Co-curated by Patrick Earl Hammie, Stacey Robinson, Blair Ebony Smith, and Nekita Thomas
About the Artists
Patrick Earl Hammie is an American visual artist and educator who specializes in portraiture, cultural identity, storytelling, and the body in visual culture. Hammie’s projects examine personal and shared Black experiences and offer stories that expand our understanding of others. He is Associate Professor and Chair of Studio Art. Hammie’s works are included in public and private collections, and have been supported by fellowships and grants from the Mellon Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, Midwestern Voices and Visions, Puffin Foundation, Tanne Foundation, the States of Illinois and Connecticut, and other private foundations
Stacey Robinson is an illustrator, graphic designer, and Assistant Professor of Graphic Design. Robinson’s artwork discusses ideas of “Black Utopias” as decolonized spaces of peace by considering Black affluent, self-sustaining communities; Black protest movements; and the art that documents them. Individually and as part of collaborative teams, Robinson creates graphic novels, gallery exhibitions, lectures, and Afro-futurist digital art that engages Black joy, resistance, and possibility.
Featured in this exhibition is BLACKMAU, Robinson’s collaboration with Kamau Grantham, Ph.D, also known as DJ KamauMau. Grantham was born in Buffalo NY and is the Assistant Director for Services at the U of I Counseling Center as well as co-founder of the trio Dance Music Therapy. Making art together since 2019, the Robinson and Grantham decided to create a moniker and a practice that spoke to their obscure speculative imaginings that merged ideas of liberated Black futures, ideas of agency, sovereignty dystopia, and escape. BLACKMAU utilizes digital collage aesthetics influenced by, and mimic inexpensive mass production and advertising practices of the 1980’s-90’s Hip-Hop and House music culture. The duo’s use of digital collage spans from rough cutout designs to pristine clean edges to the visible residue of the digital erasure. By centralizing Black people within the narrative their work prompts the audience to imagine themselves in the spaces with them. Their work is often printed large to command the Afrofuturist liberated space where the audience must engage with a mutual respect and often awe of the life-size subject matter.
Blair Ebony Smith is Assistant Professor in Art Education and Gender and Women’s Studies. She recently curated the yearlong exhibition Homemade, with Love: More Living Room at KAM. Smith, also known as lovenloops, is a learner from Richmond, Virginia who loves to make celebratory spaces, art, and sound with Black girls and those who love them. As a DJ and homegirl with Black girl celebratory collective/band, Saving Our Lives, Hear Our Truths (SOLHOT), Blair has deepened her love for Black sound, music and making space for Black girlhood celebration with Black girls. Currently, she is dreaming, teaching, and making space and sounds that open us to listening, slowly and voluminously, especially to Black girls, people, and living beings. Her art and scholarship explore themes of memory, loops, home, and gathering. In her free time, you can find Blair cruising to her Dad’s jazz mix CD’s, DJing, concert going and enjoying time with loved ones.
Nekita Thomas Thomas (she/her) is a Black woman designer, researcher, and educator committed to developing anti-racist design solutions focused on the of wellness and celebration of Black urban life and culture. Her interests are in overlapping race, equity, placemaking, and joy by design to focus on the analysis and disruption of racist practices. She designs immersive installation spaces, tools, and frameworks to engage the public in critically examining the dynamics of racial identity and designing related social impact solutions, either immediate or speculative. Recent exhibitions include Englewood Mothers Against Gun Violence with Access Health Chicago, The Chicago Sukkah Festival, and the Over and Beyond Experience at Chicago Public Schools Former Overton Elementary. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Graphic Design and Design For Responsible Innovation and received her MFA in Visual Studies from University at Buffalo.