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SLUMA Exhibitions

SLUMA is now open to the public, but follows protocols set by Saint Louis University based on current guidelines from the city’s Department of Health.

Current Exhibitions  

Transfuturism

March 11, 2022 - June 5, 2022

Opening Reception March 11, 2022 5:00pm-8:00pm

Parking for the opening reception will be available at the lot located at the intersection of Lindell Boulevard and Spring Avenue.

About the Exhibition

If I were to ask you what you dislike about your body, your answer would likely be connected to impossible ideals of masculinity and femininity. Whether it’s a super model that “needs” photoshopping to be cover-ready, or the ways we police body size, all of us are “failing” at gender to some degree which means the gender binary doesn’t serve any of us. In January of 2016, I had an epiphany: Gender nonconforming and trans people are actively teaching us how to shift our perspective of the binary, and find the possibility in perceived failure. They are teaching us how to express ourselves with a greater amount of gender freedom. In essence, they are superheroes.

Afrofuturism is a liberatory art form that speculates what freedom from oppression can look like in the technological future for Black people. One of the most common forms of Afrofuturistic production is comic art that features super heroes paving the way to liberation. Using afrofuturist styling, Transfuturism argues that trans and genderfluid people are doing this in the flesh, not as a future state of being, but in our present reality. In essence, they are modern-day superheroes.

Transfuturism is a photography, oral history, and Afrofuturistic art-activism project. First, Amber Johnson, a Black genderfluid artist, photographs and records the narratives and lived experiences of trans and genderfluid people of color to illustrate how transgressing gender affords a particular form of liberation, but also leads to new forms of identity challenges. Second, Wriply Bennet, a Black Transgender woman and artist, creates a comic book sketch that transforms the participant into an Afrofuturistic superhero. Then, together, they paint a large portrait of the superhero comic, borrowing elements from the interview to build the environment of the character.

Within comic and cartoon forms of entertainment culture, genderfluid or visibly trans folks have been painted as antagonists or comedic punchlines while the heroes are often painted as clearly cisgender, and mostly strong, cismasculine HEROes. We chose to capture each participant as an Afrofuturistic comic superhero in order to show the possibility inherent in breaking the gender binary. Rigid gender rules force everyone to conform to toxic ideals of femininity and masculinity. The body that breaks the binary teaches others that they do not have to conform to strict gender rules, and instead can live their life authentically. If people begin to see the value in non-binary and trans people through this humanizing, narrative-based campaign, then gender-based violence will decrease. Our goal is to paint as many trans and genderfluid people as time and money will allow because it is crucial that we illustrate pan-gender and femme gender folx IN THEIR OWN POWER!! The 25 participants of Transfuturism grace the walls of the gallery. Enjoy basking in the freedom that is Transfuturism.

-Amber Johnson
Interim Vice President, Diversity and Innovative Community Engagement, Saint Louis University
Founder of The Justice fleet
Professor of Communication and Social Justice, Saint Louis University

About the Artists

Wriply Marie Bennet is a proud, self-taught illustrator, actor, writer and singer born and raised in Ohio. Her organizing work started with the Trans Women of Color Collective and expanded in Ferguson where she was a freedom rider traveling to stand with Mike Brown’s family and community. Wriply’s work expresses the perseverance, power, strength, resilience, grace and beauty of trans women. Her work sheds light on the lack of national outcry over the epidemic of Black trans women murdered each year at the hands of state sanctioned violence. Wriply’s art has been used in numerous social justice flyers, and made its first film debut in MAJOR!, a documentary at the 2015 San Francisco Transgender Film Festival.

As a scholar/artist/activist, Dr. Amber Johnson explores the language, exigency, sound, and aesthetics of social justice. Their art, research, and activism focus on performances of identity, protest, and social justice in digital and lived spaces. As a polymath, their mixed-media artistry involves working with metals, recycled and reclaimed goods, photography, poetry, percussion, and paint to interrogate systems of oppression. Dr. Johnson is the creator of The Justice Fleet ™, a mobile justice museum that fosters healing through art, dialogue, and play and an award-winning Professor of Communication and Social Justice at Saint Louis University. Notable awards include the Golden Anniversary Monograph Award for their research on Black masculinity and the performative possibilities of social media, the Lilla A. Heston award for Outstanding Scholarship in Interpretation and Performance Studies for their work on embodied pedagogies and social justice, and the Faculty Excellence Award for Diversity and Social Justice. Dr. Johnson has published articles in several journals including Qualitative Inquiry, Critical Studies in Media and Communication, Text & Performance Quarterly, Liminalities: A Journal of Performance Studies, and Communication Quarterly. Their forthcoming book, A Great Inheritance, is a young adult fiction and memoir project written to help people better support and love genderfluid and trans people. The manuscript follows five children charged with dismantling the gender binary and eventually, the genetic economy.

Displaced: Selections from the Permanent Collection

September 3, 2021 - December 31, 2021

The Displaced exhibition examines the visual and political expression of artists who left their countries of origin, for a variety of reasons including persecution and war. The exhibition explores displacement as a catalyst for creative explorations and contributions afforded by new freedoms.

Objects I Love: Odes + Photos

September 3, 2021 - December 31, 2021

Identity is created out of the materials of everyday life. This partnership between Saint Louis University and YourWords STL in Spring 2021 invited students from Saint Margaret of Scotland School and Loyola Academy to write poems about objects they love in order to explore connections between physical objects, their own developing identities, and the worlds of other students in St. Louis.

Long-term Exhibitions

Einar Hákonarson: The Auschwitz Etchings

Over the course of a 40-year career, Einar Hákonarson (b. 1945) has become one of Iceland’s most distinguished artists, with 30 exhibitions in multiple countries. He was educated at the Iceland Academy of the Arts (Iceland’s national art school) and the Valand School of Fine Arts of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. Primarily a painter, he has also won numerous awards for his work in printmaking, and he reignited interest in the medium of printmaking in Iceland. In 1965, as a student at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, he made a life- changing trip to Auschwitz. Reflecting on that experience, the artist stated that, “this visit [to Auschwitz] influenced me tremendously. I simply was not the same as before.”

While a large portion of his work since the Auschwitz visit has dealt with human suffering, Hákonarson made a series of six etchings between 1965 and 1967 that specifically referenced his reflections on Auschwitz. He dedicated the six etchings to the victims of the Holocaust as well as to all victims of hatred, bigotry, and injustice. Although intimate in scale, the etchings explore the spirit of the human person to persevere and triumph even in the midst of atrocities on such an epic scale. The etchings remain witnesses to humanity’s dark side, but they are also expressions of hope, that in the face of such evil, the vigilant human spirit can still triumph and prevail.

We invite you to spend time with these works, to read the artist’s own reflections on the themes in each of the prints, and to see that, in light of the many contemporary global trouble spots, the message of the Auschwitz Etchings is timelier than ever.