Three Exhibits of Photography by Clarissa Sligh on Display Feb. 22-April 13

Sligh's thought-provoking work challenges assumptions and generates discussion about race, sexuality, and gender identities.

Known for incorporating change, transformation, and complication in her work as a means of fostering social justice, photographer Clarissa Sligh will exhibit her art in three displays—100 Americans: A Presence of the Past in Philadelphia, Masculinities, and Jake in Transition—at Haverford, February 22-April 13. An opening reception will be held Friday, February 22, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in Stokes Hall, Rooms 102 and 106.

These exhibits are made possible through the John B. Hurford ’60 Humanities Center Leaves of Grass Fund.

100 Americans: A Presence of the Past in Philadelphia will be shown in the Multicultural Center, located in Stokes Hall Room 106. This exhibit was originally commissioned by the Rosenbach Museum and Library. Sligh took digital portraits of citizens of African descent in the streets of Philadelphia and then hung 100 portraits as an introduction to the museum’s exhibit on African-American histories. As she met her subjects and asked them for their participation, she talked about the exhibit and encouraged them to visit it. Her goal was to bridge the gap between African Americans in Philadelphia and one of the city’s leading cultural institutions. The men and women in her photos stand as subjects and spectators, intervening in the museum experience.

The Magill Library Study Gallery will house Masculinities, in which images such as a stay-at-home dad, a burly flower arranger, a “butch” female in repose, and a gun-toting cowgirl challenge gender assumptions and boundaries in order to interrogate them.

Jake in Transition will be featured in the gallery of the Hurford Humanities Center, located in Stokes Room 102. This photo essay chronicles a female-to-male transition and interprets transgender identities through narratives of racial “passing.” As over the course of the year Deborah becomes Jake, the metamorphosis evokes generations of African Americans who “passed” for white as they sought freedom. Sligh links Jake’s transsexual journey to the historical account of runaway slave couple Ellen and William Craft, who “passed” as two males, master (white) and slave (black) during their escape. She recounts these interwoven stories in a limited edition artist’s book, Wrongly Bodied Two, on display as part of the exhibition.

A roundtable discussion on Jake in Transition will be held Friday, April 4, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. in Gest Hall Room 101. Participants include Sligh; Israel Burshatin, Barbara Riley Levin Professor of Comparative Literature, Professor of Spanish, and curator of the exhibit; Gayle Salamon, Costen LGBT Postdoctoral Fellow from the Society of Fellows in Liberal Arts at Princeton University; Heidi Schlipphacke, Visiting Associate Professor of German; and William E. Williams, Audrey A. and John L. Dusseau Professor in the Humanities and Fine Arts and Curator of Photography. They will address issues of photography and transgenderism, the affinities and differences between racial and sexual “passing,” and the roles of performance and narrative in the fashioning of gendered and racialized bodies.

At age 15, Clarissa Sligh was the lead plaintiff in the 1955 school desegregation case in Virginia. Since that time, she has combined photographs, drawings, text, personal stories and social justice issues to open up conversations on provocative themes. She received the Leeway Foundation Art and Change Grant in 2006, and has been awarded fellowships from Anonymous Was a Woman (2001), the Andrea Frank Foundation (2000), the National Endowment for the Arts (1988), and the New York Foundation for the Arts on multiple occasions. She also received the Annual Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography in 1995 and the Annual President’s Award from the National Women’s Caucus for Art in 1994. In addition to Wrongly Bodied Two, her publications include Voyage(r): A Tourist Map to Japan; Reading Dick and Jane with Me; and What’s Happening to Momma? Sligh holds a B.A. from the Hampton Institute, a B.F.A. from Howard University, an M.B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, an M.A. from Texas Women’s University, and an M.F.A. from Howard. She currently teaches at Penn and New York University.

The Multicultural Center and Hurford Humanities Center galleries will be open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 1-5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. The Magill Library Study Gallery’s hours are Monday-Thursday 8:30 a.m.-midnight; Friday 8:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-9 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m.-midnight. For more information, contact Matthew Seamus Callinan, Campus Exhibitions Coordinator, at (610) 896-1297 or mcallina@haverford.edu.