each of us, beloved

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A hand-crafted heaven for those who are (depressed, and) politically involved. Amina Salah

An exhibit on self-love that does not hesitate to showcase what makes it so difficult

Sarah-Tai Black is a creative who lives in Toronto, Ontario. Their work focuses on liberation and activism intertwined through artistic expression. each of us, beloved is an exhibit that has been open for public viewing from July until September 25 at the Dunlop Art Gallery’s Sherwood Village branch. Through my eyes, the exhibit centers around positive affirmation and self-love.

It is about viewing yourself as someone that is adored; in essence, affirming yourself as a human being worthy of dignity and holding up space regardless of the societal pressures that exist. Ultimately, the most important relationship we have is the one that we have with ourselves. The greatest love you will ever have in your life is yourself. Thus, it’s only fair that we treat ourselves with the same love and compassion we give to others. We spend so much time pouring into other people that we neglect ourselves and forget to fill our own cups. And as we’ve learned from the trials of the pandemic, you cannot pour from an empty cup.

The artist focuses on defying ableism and white supremacy, especially their standards for what we should look like and how we should present ourselves. The pieces focus on the world through the lens of Black queer and gender-diverse individuals. They are serious but also playful. Through them, there is playfulness, fun, but also grief and calmness. The pieces force us to ponder upon our reality, the freedoms we have, and those that we don’t possess.

It questions what those freedoms might look like across the board for different people, what they feel like, and how they are expressed, analyzed, and critiqued. As Black puts it, “…the works in both shows [each of us, beloved and for those of us living on the shoreline] act here as radiant guides in visualizing how we might come to our liberatory movements and acts of care for ourselves and our communities. To bring them together collectively is a privilege and – even as these artistic practices are personal in nature and attributed to their respective individual makers – set in relation to one another they stand as a testament to our connectivity. We must not forget the political function of isolation, of nihilism, of feeling future-less, of assumptions that we are only death-bound.”

The art pieces, in their playfulness, give room for the public to let go of society’s pessimism, and usher us into an optimistic future where we are able to contemplate intimacy, care, and creative expression. What I enjoyed the most is that the exhibit was cohesive and well-rounded. Some pieces were extremely creative due to the fact that they were made with yarn. Throughout the exhibit, there are hints of yarn and knits in the gallery. All the colors came to life and it made for a very interesting viewing experience. I could feel the vibrancy and the warmth radiating from the pieces. Something I found very philosophical and beautiful was the artist’s belief that “love is a warm quilt on a cold Winnipeg night.” This is the best way I could describe each of us, beloved to a stranger. The exhibit felt like a warm embrace on a snowy, cold night with thunderstorms outside. It was a powerful embrace that is very much welcomed in this lonely, cold world we live in.

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