BmoreArt’s Picks: February 25 – March 2

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This Week:  “Being an Immigrant Artist in the Age of Trump” panel at MICA, Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico at National Museum of Women in the Arts, SHAN Wallace: 410 at Baltimore Museum of Art, and more!

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BmoreArt’s Picks presents the best weekly art openings, events, and performances happening in Baltimore and surrounding areas. For a more comprehensive perspective, check the BmoreArt Calendar page, which includes ongoing exhibits and performances, and is updated on a daily basis.

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“Being an Immigrant Artist in the Age of Trump” Panel
Tuesday, February 25 • 6:30-8pm
@ MICA Brown Center

Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is pleased to announce a panel, “Being an Immigrant Artist in the Age of Trump” — the second event of the semester in MICA’s Mixed Media Series — which will include Amir F. Fallah ’02 (Painting BFA), Aliza Nisenbaum, Aram Han Sifuentas ’11 (Fine Arts Post-Bacc) and Guadalupe Maravilla. This multidisciplinary panel of artists will address how they unpack the timeless yet timely topic of immigration through their practice. Moving beyond the general, the discussion will explore the topic  through the lens of this unique moment in the world and the voices and personal experiences of these unique artists.

The panel is scheduled for 6:30-8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25 in Falvey Hall, Brown Center, 1301 W. Mount Royal Ave., and will be moderated by Dr. Sheri Parks, MICA’s Vice President of Strategic Initiatives.

The event is free and open to the public.

MICA’s Mixed Media Series brings high-profile, globally recognized artists, designers, scholars, curators and educators working at the forefront of their fields to MICA’s campus for public talks, in-class presentations, studio critiques and other immersive activities with students and the community. The aim of the Mixed Media Series is to build important and imaginative public events that address the diversity of practice in our fields and the complex relationships between art, culture, identity, politics and belonging in the contemporary world.

In addition to the panel on Tuesday, each artist will also spend a day on campus giving individual artist talks and working with MICA students.


Amir H. Fallah

Amir H. Fallah creates paintings, sculptures and installations that utilize personal history as an entry point to discuss race, representation, the body and the memories of cultures and countries left behind. Through this process, the artist’s works employ nuanced and emotive narratives that evoke an inquiry about identity, the immigrant experience and the history of portraiture. Fallah interrogates systems of representation embedded in the history of Western art. His ornate environments combine visual vocabularies of painting and collage with elements of installation to deconstruct material modes of identity formation. Portraits of veiled subjects capitalize on ambiguity to skillfully weave fact and fiction, while questioning how to create a portrait without representing the physicality of the sitter. While the stories that surround his subjects are deeply personal and are told through the intimate possessions they hold most dear, his work addresses generational immigrant experiences of movement, trauma and celebration. Fallah wryly incorporates Western art historical references into paintings formally rooted in the pattern-based visual language of Islamic Art. In doing so, his paintings possess a hybridity that reflects his own background as an Iranian-American immigrant straddling cultures. Fallah received his BFA in Fine Art & Painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art and his MFA in painting at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Aram Han Sifuentes

Aram Han Sifuentes is a fiber and performance artist who works to claim spaces for immigrant and disenfranchised communities. Her work often revolves around skill sharing, specifically sewing techniques, to create multiethnic and intergenerational sewing circles, which become a place for empowerment, subversion and protest. Aram earned her BA from the University of California, Berkeley, Post-Bac from Maryland Institute College of Art and her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Aliza Nisenbaum

Born in Mexico City, and currently based in New York, Aliza Nisenbaum’s paintings are intimate exchanges between herself and her subjects. The artist makes portraits of undocumented Latin American immigrants, and of other distinct communities, using the focused attention of observational painting to mark those who are socially unmarked in society, along with the apparently anonymous goods that constitute a transnational trade in quotidian objects. Often lushly decorated with patterned textiles, her canvases ask for close looking in keeping with her personal connections to her subjects. She is Assistant Professor of Visual Arts at Columbia University School of the Arts.

Guadalupe Maravilla

In 1984, at eight years old, Guadalupe Maravilla immigrated alone to the United States from El Salvador in order to escape the Salvadoran Civil War. Maravilla was part of the first wave of undocumented children to come to the US from Central America. Maravilla became a US citizen at 27. In 2016, as a gesture of solidarity with his undocumented father, who uses Maravilla as a last name in his fake identity, Maravilla changed his birth name Irvin Morazan to Guadalupe Maravilla. Maravilla creates fictionalized performances, videos, sculptures and drawings that incorporate his pre-colonial Central American ancestry, personal mythology and autobiography. Through a multidisciplinary studio practice, Maravilla traces the history of his own displacement, interrogates the parallels between pre-Columbian cultures and our border politics.



