“Contradictions – Bringing the Past Forward” Art Exhibit Opening
Visual Interpretations of African American Homesteaders in the Mojave Desert
The Victor Valley Museum pleased to present a new exhibit, Contradictions – Bringing the Past Forward
by artist Barbara Gothard, from May 18 through Aug. 10, 2022. The exhibit is a research-based multimedia Arts and Humanities project consisting of mixed media installation works, and
interprets the plight of early 20th century African American homesteaders in the Mojave Desert.
The series focuses on the Homesteaders’ stories and the contradictions of Gothard’s own desert-lived experience.
While searching for information on a different topic, Gothard discovered a Daily Bulletin article
by journalist Joe Blackstock, by chance also a county museum volunteer, about African American
Homesteaders which included an ad from the 1910 Los Angeles Herald. In response to this 1910
newspaper ad specifically recruiting “colored” homesteaders, 23 families became western settlers
in far eastern San Bernardino County. This article became the impetus for Gothard’s project,
Contradictions – Bringing the Past Forward.
During her artist residency at BoxoPROJECTS in November, Gothard continued to develop her
innovative concept of creating twenty-three digital paintings on her iPad and printing them on
raw linen canvas. Each artwork interprets a story of one of these African American homesteaders
and is the basis for her programs for the community, contrasting their plight in the context of
her own lived experience as an African American female artist living in the desert. The project
works through a framework of change and continuity, diversity, cause and effect,
interconnectedness, community, identity, and belonging in the context of social, political,
economic, cultural, and environmental factors prevalent in the early 20th century in the United
States. Contradictions – Bringing the Past Forward project explores themes of hope,
disillusionment, and strong family bonds based on archival research and interviews.
Melissa Russo, Director of the San Bernardino County Museum shared, “I was first introduced to
Barbara’s work in 2018, when her piece was featured in the Museum’s Life in the Cracks group
show. When Barbara brought this current project to our attention, we immediately recognized
the great value in her research and knew that there would be public fascination in this
intersection of regional history and art. This is truly innovative storytelling, and we are thrilled to
help promote her interpretations through this exhibition.”
Artist Gothard shared, “As I’ve made presentations during the last year about my artworks
interpreting the stories of these African American Homesteaders and developed the artworks
during my residency at BOXOProjects, it became increasingly clear that their stories needed to
be brought forward. I’m excited that the museum is sharing their experiences and stories
through my creative journey.
Contradictions – Bringing the Past Forward is made possible with support from
California Humanities, a non-profit partner of National Endowment for the Humanities and is funded in
part by the California Arts Council, a state agency.
The San Bernardino County Museum’s exhibits of regional, cultural and natural history and the
Museum’s other exciting events and programs reflect the effort by the Board of Supervisors to
achieve the Countywide Vision by celebrating arts, culture, and education in the county, creating
quality of life for residents and visitors.
The Victor Valley Museum is located at 11873 Apple Valley Road in Apple Valley. The museum is
open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. General admission is $5 (adult), $4
(military or senior), and $2.50 (students and child ages 5 to 12). Children under five and Museum
Association members are admitted free. Parking is free. For more information, visit
www.sbcounty.gov/museum. The museum is accessible to persons with disabilities.