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‘What We Are Celebrating Is A Revolution’: Exhibit Honors 19th Amendment Centennial

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Jillian Marie Browning has digital prints featured in the new art exhibit in Gainesville, both exploring the themes of feminism, identity and the contemporary black experience.

Ye Ma also has two pieces included in the show, one each focusing on her life and “the propaganda posters all around me” in her native China: “Love Socialism” and “Love Motherland.”

They are among 19 artists, none identifying as male, whose artworks comprise an exhibit celebrating the centennial of the U.S. Constitution’s 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. The exhibit, which opened Friday at The Historic Thomas Center on Sixth Avenue and runs through June 27, is titled “RBL GRL: Revolution Doesn’t Ask Permission.”

Anne Gilroy, the center’s curator, said the exhibit aims to go beyond commemorating the rebellion of the suffrage movement. The goal is to highlight the diverse and forward-thinking voices who lead the way for women’s rights in our society, she said.

“What we are celebrating is a revolution,” Gilroy said.

The 19th Amendment primarily enfranchised only white women. The exhibit, however, showcases a diverse array of artists who are rebelling in their own ways through various art forms such as quilting, embroidery, ceramics, paintings and photographs.

“It is all art made by people who are pointing out significant issues with their work,” Gilroy said.

The exhibit’s name came from a 1993 anthem called “Rebel Girl” by Bikini Kill.

Gilroy’s daughter, Angela DeCarlis, created the logo design for the exhibit. It is of actor and musician Janelle Monáe’s face and uses the typeface “Greta Grotesk,” which is based on the handwriting on activist Greta Thunberg’s climate change protest posters, Gilroy said.

DeCarlis, 26, of Gainesville, has a nude self-portrait named “Out of Water” featured in the show.

“I think that it’s important to be showing this kind of art,” said DeCarlis, who is pursuing a master’s degree in studio art at the University of Florida.

Ye Ma had two pieces of her nine-piece collection featured in RBL GRL. She completed them at the end of 2019. (Julia Mitchem/WUFT News)

Ma, 26, another UF graduate student, lived in China until age 20. She said she didn’t realize how much propaganda had affected her until moving to the U.S. Her art – made of wood, red paint and stencil and depicting Chinese figures and landscapes – allows her to share her voice.

“As females, we also have power to speak out,” Ma said.

Browning, 30, of Gainesville, is a teaching art specialist in the photography, drawing and painting department at UF. One of the digital prints features Browning’s body covered in white clay for a piece done in 2013 and called “A Soft Human Impersonating Hard Stone.” The other work is called “Painting the Rebel Flag Black” – four stills from a video in which Browning used hair, skin and other things to coat a flag after Donald Trump was elected president.

Browning said the exhibit is important because it shows work from marginalized people.

Jillian Marie Browning made “A Soft Human Impersonating Hard Stone” in 2013. The two stills are part of an 11-part piece. (Julia Mitchem/WUFT News)

“A lot of that is really rare – to have a venue and a place to show work that’s like this,” Browning said.

Andrea Rangel, 21, a fourth-year sociology major with a minor in health disparities at UF, was among those who visited the exhibition on its first day. Rangel said all of the artworks had bold, underlying meanings that fit the celebration of the 19th amendment.

“We’re doing so much as women,” she said.

Russell Etling, cultural affairs manager for the city’s parks, recreation and cultural affairs department, said the exhibit “pushes the envelope” of what’s been seen at the center before.

“That’s important because it’s art doing its job,” Etling said. “It’s not always comfortable, but it’s always thought-provoking.”

About Julia Mitchem

Julia is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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