Miami, Fla. – A movement to showcase the artwork of talented Black female South Florida artists has made its way to Liberty City in a monthlong exhibition that brings recognition for their creative gifts.
Un-Silenced: Embracing the Black Woman’s Voice runs through Oct. 14 at the Liberty Square Community Center, 6304 NW 14th Ave., and showcases the paintings and drawings of ﬁve local Black women artists: Alfrena Moosa, Aptiva Ferguson, Johanne Hampstead Lam, Winsome Bold and Wanda Paulette Harris, the curator for the exhibit.
The women are part of the Liberty City Artist Exchange, a group raising awareness and pushing for Black female artists to get recognition for their artwork in an effort to have their drawings and paintings hang on the walls in museums and art galleries.
Harris, 69, who’s been painting since she was in grade school, said she started the movement because she and other Black female artists have been playing second ﬁddle to men artists for years. Doing some fact-ﬁnding, Harris discovered the snub dates back to the 1960s, when White women artists decided to protest to get their share of recognition.
"The exhibition is for Black female artists only and a unique experience and opportunity for exposure to their artwork," said Harris. "I discovered Black female artists are limited where their work can be displayed. And it’s something that has been happening for a long time. Cultural arts painters and photographers, Black female artists are last in line for recognition for their work."
Harris, who was born in Melbourne, Fla., said her vision for more exposure for Black female artists’ work is mustering support from the community and sponsors.
"Artists who are struggling with exposure get very little opportunity to showcase their art," Harris said. "So, we gather them and talk about my vision. Art is unique and has different criteria including fairy tale and composition that captures the everyday woman. Artwork like that needs to be recognized because it tells the stories of the emotional state of Black women and everyday life they experience."
Harris said local art gallery owners don’t want to invest in artwork from Black women because they don’t think they are invaluable.” "They didn’t want art from Black women," she said.
She said she has been an artist since she was a little girl, starting in school and competing in art contests. Over the years, she said, she learned to explore the history of art and developed her own style, including using Cubism, which is curved designs with structure squares and triangle composition. Harris said she also uses watercolors for her paintings.
She was painting during her spare time when she was the executive assistant chief and ﬁnancial ofﬁcer for a local corporate technology company, but said that being an artist was her true calling in life. When the company went out of business, Harris said it was an opportunity to pursue art as a full-time career and launched the movement for more exposure for Black female artists.
Harris said art galleries rejected her work but she pushed and ﬁnally her artwork hangs in exhibition art galleries in Coral Gables and Pembroke Pines. Now, she’s pushing for the same success for young talented artists.
Ferguson, 27, said the Un-silenced art exhibition is an opportunity for Black female artists to get notice for their work. She said so far the feedback has been positive. One of her paintings, “Creative of All Things,” was inspired by her grandmother who died of cancer in August, she said.
The work is superimposed with the image of a young picture of her grandmother while another woman is crossing the Devil’s Bridge in Arizona. Ferguson said her painting depicts the natural beauty of a relationship between Black women and earth and how her grandmother was the beginning of all things.
"The relationship was sacred, gathering food, medicine and taking care of the family on earth," she said. "I used my grandmother’s face because she was everything to me and my family. Part of my drawing describes that she’s in a better place now."
Ferguson, who does nails for a living, said her goal is to push hard and produce more artwork using acrylic paint which is her favorite. She uses her skill when doing other people’s nails. "I’m excited about my artwork," she said. "I want all my paintings on display."
Moosa, 33, said she participated in many art exhibitions but the Un-Silenced event is the ﬁrst all-Black female event for her. She said she’s miffed when people doubt she’s the creator of her work.
"Even when I was in school or walking around in the street with my artwork, people would ask, ‘whose artwork is this?’ Black women never get recognition for their artwork."
One of Moosa’s works, “Hidden Queen,” describes multiple colors in the background and women blending by holding hands in a poetic pose. One woman is holding a crown created for another woman who is the queen. Moosa said her message is that women holding hands are more powerful together and can overcome any obstacles.
Moosa said she has been painting since childhood, starting at Norland Middle School, and graduating from the Miami International University of Arts and Design, and taught art at private entities and rehab centers for 11 years. She now teaches art therapy at Camillus House and other centers through her church’s art ministry. Moosa said during the COVID-19 pandemic, she became a certiﬁed therapy art life coach to help people relieve stress and anxiety through art.
"Using art, people think they have the gift to experience therapeutic art like what colors they use to reflect how they feel," she said. "For example, if they use red, that could mean they are feeling angry, or if they use yellow, it reflects happiness. Describing how you are feeling is your power story. At the end, they are feeling happy and great."