New Overture Center exhibits explore identity, history and heritage

The Overture Center's winter galleries, with contributions from several different artists, all examine different facets of identity.

In an exploration of history, identity and heritage, the Overture Center for the Arts is opening four new exhibits for the winter season. The Playhouse Gallery is displaying “Roots, Our Foundation” through Feb. 26, and Galleries I, II and III are displaying exhibits about various aspects of identity through March 5.

“Art is, in so many ways, the way we present who we are,” says Beth Racette, community engagement manager at the Overture Center. “Aspects of ourselves, questions about ourselves and some of that history … where we’re from.” 

“Roots, Our Foundation” is a group exhibit by the Madison Contemporary Fiber Artists, or MCFA, that highlights biological, cultural and symbolic roots. This exhibit celebrates the ways we are sustained by the people and places we come from. 

In addition to the artists’ works, MCFA will be holding a workshop to invite the community to contribute to the exhibit. On Jan. 14 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., people of all ages can join the MCFA in the Overture’s Wisconsin Studio to learn the basics of fiber art. Their completed pieces will be added to the Playhouse Gallery.

“We really like to do community involvement activities when we can,” Racette says. “It really just extends and expands the life and the impact of the art and the connection between the artist and people in the community.”

Gallery I is displaying “Healing Journeys: Heritage and Resistance” with contributions from The Artist and Christopher Sweet. Racette says the works of these artists pair nicely under themes of liberation movements and healing.

In Gallery II, “Fictive Artifacts and Intimate Kinship” features unique snapshots of humanity. Artist Barbara Justice’s pieces exhibit memory and history using repurposed artifacts and found photographs. Racette says photographer Chris Chanson celebrates his children’s relationship as siblings, informed by his own experience growing up under the one-child policy in China.

Gallery III’s exhibit is called “See Me — Expressions of Identity” and conveys personal identities in portraits from two artists. James Bernard’s photography focuses on gender expression while Chele Ramos’ watercolor portraits convey artists at work.

“We’re not always able to coordinate all four of the galleries like this,” Racette says. “It’s pretty sweet whenever the themes of all the galleries intersect and come together nicely.”

Racette says art is an exploration that allows people to extend the boundaries of our understanding. Art can challenge people to ask themselves and others questions, and she felt identity was an important topic to explore with the winter exhibits.

When people visit any exhibits at the Overture Center, Racette says she wants to encourage openness and curiosity. Particularly with work that explores the theme of identity, she wants people to embrace the complexity of our histories.

“It serves all of us … the more we can remember histories like that, to understand where we come from,” Racette says.

Celia Hiorns is an editorial intern at Madison Magazine.

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