Thanks to ticket donations by the museum, on April 10, some artists of Art Restart and The Gathering Place had an exciting opportunity to visit the Denver Art Museum for free and attend a private tour of the Jordan Casteel exhibition. Casteel was once part of the Denver neighborhood, and a volunteer of The Gathering Place, so seeing this exhibit brought community full circle for the TGP members.
An intimate group of 7 artists, accompanied by three staff members of TGP/Art Restart, were guided through Jordan Casteel: Returning the Gaze by the Curatorial Assistant of Modern and Contemporary Art, Shannon Corrigan. They were able to hear anecdotes from the artist’s life, and become familiar with her artistic practice. For example, Jordan began by using family and friends in Denver as models. Now, she walks the streets of Harlem, introducing herself to people on the streets. She then takes pictures and works from the photos back in her studio to create larger-than-life portraits. Her practice brings traditionally marginalized people of color onto large canvases, and now, onto the walls of museums.
“The essence of my work is seeing people who haven’t been seen – people we might not notice. I want viewers to see their humanity and be empathetic. To know that everyone has a story: a past, present and future.”
African Americans are not traditionally seen as the subjects of “fine art” in galleries or museums. When they are, men and women alike are often sexualized and become an object of the viewer’s gaze. Jordan Casteel subverts these tropes by depicting her subjects without sexual overtones, even when in the nude, and portraying them staring directly back at the viewer. One sees them as people capable of love, empathy, and success, not as mindless objects.
Jordan Casteel was born and raised in Denver. She attended East High School and was a great addition to the local community. She even helped The Gathering Place sell Card Project cards! After high school, she attended Agnes Scott College and then Yale for her Master’s degree. Casteel now lives and works in New York City. The exhibit at the Denver Art Museum is her first museum exhibition, however, her popularity is sure to grow.
Painterly figures full of color and presence impressed and inspired artists of The Gathering Place. Seeing members of the community of Denver, female artists, and racial minorities warms hearts and shows the community that there is cause to be hopeful about the future of art and equality.
Congratulations, Jordan Casteel, and thank you again to the Denver Art Museum for donating tickets!
Jordan Casteel: Returning the Gaze is on view at the Denver Art Museum until August 18. For more information about the exhibit, visit https://denverartmuseum.org/exhibitions/jordan-casteel-returning-gaze and to read more about Jordan Casteel, see http://www.jordancasteel.com/.