This installation is a continuation of the artist’s ongoing fiber-based series Domestic Work, which confronts the extraction of emotional labor, caretaking and other domestic work from Black women that is expected, depended upon, normalized and then erased in public and private spaces.
“We, Too, Sing America is a memorial to the small everyday acts that we have undertaken to support ourselves and each other as we have collectively moved towards building a better future and weathered the storms of COVID, of white supremacist anti-Black terror, of all of the intersecting forms of oppression that we face/d over these past many months. In this work I use accumulation and repetition of ritual acts, art objects, images, and sound to explore the relationship of the individual act, individual person, individual moment to the collective, and to collective world building.”
About the Artist
Ọmọlará Williams McCallister (pronouns: O, love, beloved) is a dynamic creator who shows up in many forms. O’s work is a call and response blend of sculpture, performance, installation, ritual, space holding, community building, surface design, adornment, word, sound, song, movement, moving images and photography. The roles that Ọmọlará steps into include: artist, educator, organizer, cultural strategist, conjurer. In all forms O’s work is immersive and interactive, it is co-authored by the people who inspire and encounter it.
Ọmọlará is from Atlanta, Ga. O’s artistic journey began in church at 7 years old as a classically trained vocalist and bassist. Love attended Dekalb School of the Arts, a magnet 8 – 12 public school. Beloved has actively organized around social justice issues on the local, regional and national levels since age 13. Ọmọlará’s upbringing in the Black south is the foundation for O’s work.
O’s work is how O manifests paths towards personal and collective liberation. Beloved’s work is made possible by the expansive deliciousness of love’s chosen families. These families are ecosystems of interdependent people who dare to define ourselves, shape our experiences, and create new worlds and ways of being every day. We do all of this while living at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities.
Omolara’s investment in transforming our notions of monuments, performance, church, and engagement is evident in every decision behind o’s work. Weaving together a multitude of mediums and scales, Omolara crafts tapestries that honor every individual’s contribution to the completion of a work. Omolara’s multifaceted, nonhierarchical approach to art is liberating and certainly results in audience members leaving seen, held, and empowered.
We, Too, Sing America is staggeringly human and a methodical collection of lived experience in a time where our human-ness is laid at its most bare. Omolara Williams McCallister offers visitors the opportunity to write in their own testimonies that they may choose to either take home or place within the larger collective voice of the installation. This is a striking act of collectivizing grief. Yet, McCallister seems keenly aware this community is not a monolith, and that while viewers may all participate the choice to keep their contribution is a subtle allowance that acknowledges we might share this time but we also experience and move through it differently.
This recognition of autonomy, made manifest through a simple choice, is not just generosity, but also demonstrates the trust and reciprocity at the heart of collaboration and collective action—all needed to survive our current moment. Perhaps then this is a creative space of hope, constructed for us by us, that is most urgent and essential to remembering that we are not alone—a notion of course central to many of our experiences of isolation during the pandemic, but also one deeply felt by BIPOC folks on a daily basis. To bear witness to the space that McCallister creates, but also the ritual O weaves in and around the installation is evidence that what will get us through this time and what drives forward movements for social justice is ongoing, durational, and takes every one of us.
It's with great enthusiasm that the jury selected We, Too, Sing America by Omolara Williams McCallister for Target Gallery's 2021 Solo Exhibition. O proposed a complete exhibition that beautifully utilizes art for expression; a provocation for healing, overcoming and acknowledging self and others, a much-needed action now. The world has shifted tremendously due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ripples of which can be felt in contemporary art and art practices. O's exhibition, performance and visitor engagement presents an opportunity for art again to become a capsule of the moment.
With referencing of ancestral texts and hymns driving this piece, it brings past perspective into the present. Echoing sentiments that communities still need to hear. The performances and culminating installation will no doubt lead viewers along a journey, take them to church as O says they plan to do, to a reflective new place through the work and their own contributions. At this time, We, Too, Sing America, felt appropriate and relevant. A courageous exhibition that can be safely experienced and evoke feelings some may be holding back.