The Old Stone House & Washington Park (OSH) is pleased to announce the opening of its latest contemporary art exhibition, Picturing the Constitution, the weekend of October 20-22, in conjunction with Gowanus Open Studios. This includes an artists’ reception on October 22, 4-6pm and an Ecofeminist Fashion Walk by artist Iviva Olenick on October 21, 1-2pm.
Picturing the Constitution will be on view: October 20, 2023-January 14, 2024.
Open Hours: Friday-Sunday 12-4pm, or by appointment
Katherine Gressel, Curator
Featured image by Morgan O’Hara.
Picturing the Constitution features artists’ responses to the United States Constitution, including its origins, contents, and interpretations throughout history. Installations, workshops and performances in diverse media by 17 artists and art teams ask: to what extent do these founding documents still serve us (equitably)? What could we add or amend? As we approach the 2024 presidential election, it is an important time to reflect on the history and current state of democracy in America, our rights and responsibilities to our communities today, and the role of artists in depicting and facilitating these ideals.
Participating Artists were selected via an open call to both past OSH exhibiting artists and the general public, and selected by a committee that included artists, historians and constitutional scholars.
About the Artwork:
Central to the exhibition is the idea of the Constitution as inspirational yet incomplete or possibly “broken,” yet currently difficult to amend. Some artists in Picturing the Constitution respond to the current Supreme Court’s most consequential recent reinterpretations of Constitutional rights (such as the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision), or recent debates over immigration, gun and voting rights, with projects that inspire both critical analysis and direct actions. Some question the limits of American representative democracy. Others draw from personal and communal histories to highlight populations historically excluded from constitutional protections (i.e. on the basis of race, gender, geography or immigration status), often as a result of constitutional “compromises” or omissions.
Most artists engage directly with specific constitutional and legal texts, facilitating closer readings through such techniques as isolating, combining, obfuscating, or illustrating key words or passages. Some focus on the Constitution’s idealistic intentions, while grappling with such questions as, in the words of artist Maju Shandler, “As artists how do we create symbols that will inspire and enlighten” while still acknowledging “our nation’s complicated past and more pressing future?” Throughout the exhibition, patriotic and aspirational material is juxtaposed with questions about “the impossibility of freedom in a country founded on slavery and genocide,” to quote the title of a performance still by artist Dread Scott.
Multiple works in the exhibition incorporate the phrase “We the People” from the Constitution’s preamble, suggesting the power (and responsibility) of individual citizens to, in the words of artist Donna Bassin, “resist their own obliteration and insist on their full participation in democracy.” Several artists facilitate participation through creative ways of rereading, revising or rewriting the document. Maya Ciarrocchi’s October 29 Remedy for a Constitutional Crisis invites the public to recite the Constitution in multiple languages, discuss key constitutional questions, and propose new amendments. By contrast, Morgan O’Hara’s ongoing Handwriting the Constitution workshops are “designed to bring people together in a quiet and calming way…as a powerful and transformative form of activism for introverts.” A full public programs schedule is listed below.
Together, the artists in Picturing the Constitution emphasize the importance of deep engagement with the documents that shaped our past and present, including imagining a more perfect future.
Sunday, October 22, 1-2pm: Ecofeminist Fashion Walk with Iviva Olenick
Sunday, October 29, 11am-2pm: Remedy for a Constitutional Crisis: Constitutional reading and discussion with Maya Ciarrocchi (rain date November 4)
Monday, November 13, 6:30-9:30pm: Handwriting the Constitution session with Morgan O’Hara
Sunday, December 3, 1-3pm, Penumbra Kit: a workshop on reproductive rights and the Constitution, presented by artist Maureen Connor (of How to Perform an Abortion) and legal scholar and educator Jason M. Leggett.
This exhibition is made possible, in part, by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.
Artist Selection Committee: Steven Mazie, Professor of Political Studies at Bard High School Early College-Manhattan and Supreme Court Correspondent, The Economist; Katherine Toukhy, artist and art educator; Jennifer Wingate, Professor of Fine Arts, Chair, Interdisciplinary Studies, St. Francis College; Katherine Gressel, Contemporary Curator, Old Stone House & Washington Park; Kim Maier, Executive Director, Old Stone House & Washington Park