“Reclamation” at the Caestecker Gallery 

Artist Chris Christion explores identity and social perceptions through drawings and videos 

A student photographs a piece from the “Fractures” series with a cell phone. Photo courtesy of Bryson Patterson.

California-based artist Chris Christion is exhibiting “Reclamation” from Sept. 9 to Oct. 6 at Caestecker Gallery in the C.J. Rodman Center for the Arts. “Reclamation” explores themes of history, identity, religion, and inherited social perceptions. 

“There is a beauty that comes from the survival that comes from the reclaiming of your own narrative, of the way that you might be depicted and seen,” Christion said at the opening reception. “There is a beauty in seeing the people that have been going through it give expression to their own experience. It is not simply about experiencing trauma, but it’s also about experiencing the freedom of being able to relay your experience.” 

The opening reception artist talk was held over Zoom in Demmer Hall, as Christion is an adjunct instructor at both University of California-Berkeley and Stanford University. Christion previously visited Ripon College in 2013. 

Associate professor of art Travis Nygard views a piece from the “Fractures” series. Photo courtesy of Bryson Patterson.

Consisting of a collection of drawings and video work, the exhibition combines works from two ongoing series: the “Fractures” series and the “Context” series.

The “Fractures” series, started in 2014, includes renderings of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) victims of police violence. The renderings are drawn with scars, gouges, and fractures as a person would find in statues and artifacts that depict BIPOC in museum collections. According to Christion, the symbolism of museum statues inspire an empathy and consideration often not applied to human beings whose resemblance they bear. It was inspired by Emmett Till, a boy who was tortured and lynched in 1950s Mississippi, and how his mother widely shared his mutilated open-casket image as a way to connect viewers with his humanity.

In the “Context” series, started in 2015, Christion explores how Eurocentric religious leadership and interpretation of scripture have perpetuated racism and ignorance. According to Christion, some of the goals of this series are “to experience your trauma and reinvent oneself” and to ”explore ideas of identity.” “Context” explores the Rev. James H. Cone’s theory of transcendence or the act of rising above the limits or boundaries of culturally fixed identity.

Christion’s first art exhibition was “Portraits of Criminals” in 2004. He was inspired by a research project looking at how images of Black males were being manipulated for the media and having narratives created through the use of these images.

More information about Christion can be found at chrischristion.com

Amid a crowded exhibition, Katherine Shucha views a piece from the “Fractures” series. Photo courtesy of Bryson Patterson.

A piece from the “Context” series is projected onto a wall. Photo courtesy of Bryson Patterson.