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Artist Shanequa Gay brings inspiring black experiences to canvas in new exhibition

‘Fair Is Foul and Foul Ain’t Fair’ opens at Wofford College in honor of Women’s History Month

The plight of black women and black men in society has again been captured on canvas in a new, slick and inspiring way. Inspired by tragedy but translated into color art form, Atlanta-based artist Shanequa Gay’s latest work, Fair Is Foul and Foul Ain’t Fair, is on display at Wofford College in celebration of Women’s History Month and Black History Month.

It was the death of Trayvon Martin and other black men and the violence in Chicago lit a flame in Gay. Her work sparks conversation about healing from issues affecting communities of color including police brutality, gang and prison culture, lack of educational opportunity, and feelings of self-hatred that have arisen in the black community.

According to a news release, the exhibition speaks to the contemporary social and racial climate. It was inspired by a novel by Bill Harris as well as Greek and African mythologies.

“I wanted to dig deep into the feelings of despair and despondency that some within the black community have concerning their plight of poverty and ethnicity,” Gay said.

According to Gay’s website, she “has drawn praise and critical acclaim for her depictions of southern life and black women.” Her work was featured in the 2014 Lions Gate film Addicted, the television series Being Mary Jane, the BET series Zoe and the OWN series Greenleaf. She was chosen by The Congressional Club to be the illustrator for the 2013 First Lady’s Luncheon hostess gift. First lady Michelle Obama and more than 1,800 attendees received the gift.

Gay’s exhibit will be on display through April 7 in the Martha Cloud Chapman Gallery in the Campus Life Building on Wofford College’s campus. Viewing is free and open to the public.

“The work is pulled from news clippings, media and developed from my own macrocosms,” Gay said, according to Wofford College, which is located in South Carolina. “My focus as of late has been to tell street mythologies in order to speak of the issues happening in the black community as if it were a tale of folklore.”

Gay’s pieces are clean and meant to be similar to sales advertisements. She uses “wood panels, acrylic, Flashe vinyl paints and oil paints,” to create the crisp look. She said her goal is to show “the plight of the black community and issues that often are ignored by the rest of society.”

“I am speaking to a global public, as these systemic issues do not just plague America. It is an epidemic around the world wherever low-income people reside,” Gay said. “I want to draw in the viewer with the familiar, to shock and cause them to come to a moral agreement that these issues affect us all.”

Gay is a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design and currently is a graduate student at Georgia State University. Her current work, The Fair Game Project, is art as advocacy that challenges the unyielding violence and injustices committed in America and across the globe against the black body.

Kelley Evans is a digital producer at Andscape. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic Southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.