missions of the Armory and the Benton at Pomona College—art institutions rooted in education—reinforce Saar’s vision of providing critical insight into history and contemporary narratives.

Installation process of Alison Saar’s Imbue in the Benton courtyard

See additional installation images from Alison Saar: Of Aether and Earthe at the Benton Museum


A poetry reading to commemorate Alison Saar: Of Aether and Earthe with Evie Shockley and Camille Dungy

presented in partnership with OBSA

Footage, images and descriptions courtesy of Pomona College Benton Museum of Art

Update: Don’t miss the 34th Sojourner Truth Lecture (zoom link) featuring Alison Saar and Lezley Saar, February 26th 3:30pm PST.

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