Art, Race, and the Archive: Antonio McAfee in Conversation with Shawn Michelle Smith | Reception to Follow
Thursday, February 27 • 5pm
@ UMBC Albin O. Kuhn Library

Since 2011, Antonio McAfee has been making work influenced by historical portraiture of African Americans in the The Exhibition of American Negroes. Organized for the 1900 Paris World Exposition by W.E.B. Du Bois. The display functioned as a legislative, economic, and photographic survey of middle-class African Americans living in Georgia from 1850–1899. This ‘counter archive’ challenged racist assumptions steeped in pseudo-science, presenting proof of the vitality and upward social mobility of southern blacks. For his exhibition at UMBC, McAfee built upon his earlier work to curate a selection of photographs from our archives displayed alongside new works inspired by the historical images found in UMBC’s Special Collections. Presented in association with the exhibition Antonio McAfee: Through the Layers, Pt. 2. in the gallery through March 13. Reception to follow this program.

Antonio McAfee is a photographer raised and based in Baltimore, MD. He received his BFA in Fine Art Photography from the Corcoran College of Art and Design, an MFA from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Arts and Culture Management from the University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, South Africa). Recent exhibition venues include University of Maryland, College Park’s Stamp Gallery, George Washington University’s Gallery 102 (Washington, DC), Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington, DC), and the Walters Art Museum (Baltimore, MD.)

Shawn Michelle Smith explores the history and theory of photography in a number of different ways in work as a scholar, writer, artist, and educator. All of her projects begin with looking closely at images and considering them in their historical contexts and an interest in how photographs are invested with meaning, and in how they come to have specific cultural significance at different historical moments. Smith is Professor of Visual and Critical Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the author of Photographic Returns: Racial Justice and the Time of Photography(2020), Photography and the Optical Unconscious (2017), At the Edge of Sight: Photography and the Unseen (2013), Photography on the Color Line: W. E. B. Du Bois, Race, and Visual Culture (2004), and American Archives: Gender, Race, and Class in Visual Culture (1999).



Mixed Media Speaker Series: Palesa & Siphiwe Ngwenya
Thursday, February 27 • 4pm
@ MICA Lazarus Center

Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is pleased to host Palesa and Siphiwe Ngwenya, South African creative place-making duo, to speak as part of MICA’s Mixed Media Series. Representing the multi-award winning participatory tourism social enterprise, Maboneng Township Arts Experience, the Ngwenyas will be sharing their experiences regarding inclusive social design, emancipation mapping and developing destinations in an African context.

The public panel discussion with Baltimore industry peers and the attending public — which will take place at 4 p.m. Feb. 27  in MICA’s Lazarus Center — will strive to fuel a curiosity about the kind of creative place making that induces economic emancipation for neighborhoods while achieving social cohesion through new and innovative models.

MICA’s Mixed Media Series brings high-profile, globally recognized artists, designers, scholars, curators and educators working at the forefront of their fields to MICA’s campus for public talks, in-class presentations, studio critiques and other immersive activities with students and the community.
The aim of the Mixed Media Series is to build important and imaginative public events that address the diversity of practice in our fields and the complex relationships between art, culture, identity, politics and belonging in the contemporary world.


Nalongo Palesa Ngwenya is a contemporary African Twin-Mama who spends much of her time writing to develop people and places, while nurturing young women’s creative excellence for the advancement of the African continent, in her own way. Under her alias, Nalongo is author of “Boldly Bloom Sis – Powerful Poetic Affirmations for Trans4mative Living.”

Palesa has a research and policy career spanning over a decade. She began working with Maboneng Township Arts Experience as a project researcher and later became the organization’s development coordinator. She now serves as the organization’s managing director. The Maboneng Township Arts Experience’s emphasis on transformation, job creation, sustainability, plus the inclusion of peripheral under-resourced people, spaces and places in the context of relevant creative innovation, has been globally recognized.

Inspired by an intuitive lifestyle of serving and learning while infusing Ubuntu into the travel industry, Palesa is finding ways to make good use of her B.A. in law, political science and international relations from Rhodes University. She finds great joy in sharing principles sustaining the initiative aiming to use cultural tourism to positively transform marginalised communities, while offering guests a one-of-a-kind South African experience to enjoy.

