Lorraine O'Grady adapts autobiographical work for latest Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Façade
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Lorraine O'Grady adapts autobiographical work for latest Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Façade
The work is an adaptation of one of two autobiographical photomontages made in 1991 by O’Grady.

BOSTON, MASS.- Acclaimed Boston-born artist Lorraine O’Grady unveils her adapted autobiographical work The Strange Taxi, Stretched (2020) as the latest installation featured on the Gardner Museum’s Anne H. Fitzpatrick Façade. The Strange Taxi, Stretched will be on view through May 19, 2020.

The work is an adaptation of one of two autobiographical photomontages made in 1991 by O’Grady to depict and clarify her New England and Caribbean heritages—The Strange Taxi: or From Africa to Jamaica to Boston in 200 Years and The Fir-Palm (1991). In both the original and newly stretched versions of The Strange Taxi, O’Grady features female members of her own family: her mother, Lena (second from left) and three aunts.

The four figures emerge through the roof of a classic New England mansion, representing black women escaping from the limitations placed on them in a post–World War I Boston, when domestic service was virtually the only employment available to them. In the image’s stretched version for the Gardner, O’Grady doubles the height of the sky above them, metaphorically giving the women—and their descendants—expanded room to grow. O’Grady’s piece for the Gardner’s Façade was selected to work in dialogue with the exhibition Boston’s Apollo: Thomas McKeller and John Singer Sargent, opening February 13, 2020 in the Museum’s Hostetter Gallery.

For the first time, exhibitions across the Museum’s Hostetter and Fenway Galleries, and the Anne H. Fitzpatrick Façade, will be in thematic dialogue with one another, connecting the art of the past and present. The Strange Taxi, Stretched will be joined by concurrent exhibitions—Boston’s Apollo, and Adam Pendleton’s Elements of Me—each of which delve into black and brown lived experiences, past and present, to expand the story of American Art.

O’Grady is among those who contributed an essay for the Boston’s Apollo catalogue, and on February 15 (3 - 5 PM), both O’Grady and Pendleton will lead REDEFINED: The Black Model in 21st-Century Portraiture, a discussion of body, race, and gender in American Art and the need to rethink, document, and preserve diverse histories.

Lorraine O’Grady has been the subject of numerous one-person exhibitions, featured at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts Boston (MFA) and Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, Monastery de Santa María de las Cuevas, Seville, Spain (2016); among others. She has been a resident artist at Artpace San Antonio, TX, and has received numerous other awards, including a 2015 Creative Capital Award in Visual Art, a Creative Capital Grant, the CAA Distinguished Feminist Award, a Life Time Achievement Award from Howard University, an Art Matters grant, and the Anonymous Was A Woman award, as well as being named a United States Artists Rockefeller Fellow. Most recently, she was honored with a Skowhegan Medal (2019) and the Francis J. Greenburger award (2017).

In addition to her work as a visual artist, O’Grady is also a writer whose contributions to cultural criticism include the now-canonical article, “Olympia's Maid: Reclaiming Black Female Subjectivity.” Her essay NOTES on Living a Translated Life,” written for the Boston’s Apollo: Thomas McKeller and John Singer Sargent catalogue, is fairly autobiographical and imagines how her family's life and that of Thomas McKeller relate. A book of her collected writings, Lorraine O’Grady: Writing in Space, published by Duke University Press, will be released in 2020.

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