On Thursday, February 6 the Housatonic Museum of Art (HMA) celebrated the opening of a new exhibit that blends local history, innovative glass sculptures and our collective cultural and natural landscape.
The opening reception for “The Hypogean Tip” by Brooklyn artist Rachel Owens was attended by art and history enthusiasts alike. The exhibit documents the front porch of Mary Freeman’s historic home in Bridgeport. Cast in richly colorful glass mixed with found shells, broken bottles and marsh reeds, one can see, and stand on, the porch boards from a tangible relic of a settlement not found in American history books: Little Liberia.
Bridgeport’s Liberia (which means Free Land) was a community comprised of free Blacks and Native Americans. Established in 1822, when the majority of Black people in America were enslaved, and located on the waterfront in the city’s south end, this free settlement of free people of color was founded on the ideal of equality. There, siblings Mary and Eliza Freeman built their homes that still stand today.
“Inspired by the story of these pioneering women, Rachel Owens has (re)presented history for us in through a contemporary lens,” said Robbin Zella, HMA Director. “Part of Owens’ ongoing project, Life on the Other Side of a Cracked Glass Ceiling, the Freeman sisters exemplify what a society looks like when there is gender equality, social, and economic justice.”
“There’s a certain level of radicality at Housatonic Community College (HCC) – the museum’s collection is in the hallways, as well as the galleries,” said Owens. “That’s radical accessibility, and learning about these [Freeman] women who were incredibly radical, I’ve enjoyed folding all that in on each other. This show could only happen here.”
In the back gallery, the exhibit includes sculptures cast in coal and marble dust, signifying the change in Bridgeport’s landscape from agrarian to industrial. The evolution of Bridgeport into an urban city forever redesigned its identity, and eventually decimated the Little Liberia community.
“You cannot tell the story of our community without exploring its past, and this new exhibit at HMA tells it proudly in spectacular and powerful sculptures,” said Dr. Thomas G. Coley, Acting HCC President. “I encourage anyone with an interest in history and contemporary art to come see this sensational show.”
The exhibit will be on view through Saturday, March 21, 2020. Free programming to accompany the exhibition will also take place. On February 20 at 5:30 p.m., musician Laura Ortman will engage the scaffolded sculptures of Owens’ exhibit by playing violin as well as employing native instruments and digital effects. On Saturday, February 29th at 2pm join artist Rachel Owens for a conversation in the galleries. On March 5 at 5:30pm, performance artist Lachell Workman will engage with the history of housing in Bridgeport, CT spanning from the work of the Freeman sisters and to the history of public housing in Bridgeport.
The Housatonic Museum of Art is located in Lafayette Hall on the HCC campus at 900 Lafayette Blvd. in Bridgeport, CT. The galleries are open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Thursday evening until 7 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. To learn more visit https://museum.housatonic.edu/ or call 203-332-5052.
About the Artist
Rachel Owens received her MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1999 and lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. Through a feminist lens her work focuses on issues of hierarchical social conditions, consumption of the environment and the points where these things intersect. Taking various forms, she uses materials that once existed with a specific function, reassigning them within a different context and creates new meaning. She is Asistant Professor of Art and Design at SUNY Purchase College and Chair of the Sculpture Department..
Owens’ work has been included in exhibitions both in the US and internationally including The X Krasnoyarsk Biennial, RU; Franco Soffiantino Contemporary, IT; Austrian Cultural Forum, NY; The Frist Museum of Art, TN; Socrates Sculpture Park,LIC; New Museum Window, NY and ZieherSmith Gallery in NY, among others. She has been reviewed in the New York Times, New Yorker, Sculpture Magazine and Hyperallergic and has received grants from the Pollock-Krasner, Joan Mitchell, and Harpo Foundations. To learn more about Rachel Owens: www.rachelowensart.org
The Housatonic Museum of Art is located on the Housatonic Community College campus, 900 Lafayette Blvd. in Bridgeport. It is home to one of the premier college art collections in the United States. The museum’s collection offers the opportunity to view works that span the history of art from the ancient to the contemporary and is on continuous display throughout the 300,000 square foot facility. Visit www.HousatonicMuseum.org to learn more