Siphiwe Ngwenya is a people, community and destination developer. His journey includes leading an art science expedition to the Antarctica to develop innovations for artists living in perilous neighbourhood conditions. Ngwenya’s background includes founding an award-winning South African musical hip hop outfit called Skwatta Kamp, another word for neighbourhood or ghetto. Siphiwe has also launched the first home economy network of galleries in several neighbourhoods around South Africa. This has allowed for an alternative and lucrative international award winning tourism product for visitors across the world.

The main theme around Ngwenya’s work is how can a Ghetto, through a people led approach, be turned into a Town through the arts and sciences? This question has been the central pillar to Ngwenya’s journey and mission to decentralise the arts economy so that it benefits the many poor around the world. Ngwenya has been supported by Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative by being placed in a high level entrepreneurship boot camp in Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois. He has also engaged with the International Public Arts Institute in Shanghai in deriving policies of how to research African Public Arts initiatives.

The same expertise Ngwenya also applied to assisting the South African government in formulating an arts policy for one of its major provinces. Ngwenya serves as a board member for The South African Craft and Design Institute, and is currently pursuing his honours in Cultural Policy Management at the University of Witwatersrand. Ngwenya’s unconventional methods into reaching his people centred goals have earned him the title “The Robin Hood of the Arts.”



Merkin Dream | Closing Reception + Merkin Fashion Show
Friday, February 28 • 7-10pm
@ Maryland Art Place

This February Maryland Art Place (MAP) will be presenting Merkin Dream, a group exhibition and invitational ushering individuals to consider the merkin, its uses, its need, and in some cases, the inevitable comedy of the merkin as an object. Merkin Dream opens Thursday, February 20 with a reception beginning at 6 pm (free) and closes Saturday, March 28 with a ticketed Fashion Show, doors at 7pm. A portion of proceeds from merkin sales will benefit Planned Parenthood and FORCE.

Merkin Wall Artists:

Rahne AlexanderLaura AmussenJackie AndrewsCarly BalesDelaney CateKaren CostonTheresa ColumbusMelissa CormierJoan CoxBonnie CrawfordJacob Whayne DillowLaure DrogoulCaitlin GillAli MirskyMary OpasikMarla ParkerFanni SomogyiErin StellmonDan Van AllenVivienne Varay, Bunny Vicious, and Melissa Webb

Bella La Blanc will host a table featuring 3-D printed pasties at the opening reception on Thursday, February 20.

Main Exhibiting Artists: Laura AmussenMollye BendellSera BoenoJoan CoxLiz DowningFORCEAmy HelminiakJulia Kim SmithShoog McDanielLiz MillerJennie Thwing, and  Stephanie Williams

Brief History: A merkin is a wig for the pubic area originally used by women working in sex work. According to various sources the merkin first appeared around 1450 primarily to prevent the spread of human lice amongst sex workers. The wigs were derived from goat and horsehides, and at times human hair, serving as a vehicle for hygiene. Women shaved their genitalia to combat lice, but still needed to appear clean and well-groomed to solicit continued patronage. At the time a majority of sex workers were selling themselves to survive and the merkin ensured good business. The utility of merkin was also employed by male actors to cover their genitals when they were cast in a female role. In the mid-1700s, merkins became fashionable and were often threaded with pearls and ribbons, dyed different colors and adorned, used for decoration and to denote status. Today, Hollywood is the leading, contemporary market for the merkin outside of the fetish industry, and is utilized to bypass unwanted viewing ratings for nudity and/or to placate a shy actress unwilling to bare it all on camera.

Armpit shaving emerged in the early 1900s. Unlike pubic hair removal to alleviate lice, armpit shaving was merely a fashion trend instigated and perpetuated by commercialism (Gillette). Leg shaving came later as hemlines started to creep up. In 1960 and 1980 having pubic hair was the mainstay. In more recent history, the porn industry has enforced grooming standards, introducing trends such as the landing strip, the triangle, and fully shaven, pressuring women to groom themselves according to each new fantasy. Over the last 20 years, complete hair removal was normalized and often preferred. According to a 2018 Healthline article, 73 percent of guys and 55.6 percent of gals favor hair removal. More recently we’ve seen an “All Natural” renaissance, supporting the growth of all body hair. These ever-changing standards regarding body hair demonstrate a need to conform; implying that our desire to be desired is driven by sex, allure, chastity, shame, acceptance and more. Shaving or no shaving, merkin or no merkin, what we do with our body hair is more than a preference – it’s a statement.

