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New Art Installation at Randolph College Explores Themes of Heritage, Identity, Persecution and Privilege

Artist Cheryl Harper installs during current exhibition at the Maier Museum of Art at Randolph College

Artist Cheryl Harper installs during current exhibition at the Maier Museum of Art at Randolph College.

The site-specific installation, Passages: An Installation in Progress by Cheryl Harper, exploring themes of heritage, identity, persecution and privilege, will open at the Maier Museum of Art at Randolph College on Fri., Feb. 28 with a reception from 5-7 p.m. and artist talk at 7 p.m.

Harper’s ongoing investigation of her ancestry, as well as that of her husband’s, reveals complexities and contradictions. She explains, “In the last few years, I’ve been thinking about how I came to where I am now, a Jewish woman who lost extended family in the Holocaust and who married a direct descendant of a Southern plantation family that owned other people. I am a descendant of the oppressed who married into a family who oppressed.”

Intensely personal, the installation presents a distinctly female point of view. It includes original family wedding dresses overlaid with other clothing and accessories owned by Harper’s mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers. A variety of objects related to their standard of living and aspirations are arranged below her ancestors’ dresses, suspended from the ceiling. Hand-printed wallpaper brings together imagery culled from family photographs and objects that refer to immigration, plantation life, and slavery.

Augmenting the exhibition will be a display curated by Randolph students which will be on view in the North Wing of Randolph College’s Lipscomb Library. Opening in March, it will feature archaeological objects on loan from the Charleston Museum in South Carolina. These objects would have been used by enslaved people living on Southern plantations and were excavated from land formerly owned by the ancestors of Harper’s in-laws.

Passages will be on view at the Maier through May 3. Also currently on view, through April 11, is the exhibition Scorched Earth, which presents contemporary artist, Beatrice Modisett’s recent investigations of landscapes in various states of formation, collapse and upheaval.


Passages: An Installation in Progress by Cheryl Harper is generously supported by Maier Member Sally Maier Rowe ’67. Scorched Earth is generously sponsored by Mary Gray Shockey ’69.

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