Bringing Black Life into Focus

Danielle Eliska to visit CMU to discuss her photos and collages currently on display.

| Author: Denise Fanning

"The B in Black: Melinda Christine," digital print photograph, 2022.
In “Capitalize the B in Black,” the show on display in the Park Libraries’ Baber Room Gallery from February 9-March 26, artist Danielle Eliska’s work sets out, as she says, to “meet the gaze of all viewers.” Walking through this show, which features more than a dozen photographs, as well as collages and artifacts, the viewer is also viewed—by the powerful gaze of Black faces. These photographs command immediate attention, regardless—their subjects wearing shell necklaces and beautiful gold bracelets. However, look closer into the eyes of these new faces, and you’ll hear old but relevant questions—the same questions Eliska heard when she looked at tintype photos featuring Black servants. “Even in being the background of a white master’s foreground,” Eliska says in her artist statement, “it was the Black gaze that drew me deeply...I find myself desiring to know their stories—where they came from, what became of them, who are their descendants.” Her work brings into clarity for its viewers these unanswered questions, and serves as a restorative homage “to center and celebrate Black life.” Walking through this show is also a stroll through time and space; in her collages, Black people are central, among stars and nebulae and the wonders of Ancient Egypt, and her own ancestors gaze at us surrounded by heirlooms and journal entries. “Twine is strength” is written beside one collage in which this winding string is both visual element and metaphor—for lineage and connection. Danielle Eliska will give an Artist Talk on Thursday, February 9, 2023, at 6:30 pm in the Sarah and Daniel Opperman Auditorium, followed by a reception.
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