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York College Art Gallery


Suzanne Broughel & Basha Ruth Nelson

March 16 ­— April 24, 2015

When Basha Ruth Nelson proposed the word “freedom” as the title for our show, my initial thought was “No Way! That word is too big.” As a participant in the Black Lives Matter protests, I witnessed young black leaders sharing profound words about their fight for freedom in a context I felt was bigger than my artwork. I then did some reading and contemplating about the word, and it began to make sense. Ruth and I make works that deal with oppression – specifically patriarchy and white supremacy – in large and small ways. In the United States, freedom is stifled in large and small ways every day. A white hood-wearing Klan member stifles freedom, but so does a white hipster making Ebola jokes that devalue black lives. I’m grateful to Ruth for pushing me to think through the word “freedom” and how our work here analyses it. It is a good critical space for two white female artists to be in 2015.

Suzanne Broughel

FREEDOM began in 2013 with my research of the 25th anniversary of the tearing down of the Berlin wall. Through that investigation, I felt a renewal of my own deep commitment to freedom: its abstract idea, its concrete necessity. I use art to make my feelings visible and to find those feelings in others. In the FREEDOM Project at York College honoring Women’s History Month, I reflect on the real and symbolic barriers which constrict our freedom and are yet to be breached: the Equal Rights Amendment, still not passed and the real glass ceilings still not shattered for women and minorities. I re-contextualize common materials and use paper packaging and broken glass panes to symbolize the “glass ceiling” and the walls that still exist. I invite gallery visitors to add to the art installation and become part of it by tearing down the paper walls, and writing about their own experiences and thoughts of freedom directly on the “glass ceiling.” I see beauty in such acts of creating, tearing and writing with intention and feeling. By being creators along with me, the barriers are torn down between artist and viewer... and the artwork is complete! This is “freedom”.

Basha Ruth Nelson