ZEAL EVA, center, and the featured artists of Lay Bare. (Photos by Tara Bennett)
by Emily Ambery, For New Pittsburgh Courier
A 2019 study published by the City of Pittsburgh’s Gender Equity Commission found that Black women in Pittsburgh consistently ranked lowest when it came to health, poverty, income, employment and education.
In reckoning with this reality, a new exhibit called “Lay Bare” aims to create space for Black women and their experiences through art and community.
Located at the Brew House Association (711 S. 21st Street) on the South Side, “Lay Bare” exhibits different mediums of art such as paint, photography, clothing, carpet and more. The show closes on April 1 with a reception at 11 a.m.
Curator Zeal Eva, 26, highlighted eight Black artists to share their experience centered around the question: Who would you be if you could be your most authentic self?
Originally from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Eva brought “Lay Bare” to life through the Prospectus program for emerging curators and has worked on the exhibit since August 2021.
The artists featured are: Bekezela Mguni, Juliandra Jones, Black Girl Absolute, Karlissia Council, Rell Rushin, Jameelah Platt, Ivory Eddins and Evangeline Mensah-Agyekum.
“The main thing I was thinking in regard to that question was how it relates to specifically who we are as Black people outside of our race, so as humans, who are we first?” artist Evangeline Mensah-Agyekum said.
The show emphasizes the amount of talent in the local art scene. The theme of authenticity offers the Pittsburgh community a space to explore the Black experience through art.
“A lot of my work as an artist speaks to just being authentic. Living and existing as a Black woman, not from Pittsburgh, but moving to Pittsburgh, there’s not a lot of space for grace in that area” Eva said. “I really wanted ‘Lay Bare’ to showcase this is what it looks like to be a person; yes, I am a Black woman but also I am a person.”
Along with the featured artwork, the space offers a projected video of the curating and artistic process. Patrons can also journal their thoughts and experiences with the exhibit in an interactive notebook.
“Art has always been my way of being like ‘hey let’s continue to build community and at least start opening up these spaces for conversation.’ In building this community of artists and art, there’s more chances for more new perspectives and storytelling,” Eva said.
“Lay Bare” is hosting free events throughout the month, including guided tours and group yoga.
At 10 a.m., Saturday, March 11, “Lay Bare” will host Yoga with Fete Fete lead by founder Jackie Walker.
Organizers hope the events will help audiences connect with their own authentic selves.
“I think I am my most authentic self when released from the pressures of existing in this body—that I am not feeling like I have to constantly censor my voice, my reactions,” artist Jasmine Green said. “At our most authentic is when we are just allowed to be, and people take us at our word.”
Green shared that her pieces in “Lay Bare” are a particular love letter to other Black women, femmes and non-binary individuals, especially considering that they were disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
“This exhibit is just so powerful in that it is highlighting all these creative and wonderful beings and their work in a way that I have not seen in regard to specifically Black women in Pittsburgh,” Mensah-Agyekum said. “The fact that everyone is local artists points to how much talent already exists in this city.”