Whose stories are memorialized, and whose are erased?
Drawn largely from the Museum’s collection, the works in this space preserve legacies that might otherwise have gone unsung. They speak to the lives and experiences of individuals and groups whose stories have been systematically excluded: people of color, women and girls, and members of LGBTQ and immigrant communities. Among them, Alice Neel’s Linda Nochlin and Daisy (1973) pays tribute to the recently deceased feminist art historian who changed the course of the discipline with her groundbreaking essay “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” Donald Moffett’s Facts, Which If True (Joe McCarthy) (1992) evokes individual resilience, popular paranoia, and political double-speak in the face of the 1980s AIDS epidemic, which ravaged the artist’s community. Sedrick Huckaby often paints members of his family, stating, “They’re important enough to make a monument out of them.” His cousin is the subject of Huckaby’s massive portrait, Enocio (2003–6).
Recently, monuments to the Confederacy have become the subject of national debate. Some believe they should be removed or destroyed as symbols of a racist past and present; others have argued that they be retained as vestiges of a contentious history. Such discussions affirm the crucial role of the visual arts in shaping the politics of remembrance. Much like “monuments” in the more traditional sense, these works and others ascribe value to their subjects—not war heroes, politicians, or superstars, but neighbors, cousins, colleagues, and friends. Together, they serve as reminders that artists make history by amending and expanding it.