Paradigm Gallery is pleased to present two new solo exhibitions: Give Me My Flowers by photographer Shakira Hunt and KEEPSAKES: Storied by painter Crystal Latimer. Though the artists embody distinct approaches, visual styles, and mediums, the shows reflect complementary themes and stories: While Crystal depicts the masculine energy in women, Shakira unveils the feminine energy in men. Together, the exhibitions complicate and expand traditionally restricted conceptions of gender roles and selfhood in today’s world. Both exhibitions will be on view through November 20, 2021.
Shakira Hunt’s series Give Me My Flowers explores the Black male experience with an emphasis on creating space for a softer, more feminine side. She poses her subjects, who are all friends or acquaintances, with abundant blooming flowers. For Hunt, the flowers are both a sign of emotion and a symbol of honor or respect — we give people flowers as an act of love in times of mourning or celebration. Her first piece for the series is set on a basketball court in order to combine the typically masculine Black male experience with florals and fabrics. In juxtaposing these symbols and showing them as actually congruent, she reconstructs the narrative of what masculinity means — and what femininity means in relation to it. The work also has a personal meaning for Hunt, as a way to unpack her relationships between partners and with her father. As part of the series, Hunt conducted interviews with a variety of Black men about their experience of masculinity. Her images are printed on watercolor paper to add a textured realism to the skin and bodies of her subjects while amplifying the colors in the images. The exhibition will include a towering installation of crates overflowing with dried flowers from the photoshoots. The installation is an ode to the artist’s childhood, in which a recycled crate stood as an important object for play, often operating as a makeshift basketball hoop. The installation amplifies the greater themes of the exhibition by literalizing a hard rough exterior frame integrated with softer, feminine elements.
Crystal Latimer’s ongoing series KEEPSAKES also inverts traditional expectations around gender expression. A keepsake’s value lies in its sentiment — its worth is defined by the owner’s relationship to the memento. Latimer’s intricate and colorful multimedia works combine reference imagery of rugs and tapestries with vintage photographs of women to explore themes of self-worth, inner strength, and personal empowerment. Woven tapestries were traditionally created by women and rooted in the craft of storytelling. Latimer’s works depict women as cowgirls and animals including wolves, bears, and cheetahs, brazen symbols of an inner wildness. These animals are surrounded by portraits of women, arresting in their gaze and purposefully confrontational to the viewer. Latimer wants viewers to feel emboldened by the works, which encourage women to embrace a devil-may-care attitude and strength typically reserved for men. The most recent additions to this series are larger and more intricate than any of her previous works, with a greater emphasis on animal imagery and symbolic storytelling. In the tapestries, flora represent rebirth and birds allude to freedom. An abundance of decorative gilding and jewel-toned palettes reinforce the idea of value and worth. Affixed tassels add dimension and realism to the tapestry motif.
Both exhibitions examine, interrogate, and ultimately expand the stories we tell ourselves — and that society tells us — about our capacity for strength and for softness, for vulnerability and for freedom. Where can we break open these definitions and embrace something fuller and more fulfilling? The shows prove, as Hunt describes it, that masculinity and femininity are just energies which cannot, and should not, be boxed in or defined by any one person or thing.
For more information on the gallery and artists visit www.paradigm-gallery.org
(left) Shakira Hunt, Akin, 2021, photography on watercolor paper, 30” x 40” (right) Crystal Latimer, Reigning Fancies, 2021, acrylic, ink, pastel, gold on panel with cotton fiber tassels , 34” x 36” x 2”