Visual Tensions Panel Discussion & Community Conversation
Please join us in the ICA for a public panel discussion and community conversation in conjunction with the exhibition Visual Tensions from artist Séan Alonzo Harris. The artist will be joined by a panel of project participants: Sophia Namara, Chanel Lewis, and Kelly Gorham.
Sophia Namara is an arts administrator living and working in Portland, ME. After graduating from Bowdoin College, she joined Portland’s art community as the manager of PhoPa Gallery, an exhibition space dedicated to showcasing photography and works on paper from Maine-based artists. At Phopa, Sophia curated and organized exhibitions, designed promotional content, and built a strong network of artists, makers, and curators in Southern Maine. After PhoPa closed its doors in 2018, Namara joined the Portland Museum of Art as the Communications Manager, where she now spearheads projects in marketing, design, advertising and PR for the museum. Namara’s passion for art and curation was ignited by the Visual Arts and Art History programs at Bowdoin and nurtured by the thriving art community of the city she now calls home.
Chanel Lewis believes in the power of listening, learning, dialogue, and action as tools for change. Her work and passion is fueled by a desire to live in a society and community where everyone is included and has equitable access to empathy, compassion, understanding, and respect. Chanel, like many in her generation, has a 9-to-5, juggles multiple projects, engages her community, and somehow manages to make friends as an adult. Ultimately, Chanel is enthused and energized by people, community, communication, and culture.
Chanel is an Employer Relationship Manager at the University of Southern Maine’s Career & Employment Hub. In this role, she facilitates engagement opportunities with organizations to provide equitable access for students in hiring, experiential learning opportunities, and professional connections. As a member of her community, Chanel created an initiative called A Seat at the Table, serves as a board member for the Portland Parks Conservancy, and previously lended her perspective as a member of the City of Portland’s Office of Economic Opportunity advisory council.
Chanel lives in Westbrook, Maine with her spouse and local musician, Just Plain Jones. She is an amateur photographer, avid cook, and organizational development nerd. A lifelong fan of Harry Potter, Chanel believes in the power of friendship, community, and love. In particular, how those three values work together to make our communities stronger, full of compassion, empathetic, respectful, and full of joy.
Detective Kelly Gorham has been a member of the Portland Police Department since 2002.
Séan Alonzo Harris’ work as an editorial, commercial and fine art photographer concentrating on narrative and environmental portraiture. Over the past 25 years, Sean’s work is in a range of national publications, advertising campaigns, and exhibitions. In these varied contexts, Sean’s work focuses on human experience, identity, and challenging stereotypes. Sean’s images bear witness to often invisible or overlooked members of our communities, and creates portraits that provide a counter image and narrative of self-worth and personal agency. The Visual Tensions project aligns with the goals and vision of Séan Alonzo Harris’ current practice and with past collaborative photo projects.
His work has been published in Atlantic Magazine, Paris Review, Boston Magazine, Down East, Portland Magazine, Maine Home and Design, Photo District News Rising Star feature, Maine Magazine, Harvard University Magazine, Ralph Lauren magazine, Mother Jones, Adweek, Consumer Reports, Teaching Tolerance, and USA Today. He has received several awards and grants for his work including: Kindling Fund grant from the Warhol Foundation, Good Idea Grant and Arts in the Capital Program, from the Maine Arts Commission, the Broderson Bronze Award, and the VanDerZee Black Heritage Award, from the University of Lowell. Most recently Séan’s work was featured in International Regional Magazine Awards, Silver Award Arts and Culture, Portrait Photography 2015 and One Eyeland, Best of the Best Photographers 2016.
Visual Tensions is a collaborative photographic project and community dialogue that pairs people of color with members of law enforcement. African American photographer Séan Alonzo Harris worked with local residents and officers from the City of Portland, Maine Police Department to create photographic portraits as a means to confront and question cultural and racial assumptions, stereotypes and fears.
After individual photographs were complete, the artist placed the images within a diptych composition and positioned the portrait subjects to face each other to create a heightened moment of recognition and tension. While the placement of the subjects and scale of the images capture a powerful visual tension, the individuals also appear to be looking just past each other. This moment of disconnection reflects the rupture and breaches within our communities locally and nationally.
The project provides a platform to examine the relationship between people of color and law enforcement, to provoke dialogue about injustice and implicit bias, and make space to engage these critical issues creatively. In addition to creating the photographic portraits, the artist interviewed project participants and asked about their personal experiences with racism, law enforcement, their sense of belonging or not belonging in their community and their interactions with people across difference.
This project is supported in part by The Kindling Fund, SPACE Gallery grant program.