Overall Merkin Dream aims to explore intimacy as an umbrella for both serious and light-hearted uses. Topics of consideration include:

Sex work is Work: consumption & the commodification of women (elective sex work versus forced)

Body Image: disembodiment, body positivity, shame & identity

Digital Euphoria: technology’s role & our immediate gratification culture (what is real?)

Performance: fun, absurdity, merkin as an object, materials use



African American Education as Seen Through Lens of Contemporary Art
Friday, February 28 • 12-1pm
@ The Peale at Carroll Mansion

A panel discussion about “A View of 19th-century African American Education through the Lens of Contemporary Art”

Produced by the Baltimore National Heritage Area and presented by the Peale at Carroll Mansion, 800 E. Lombard Street, FREE!

Artists and historians meet in this panel discussion about the research behind the Peale’s current exhibition, RENOVATIONS: A Story of Edifice and Ecclesiastical Influences on 19th Century African American Education, which was inspired by the Peale’s history as the Colored High and Grammar School from 1882 to 1889.

The panel will include Tonika Berkley, Dean Krimmel, and others, who have researched African American education in Baltimore in the 19th century. Also included are artists Mollye Bendell and Christopher Kojzar, who built on that research to create their current Ruby Award-winning installation at the Carroll Mansion (through March 1).

This lunchtime talk is FREE and presented by the Baltimore National Heritage Area’s “It’s More than History” lecture series. Bring a lunch, and visit the exhibition for free before or after the talk.

Additional lectures in March 27 and April 24.



Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico
Friday, February 28 + ongoing through May 25
@ National Museum of Women in the Arts

For the past 50 years, Graciela Iturbide (b. 1942, Mexico City) has produced majestic, powerful, and sometimes visceral images of her native Mexico. One of the most influential contemporary photographers of Latin America, Iturbide transforms ordinary observation into personal and lyrical art. Her signature black-and-white gelatin silver prints present nuanced insights into the communities she photographs, revealing her own journey to understand her homeland and the world.

Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico is the artist’s most extensive U.S. exhibition in more than two decades, comprising 140 photographs organized around nine themes. Her photographs that document the Seri, Juchitán, and Mixtec societies offer compelling insight into the daily lives and customs of indigenous men and women. Iturbide demonstrates her deep awareness of complex cultural symbols through representations of processions honoring the dead, as well as lavish, exuberant fiestas that highlight Mexico’s pre-Hispanic and Spanish heritages. Her depictions of animals, birds, and plants are rendered with as much sensitivity as her images of people, calling attention to the relationship between human presence and nature.

Also featured are Iturbide’s haunting snapshots of Frida Kahlo’s personal items left at her home, Casa Azul (Blue House), after Kahlo’s death. The photographs connect Iturbide to Kahlo, another of Mexico’s most celebrated artists, as two women who have used their craft to grapple with—and transcend—the hardships and tragedies of life.



The Garden of Forking Paths//sounds from the base of a mountain | Opening Reception
Saturday, February 29th • 7-10pm
@ Current Space

Featuring the works of Angel, Grace Kwon, Sobia Ahmad, Samuel Rosen, Samantha Vassor, and Nilou Kazemzadeh, curated by You Wu, Emma Hill and Brennan Emmett Cox; and ‘sounds from the base of a mountain’ featuring works by Katie Addada Shlon.

Exhibition Duration: February 29th – March 21

“This web of time – the strands of which approach one another, bifurcate, intersect or ignore each other through the centuries – embraces every possibility.” — Jorge Luis Borges

Similar to Jorge Luis Borges’ short story, “The Garden of Forking Paths,” this exhibition explores the dizzying multitude of possibilities in which one can orient themselves in the world. Landmarks can exist physically or metaphorically– as parts of cultural identity, moments in history, or life-altering events. The works in this show investigate these varying representations and how one can reference them as distinctive navigational tools.

Curated by: You Wu, Emma Hill and Brennan Emmett Cox
Poster Design by: Natalie Hawkins

sounds from the base of a mountain is an installation of resonant chimes, percussive objects, and rock sculptures created by Katie Addada Shlon between 2018 and 2020.

