Resident Residency: Tarmac


The work created by the inaugural Resident Residency artists-in-residence at McColl Center for Art + Innovation is a visual collection of societal wounds through the expression of social practice art. Author Nato Thompson refers to social practice art as “ art of actions. It was an art that involved people, and which wasn't always located in a museum.” Tarmac is a collective expression of healing driven by the power of action and people, elevating the artists and the messages behind their artwork.

Through the repurposed material work of MyLoan Dinh’s craft, we are woven into a national debate on immigration; one both contentious but also deeply connected to our presumed identity as a world class city. Taking the personal and collective histories that bind us, Dinh’s work in Tarmac draws us into ourselves to reflect on our position in cultural identity and Charlotte’s microcosmic position in the American Zeitgeist. 

The Post-Racial Feels collaborative series by HNin Nie and Dammit Wesley uses the context of both collective and individual histories to illustrate the realities society creates when we commodify people and culture for profit.  Taking on the identity of propaganda for satire, Dammit Wesley seeks to convey strong and often uncomfortable truths about internal dialogues that manifest themselves through stereotypes or discrimination. Balancing this intense engagement is Nie’s ethereal imagery, which counters the reality that Dammit Wesley imposes. Nie suggests instead that the real contention is inside each of us and it is our responsibility to face our own internal challenges with humor and optimism. 

Helms Jarrell drives the focus of her work with a Charlotte-based narrative that connects us to the global crisis of keeping people and culture in place. Through the guiding principles of reform, reimagine, resist, and recreate, Jarrell pairs the practice of community organizing with visual engagement of each principle to reposition those affected by displacement with honor and communal reverence. She raises the subjects of her work to royal and biblical stature by juxtaposing discarded material from eviction scenes in her latest work. Jarrell declares that there is value in being human, especially in a time where people are often discarded, like furniture at an eviction, from the very communities they have been historically forced to occupy. 

The context in which we place value on people shifts meaning with the work of Marlon Morrison. An actor, youth advocate, and cinematographer, he draws on his work for cathartic expression. Inspired from a recent revelation about Charlotte’s connection to modern-day slavery and human trafficking, One704 is a reflection of his internal dialogue upon learning his own potential part in this human rights global crisis. 

If art informs culture and culture consequently influences society, the role of the artist is the creator of culture. As a rapidly expanding city grappling with defining its own identity, we in Charlotte are witnessing this changing society walk into a new age of its existence. Tarmac is a pathway created by artists for people who are building the power in their communities to resist erasure and reimagine our collective identity in periods of rapid change.
-- Janelle Dunlap, Community Curatorial Fellow and visiting curator of Resident Residency: Tarmac for McColl Center for Art + Innovation.

Image: MyLoan Dinh, Made in America (everyday 21)(detail), in progress. Mixed media, paper, linoleum prints; 11 x 8.5 inches each x 21. Courtesy of the artist.