In a groundbreaking exploration of safe spaces, renowned artist Sydney G. James brings her first solo museum exhibition, “Girl Raised in Detroit,” to the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. (MOCAD) from April 14 to September 4, 2023. This multi-faceted artistic visionary, widely recognized as one of the region’s prominent portrait artists, uses her artistic talents in murals, illustrations, and cultural organization to address the concept of freedom for Black people.
Drawing from her own experiences, James redefines the relationship between artist and muse. She collaborates intimately with family, friends, and contemporaries to create large-scale paintings and sculptural installations, highlighting personal stories that emphasize resiliency and perseverance.
In her quest to understand safe spaces, James turns to the domestic sphere with her installation “The Westside Johnsons,” recreating her grandparents’ 70’s styled living room within the museum walls. This immersive environment encourages viewers to contemplate the importance of a positive, loving family structure in fostering safe spaces. The artist’s dedication to community care and protection is further demonstrated through her involvement in the Detroit community and her own mural festival, BLKOUT Walls.
James’ exhibition is not only a celebration of her muses but also an honest portrayal of their individual and collective struggles. Some of her works depict subjects holding masks made from repurposed clothing that bears historical traumas, symbolizing the effort to conceal pain behind a façade. In a departure from European and Western traditions, James chooses to hang her canvases like African tapestries, with their rough edges hidden by trims, reinforcing the theme of masking trauma.
MOCAD MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART DETROIT
4454 WOODWARD AVENUE
DETROIT, MI 48201