Drakeford Explores Racial Identity with ‘I Can Grow Tall’

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September 11th, 2013

Omaha, NE - The Bemis Center’s Carver Bank location is the site for a new installation for North Omaha artist Angela Drakeford.

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For the last six years, UNO graduate Angela Drakeford has focused her artistic talents in the medium of text-based artwork.

"Unsolicited" by Angela Drakeford

“Unsolicited” by Angela Drakeford

“I think it’s really interesting because it shows vulnerability,” Drakeford said. “I like that. I feel that its a really easy way for me to connect with the viewer because there is no escaping it. It’s speaking directly to the audience and their emotional baggage. That’s my main interest in text-based art, finding a connection.”

Drakeford now attempts to connect with viewers with her latest installation entitled I Can Grow Tall, featured at the Bemis Center’s Carver Bank gallery. The exhibit focus on language primarily used by strangers, addressing perceived identity versus actual identity, how we view ourselves as opposed to how other people see us in daily conversation.

For Drakeford, it’s her first large-scale attempt at exploring the large issues of race and politics in America. As a mixed race woman growing up in North Omaha, she said she has gotten to witness misidentification from both the white and black communities.

“I was thinking about what I was going to do in the Carver Bank,” said Drakeford.  “I wanted to do something that was challenging for me because I grew up in that neighborhood. There are a lot of politics about mixed people in North Omaha and in the black community. I wanted to challenge myself and put it all out there.”

The challenge also comes with Drakeford’s highly detail oriented process. Her pieces are extremely labor intensive, often taking hundreds of hours to complete. Her pieces in I Can Grow Tall feature the use of tar paper, glass glitter, embroidery floss, and insulation foam among others. The key to installation, Drakeford said, is to hopefully open eyes and more importantly the ears of of the viewer to listen to where the other side is coming from.

“I think that it’s really important for people listen to other people’s stories. I think that would really help us in regards to race relations in this country and also things dealing with class and sexual orientation. If you just stop and listen to what someone else is saying, then maybe you can see their point of view as opposed to assuming  that you know what their point of view is. I want the viewer to have an internal conversation with themselves and reflect on the things they say or think and how that affects people they don’t know.”

Angela Drakeford’s installation I Can Grow Tall is being featured at the Bemis Center’s Carver Bank gallery at 2416 Lake Street in Omaha, Nebraska. There is no admission price. For more information, visit bemiscenter.org

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