Charlotta Janssen - Freedom Riders and Bus Boycotters: Threads of a Story
In 2009, the first black president of the United States was sworn into office. This historic event was a catalyst for German American artist, Charlotta Janssen, to visually thank participants of the Civil Rights Movement for their work and dedication that made this victory possible. In her exhibition, FREEDOM RIDERS & BUS BOYCOTTERS: Threads of a Story, Janssen specifically honors Freedom Riders from 1961 and their predecessors the Montgomery Bus Boycotters from 1956. Inspired by the mug shots of these heroes that confront the injustice of the legal system, Janssen uses the immediate medium of painting and collage to educate and commemorate this incredible feat of history led by the young people of America.
According to Janssen, “every time has its music and its noise- music being the truth and noise being everything but the truth. In time, the noise dies and only the music remains, but to understand the way this music came about you need to consider the noise too.”
Janssen transports the viewer back to this moment in time creating a living history to bring awareness to a collective consciousness where segregation seemed normal and fighting it was a daunting task. To achieve this, Janssen re-imagines the mug shots of her subjects using oil, acrylic, rust and collage in 83 augmented portraits. The color spectrum of the paint is narrowed down to black, white, teal and rust. Other colors are introduced through collage.
Mug shots are normally portraits of shame, but in those belonging to the Bus Boycotters and Freedom Riders, she sees their heroism, determination and courage. The reciprocity of the instant they faced their jailers is tangible. These portraits reflect both the judicial system confronting the individual and the individual confronting the judicial system. FREEDOM RIDERS & BUS BOYCOTTERS: Threads of a Story is dedicated to the beloved community.
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