“You cannot always stay on the summits. You have to come down again . . . So what’s the point? Only this: what is above knows what is below, what is below does not know what is above. While climbing, take note of all the difficulties along your path. During the descent, you will no longer see them, but you will know that they are there if you have observed carefully. There is an art to finding your way in the lower regions by the memory of what you have seen when you were higher up. When you can no longer see, you can at least still know. . . Keep your eyes fixed on the way to the top, but don’t forget to look at your feet. The last step depends on the first. Don’t think you have arrived just because you see the peak. Watch your feet, be certain of your next step, but don’t let this distract you from the highest goal. The first step depends on the last.”
— excerpt from the Art of Climbing Mountains by René Daumal

the viewer is free to explore sounds from the base of a mountain at their own inclination.

Current Space has been partially funded by the Creative Baltimore Fund, this program has been funded by Mayor Jack Young and the Baltimore Office of Promotion and The Arts.

MICA’s 5th Annual Benefit Drag Show
Friday, February 28 • 8-10pm
@ MICA Gateway

Celebrate with us! MICA’s Faculty and Staff Queer Alliance (FASQA) 5th Annual Benefit Drag Show! This is a fundraiser for LGBTQ scholarships at MICA; so, all proceeds will go directly towards scholarship funding.

The headliners for the show will be Baltimore Queens and Kings:
Miss Sue Nami
Dee Dee Dereon
Venus Festrada
Gadfrie Arbulu
Chris Jay

The show will also feature performances by MICA students, faculty, and staff.

Tickets are $5 for MICA student tickets (sold at the door or at the MICA Center for Student Engagement), $10 for general admission, and $20 for VIP passes (includes priority seating, snack/drink before the show and during intermission).

7-8pm Birthday Party (FREE for all those that buy tickets to the show)
–> Free Cake & Popcorn
–> Cash Bar
–> LGBTQ Resources
–> Purchase your tickets to the raffle! Lots of great prizes this year.



Riffs & Relations
Saturday, February 29 + ongoing through May 24
@ Phillips Collection

Riffs and Relations: African American Artists and the European Modernist Tradition presents works by African American artists of the 20th and 21st centuries together with examples by the early 20th century European artists with whom they engaged. This exhibition explores the connections and frictions around modernism in the work of artists such as Romare Bearden, Robert Colescott, Renee Cox, Wassily Kandinsky, Norman Lewis, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Faith Ringgold, Hank Willis Thomas, and Carrie Mae Weems, among others. European modernist art has been an important, yet complicated influence on black artists for more than a century. The powerful push and pull of this relationship constitutes a distinct tradition for many African American artists who have mined the narratives of art history, whether to find inspiration, mount a critique, or claim their own space. Riffs and Relations examines these cross-cultural conversations and presents the divergent works that reflect these complex dialogues.

The exhibition is organized by The Phillips Collection with guest curator Dr. Adrienne L. Childs.

Support provided by The Frauke and Willem de Looper Charitable Fund and The Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts.

This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Robert Lehman Foundation, and Amanda and Earl W. Stafford.



SHAN Wallace: 410
Sunday, March 1 + ongoing through June 28
@ Baltimore Museum of Art

Baltimore-born artist SHAN Wallace’s exhibition 410 is, in the photographer’s words, a love letter to the beauty, complexity, and resilience of her hometown. Representing highlights of her evolving, relational practice of the past five years, Wallace will be crafting an immersive environment that engages her newfound interest in collage, the connective possibilities of different museum spaces, and the expressive potential of portrait photography. In conjunction with the artist’s presentation in the Museum’s Contemporary Wing galleries, Wallace will also be engaging Baltimore audiences through portrait sessions and workshops at the BMA’s branch location within Lexington Market. The historic market is a site of sustained interest, investigation, and outreach within the artist’s evolving practice.

Curated by Leslie Cozzi, Associate Curator of Prints, Drawings & Photographs, and Cecilia Wichmann, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art



Four Women: Catlett, Holiday, Richardson, Scott
Sunday, March 1 • 2pm
@ Reginald F. Lewis Museum

The Reginald F. Lewis Museum and ArtCentric partner for this production of “Four Women” inspired by Nina Simone’s song by the same name. Explore the lives of four amazing African American women through song and dance – Elizabeth Catlett, Billie Holiday, Gloria Richardson and Joyce J. Scott.  In conjunction with Elizabeth Catlett: Artist as Activist and commemoration of Women’s History Month. Member: $20, Non-member: $25.

Click here for tickets.



header image: Artwork from Amir F. Fallah (top L), Aram Han Sifuentas (top R), Guadalupe Maravilla (bottom L) and Aliza Nisenbaum (bottom R)

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