Art Seen

Through Mixed Media, This Artist Conveys A Clear Message: Black Lives Matter

"Of course, you can do your conventional art ... but I think it's great if you can make a political statement for justice also."


Art reflects life, alters life and, as the old saying goes, imitates life. But can art save life — and not just one, but thousands?

It's a big question, but one that Carla Cubit, a mixed media artist, aims to answer with her Black Lives Matter Art Show. The show opens at noon on Tuesday, January 31, and will feature an official opening reception from 7 to 10 pm. With Black History Month beginning on February 1, there is no time apter and no place more fitting than The Living Gallery in Brooklyn, New York, for such an event. 

"I think it's important to incorporate these social justice movements into whatever art form you can think of," Cubit told A Plus. "Of course, you can do your conventional art — your trees and your flowers and your bowls of fruit — but I think it's great if you can make a political statement for justice, also, whenever you have the opportunity." 

Prior to her Black Lives Matter art show, Cubit's first show was Occupy Art, inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement. "It evolved into … what's the most recent social movement? Black Lives Matter," she said. "I think they're both related because they both deal with sort of the same human rights issues … It's all the same struggle." 

One of the mixed media assemblage pieces at Cubit's Black Lives Matter Art Show on display at The Living Gallery in Brooklyn, N.Y.  Photo Credit: Lindsay Geller

"I make art because I say that it is a universal means of communication," Cubit explained.

Cubit's work ranges from sculptures that use assemblage pieces to three-dimensional collages on poster board using found and recycled objects. "They're highly visionary in nature because my sculptures use many mixed media materials like toothpicks, wire, string, wood," she explained. The pieces featured in her Black Lives Matter Art Show are relatively simple compared to her regular sculpture artwork. "They're a little bit more elaborate, a little bit more detailed," Cubit added. "They take a little bit longer to make than the posters."

Besides using found objects and materials, Cubit will be reusing and recycling some of the same posters and banners from previous shows in this one. The banners, called "Your Thoughts On Black Lives Matter," are covered with hundreds of thoughts written by past art show and event attendees. "I've just collected them over the past year, and I've just saved them to show over and over," Cubit said. 

The banners add an interactive element to her art show, intended to help the attendees "feel as if [they're] participating and contributing to the event," rather than just consuming it. "I think interactive art is a great idea because it's participatory art," she explained. 

"To me, it makes the audience feel as if they're part of the show … With participatory art, you can actually make the artwork, and sometimes you can actually walk away with the artwork that you've created."

Photo Credit: Lindsay Geller

Because Cubit's work is both "unconventional" in its form and message, she belongs to a few different artist collectives who work together to submit their artwork to different galleries throughout the New York area. Several contemporary venues, however, only showcase traditional art, often making themselves inaccessible to politically minded artwork motivated by social justice movements. 

"I'm always glad when I can find a place or venue to have these Black Lives Matter art shows because it gives me the opportunity to put the idea about Black Lives Matter into the art world," she said. "Because the art world has its contemporary views … I just hope to accomplish [putting] the idea of a political statement into the art world. I would like to help to fill that void." 

This lack of representation in the art world doesn't deter Cubit. On the contrary, it instills her work with an additional purpose.

Photo Credit: Lindsay Geller

Each piece makes the dual statement that not only do Black lives matter, but that art inspired by Black Lives Matters matters.

Whether the audience agrees or disagrees is not only their right, but as Cubit encourages with her show's interactive elements, their prerogative. "I'm also — as part of this show — trying to have an open mic element, if anyone has something they'd like to share, whether it be poetry or song or speeches," she said. 

Though the majority of participants in the open mic will be impromptu, attendees can expect to hear from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. Founded in 2011 by Dr. Cornel West and Carl Dix, SMIN is "determined to bring forth a movement of millions of people, from all walks of life, in steadfast resistance to the New Jim Crow and ... will not stop until mass incarceration and the police murder of Black, Latino and other oppressed peoples stops." Cubit has been in touch with SMIN, who are donating free posters to the event in what Cubit hopes "can come to show the faces of the victims of police brutality." 

According to a recent study, Fatal Shootings by U.S. Police Officers in 2015: A Bird's-Eye View, conducted by criminal justice researchers from the University of Louisville and the University of South Carolina with data collected by The Washington Post, unarmed Black men were fatally shot by police at "twice the rate" as unarmed White men. 

"The only thing that was significant in predicting whether someone shot and killed by police was unarmed was whether or not they were black," Justin Nix, a criminal justice researcher at the University of Louisville and one of the report's authors, told the publication. "Crime variables did not matter in terms of predicting whether the person killed was unarmed." Based on the analysis of 990 fatal shootings in 2015, the study "suggests the police exhibit shooter bias by falsely perceiving blacks to be a greater threat than non-blacks to their safety."

The message behind Cubit's artwork is simple: "Stop killing Black people." As an artist and woman of color, she creates to inspire, share, but most importantly show others "there's injustice in the world and hopefully ... it'll somehow change." With her upcoming Black Lives Matter Art Show, she wants people "to think about the world around you, to think about what are the current events in the news that are affecting us all ... to wake up." 

By drawing attention to cultural experiences outside of an individual's normal sphere of consciousness, art has the power to debunk these false perceptions.

Photo Credit: Lindsay Geller

Once those perceptions change, lives can be saved. It may be an idealistic, imaginative hope, but if art can — and does — imitate life, life can imitate art. 


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