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Online Edition of The Cardinal Times

The Cardinal Times

The Portland Art Museum features the “Black Artists of Oregon” exhibit

Nidha Eakambaram
Isaka Shamsud-Din’s “Rock of Ages”, 1946 oil painting on canvas.

In order to highlight local Black artists, and celebrate cultural diversity and artistic expression, the Portland Art Museum is currently showcasing the “Black Artists of Oregon” exhibit. 

Curated by Intisar Abioto, the exhibit runs from Sept. 9, 2023 to March 31, 2024. It showcases almost 70 Black artists from around Oregon. Through paintings, mixed media, textiles, sculptures and photographs the exhibit offers almost every style of visual art imaginable. 

According to the museum, the exhibit brings together works from local artists and also pieces on loan from other institutions and the artists themselves. Many of the pieces are from the 1950’s through the 1980’s. One such piece is Isaka Shamsud-Din’s “Rock of Ages”. Painted in 1976, the gold leaf and oil painting uses bright hues to feature Shamsud-Din’s father, Isaac Edward Allen Sr., standing in a garden. Allen had been a hardworking farmer in Queens City, Texas, but in 1947, after experiencing a racist attack, Allen moved the family to Vanport City, Oregon. One year later, the family lost everything in a flood, after which they rebuilt their lives in Portland, Oregon. “Rock of ages” is painted as a tribute to Allen to commemorate his strength and perseverance.

The creation of the “Black Artists of Oregon” exhibition emerged when Grace Kook-Anderson, the Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Northwest Art at the Portland Art Museum, reached out to Abioto in 2020. Kook-Anderson inquired whether Abioto would consider collaborating on an exhibition.

Abioto is from a family of artists in Memphis, Tennessee. She graduated from Wesleyan University in 2008, relocated to Portland with her family in 2010. Since then, Abioto has immersed herself in Oregon’s cultural scene, showcasing her art in prestigious venues like the Oregon State Capitol, Portland State University and Reed College. 

Created to illustrate the experience of the Black community in Oregon and to pay homage to their culture, these works explore themes ranging from the legacy of historical injustices to the celebration of Black joy and resilience. 

In addition to showcasing the artworks themselves, the exhibit also offers a range of educational programs and events aimed at engaging the community in meaningful dialogue. Visitors have the opportunity to attend artist talks, panel discussions and workshops, providing a space for reflection, learning and connection.

The “Black Artists of Oregon” exhibit represents a significant step forward in the Portland Art Museum’s stated mission to promote inclusivity and diversity within the arts. By amplifying the voices and perspectives of Black artists, the museum aims to create a more inclusive and equitable space for artistic expression and appreciation.

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Nidha Eakambaram
Nidha Eakambaram, News and Features Editor
Nidha is a junior this year. She is excited for the paper and journalism programs to grow and reach a wider audience, and to keep uplifting the voices of students. Her favorite part of Cardinal Times is being able to connect and collaborate with other people to inform the public and create a positive impact on the community.
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