“We think of artists usually in history as European, as male, as being trained in a certain way,” said Rujeko Hockley, co-curator of “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965-85,” an exhibition currently on display at the Brooklyn Museum.
“We don’t necessarily think of black women making quilts as artists in the South in the same way that we think of Picasso as being an artist,” Hockley noted.
“We Wanted a Revolution,” which is on view through Sept. 17, focuses on the second wave of feminism, highlighting more than 40 black women who were at the forefront of aesthetics, creativity, politics and representation. According to Hockley, the Black Arts Movement came specifically out of the black power movement.
Photographer Ming Smith said that being an artist at that particular moment in time was a calling: “It isn’t that you’re going to get fame or fortune. It was something that you had to do.” In her era, very seldom did you find black people depicted positively in the media. Smith used photography to capture the beauty of black people and the love that existed in her community.
The Harlem-based artist has immortalized the likes of Nina Simone, Muhammad Ali and Grace Jones, to name a few. Selections of her work are among women represented at the Brooklyn Museum.
Though Smith was the first African-American female photographer whose work was acquired by New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, she says that having her work included in this exhibition is unmatched.
“It’s nice to be acknowledged, because women, black artists, are being excluded from mainstream art. Like the women here, they survived,” Smith said. “They inspire me to this day.”
See the entire video above.