BGSU Art Exhibit Explores The Black Male Perception

Michael D. Harris provides insight on a show that reveals an invisible man, unspoken stories and unseen experiences.

 

Michael D. Harris, an artist, curator and historian, wishes to make those unseen visible to everyone.

The Visible Man: Art and Black Male Subjectivity is an exhibit being shown now through Nov. 7 at the Bryan Gallery in the Bowling Green State University Fine Arts Center. The exhibit has been years in the making, hashed out nearly two years ago after Harris was included in a 2018 BGSU tribute to Bernie Casey.

Michael D. Harris

Harris, who graduated from BGSU in 1971, found himself inspired to shine light on underrepresented voices in the Black community.

“What I’ve found in my work is an emphasis that might be a little different than what might be popular,” Harris says. “I find that leaning into culture can provide a discourse that can elude, evade and maybe escape certain racial divorces in order to look at things a different way.”

An inspiring show
The Visible Man is an exhibit comprised of digital works, paintings and installations that depict the representation of the Black male through radicalized, historical and personal vantage points. It’s a complex, thorough collection.

“It’s an inspiring show,” says BGSU Fine Arts Center Galleries Director Jacqueline S. Nathan. “It celebrates the accomplishments of established, highly-regarded artists as well as mid-career and younger artists who warrant respect, both American and Caribbean.”

With such themes as Mardi Gras Indians, political references and spirituality, some may feel intimidated to enjoy the exhibit. 

“That’s been my experience my whole life,” Harris says. “If I can find the work of Gauguin and Mark Rothko and people like that to be fascinating, I think this can work the same magic on other communities. It’s a way of peeking behind the curtain.”

Private spaces
Harris cites the poet Elizabeth Alexander’s term, the Black Interior, to describe what The Visible Man exposes. 

“It’s where you begin to go into those personal, private spaces that go beyond public perceptions into how people see themselves,” Harris says. “And isn’t that what so much of critical theory and writing and art has been about these last 35 years?”

As for the future, Harris hopes that The Visible Man lasts long after it’s taken down. 

“I hope that we spark a number of conversations and possibilities,” he says. “I hope we begin to look at art as something that has activist potential. Because art does things, at its best. It can transform the sensibilities and consciousness of people who interact with it. It can inspire and motivate them.”

For Bryan Gallery information and hours, please visit www.bgsu.edu. To learn more about Harris and his future projects, visit michaeldharrisart.com

The Visible Man runs through Nov. 7.  

DeHart 24

Harris celebrates his grandfather, William DeHart Hubbard, in a piece called DeHart 24. Hubbard was, as Harris describes him, a quiet warrior. He was the first African American to win an individual gold at the Olympics, owned and ran an all-Black baseball team called the Cincinnati Tigers and raised a family. 

“He broke many barriers along the way quietly with dignity and excellence,” Harris says. “That’s what gave his life meaning.”

Today, the University of Michigan, where Hubbard attended, has a scholarship fund honoring him called The William DeHart Hubbard Scholarship Fund. Harris is honored to claim his middle name, Michael DeHart Harris, after his grandfather.