published Sunday, June 9th, 2013

'Fair Game' New exhibit examines plight of the African-American male

"Boxed in II" — oil and acrylic on wood panel
"Boxed in II" — oil and acrylic on wood panel

  • photo
    "Father of Perpetual Help" — oil, acrylic, fabric on wood panel

If You Go

* What: "The Fair Game Project by Shanequa Gay"

* When: Through Aug. 30

* Where: Bessie Smith Cultural Center, 200 E. Martin Luther King Blvd.

* Admission: $30-$7

* Phone: 266-8658

About Shanequa Gay

Her work has been shown at the Chattanooga African American Museum, the Hunter Museum of American Art, the Bessie Smith Cultural Center, the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History, Emory University, Mason Murer Gallery and the National Black Arts Festival.

She is a graduate of the Art Institute of Atlanta and is currently attending the Savannah College of Art and Design. She was selected by Low Country Luxe as the illustrator of the White House for the 2013 First Lady's Luncheon Hostess gift.

Shanequa Gay was working with at-risk youth in an Atlanta-area high school three years ago when she conceived the idea for her current art exhibit.

"I worked with what was considered by some communities in the schools programs to be below-average performers," she says. "They were almost always African-American males."

The young men also tended to have disciplinary problems with issues at home and their dropout rates were very high, she says.

"What I saw was they were not slow or dumb, they just didn't have the passion for education within the walls of the school."

High-profile media cases involving Troy Davis, a black man executed in 2011 for killing a police officer in 1989, and 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was shot to death in 2012 by a private citizen in a Florida neighborhood, also caught her attention and were directed into her art.

"The Fair Game Project," her current traveling exhibition on display at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center through Aug. 30, "speaks to the never-ending conversation of what she sees happening to the African-American male population," according to her online biography. The series of paintings are "just random things I found to talk about," Gay says.

She works primarily on wood panels using oils and acrylics, but also uses watercolors on paper and fabric. And her work has been shown at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center before.

"The first show we did with her was really a solo show that didn't have a theme to it, and so many people commented on how each picture told a story," says Carmen Davis, curator and programming director. "With this show and with what is happening with so many African-American males, I just thought it was really on time."

One of the themes within a theme that Gay likes to explore is "the almagamation of man and animal." she says. "Especially fawns and deer because they are so innocent to look at."

About 24 of her studies of the black male will be on display at the cultural center. She says it is a theme she intends to explore often in the future, but not the only one.

"It's just the start of things," she says. "I'd also like to explore Islamic women and the issues they are facing."

Contact staff writer Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6354.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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