In honor of Black History Month, we are spotlighting two artists whose work the Escalette Collection of Art acquired last year to feature in the Dean’s Suite. Both of these works stood out to us because of the meaningful way they memorialize Black lives and history.
Since 2015, Patrick Martinez has been re-envisioning Pee Chee folders to memorialize victims of police violence. In response to the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. Martinez released an unlimited edition print Racism Doesn’t Rest During a Pandemic Pee Chee (No Justice No Peace). The Pee Chee Folder project was inspired by an original artwork by Martinez, portraying hand-painted portraits of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery on a traditional school folder to shed light on the recent police killings of Black people and long-standing racism in America. It also documents elements of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic including masked essential workers and the the phrase “Zoom Class 11AM.” The inside of the folder features Martinez’s “10 Rules of Survival If Stopped by the Police.” Through this play of images, text, and symbols, Martinez captures the heartbeat of 2020, paying tribute to those who tragically lost their lives to racism and the countless workers who put their lives in danger everyday to serve the public.
“With these works my intention is to cement these people within the context of my art at the same time memorializing them. In America’s history, only presidents and “important” people would have portraits painted of them, scenes cast as bronze sculpture or statues etc. They won’t do that for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery so I want to do it myself so that these happenings and people are not forgotten.” – Patrick Martinez in interview with Hypebeast.
With the support of Charlie James Gallery, these folders were sold to benefit a number of social justice organizations including Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and the Black Trans Protesters Emergency Fund. The Dean’s Suite has two copies of this print on display so that viewers can see both the outside and inside of the folder. Jennifer D. Keene, Dean of Wilkinson College and Lindsay Shen, Director of the Escalette Collection were so eager to have this print – and the pivotal moment in history it captures – on display that they personally donated the works to the Escalette Collection.
Associate Professor of Art Lia Halloran’s work, Friendship Launch, After Katherine Johnson re-focuses the history of science on the stories of those often overlooked: women and people of color like Katherine Johnson. Johnson was one of the Black female mathematicians whose story was detailed in the award-winning 2016 film Hidden Figures.
Johnson was a NASA mathematician whose calculations of orbital mechanics were critical in turning the tides of the Space Race by helping John Glenn, in the Mercury vessel Friendship 7, become the first American to orbit the Earth. Johnson went on to calculate the precise trajectories that would let Apollo 11 land on the moon in 1969 and, after Neil Armstrong’s history-making moonwalk, let it return to Earth. She was the first African-American woman to attend graduate school at West Virginia University. Johnson accomplished all this and more while living in the age of Jim Crow. Despite her outstanding work and determination, Johnson was largely forgotten by history until now. In 2015, President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom and in 2017 NASA dedicated a building in her honor. Lia Halloran’s body of work inspires us all to continue to find the lost, unsung(s) heroes of history.
Friendship Launch, After Katherine Johnson was created as part of a limited edition of 50 prints which could be purchased with a minimum donation of $150 to Chapman’s Black Student Union or The Bail Project or both. You can hear Halloran speak more about this work here.
We invite you to explore all the works in the Escalette Collection by visiting our eMuseum.
Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences is the proud home of the Phyllis and Ross Escalette Permanent Collection of Art. The Escalette Collection exists to inspire critical thinking, foster interdisciplinary discovery, and strengthen bonds with the community. Beyond its role in curating art in public spaces, the Escalette is a learning laboratory that offers diverse opportunities for student and engagement and research, and involvement with the wider community. The collection is free and open to the public to view.