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  • Simone Elizabeth Saunders

REIMAGINING ICONS: COUNTER-NARRATIVES AND HISTORIES ENRICHED

- CLAIRE OLIVER GALLERY- NEW YORK

ON VIEW JANUARY 19 THROUGH MARCH 9, 2024

A NEW EXHIBITION CURATED BY EVLYNE LAURIN FEATURES ARTWORK BY MORIDJA KITENGE BANZA, ERIKA DEFREITAS, SIMONE ELIZABETH SAUNDERS, AND SHANNA STRAUSS



The exhibition highlights a connection to a global diaspora of Black community; the four artists have connected through their exploration and reclamation of the complexities and intricacies around identities, offering new shapeable narratives.

Through Laurin’s curatorial perspective, Banza, Saunders, DeFreitas, and Strauss revisit conventionally accepted art historical doctrines to provide counter-narratives and alternative perspectives on the traditional canon. Connecting their spirituality and beliefs with their art, these artists (re)define icons in a profound way that aligns with their personal experiences, communities, and histories, challenging the codes dictated by antiquated narratives. The links between the works in the exhibition are evident both aesthetically and symbolically and serve as a celebration of reappropriation and an opportunity to foster a collective reimagining of heritage in the context of dynamic cultural storytelling. 


“Through my work, I want to empower and encourage Black women to never shrink ourselves and instead lean into being the fierce, graceful, and beautiful beings that we are,” said Simone Elizabeth Saunders. “By scrutinizing the art historical canon and recontextualizing fables that are rooted in colonialism, my goal is to remix these allegories and put Black womanhood as the center of a story where she is not just ‘present,’ and define her character as one that embodies joy, strength, and resilience.”


The exhibition represents the intricately woven aspects that have been erased or overlooked, transformed by the colonial gaze and the idea of superiority. In total, the works emphasize themes of community, sharing, and the dichotomies present in today’s social, political, and cultural landscape. This exhibition sheds light on the need for the fluidity of history, where narratives are not static but rather in perpetual movement, constantly enriched by diverse stories.


Through the hybridization of these strong but nuanced representations, the juxtaposition of new perspectives, and the revisitation of concepts of presence and absence, these artists are shaping a new legacy. They remind us that identity is a complex interplay of individual experiences and shared histories, fostering a deeper understanding of the powers in play. This legacy is aligned with a more global and inclusive identity, enriched by diverse beliefs, spiritualities, and identities. It’s an endeavor to unveil aspects of history often overlooked, fostering a collective reimagining of cultural heritage and converging narratives to form a collective story.

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