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“Contradictions – Bringing the Past Forward” Art Exhibit

Visual Interpretations of African American Homesteaders in the Mojave Desert

The San Bernardino County Museum is pleased to present a new exhibit, Contradictions – Bringing the Past Forward by artist Barbara Gothard, from Feb. 8 through Apr. 20, 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, twenty-three 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 San Bernardino County Museum is located at 2024 Orange Tree Lane, at the California Street exit from Interstate 10 in Redlands. The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. General admission is $10 (adult), $8 (military or senior), $7 (student), and $5 (child ages 5 to 12). Children under five and Museum Association members are admitted free. Parking is free. The museum is accessible to persons with disabilities.

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