The sign below the painting at Friday night’s Art Loop read “in surprise the woman said, ‘I had never thought of that.’”
Art Loop is a first Friday art event in the city of Wilmington. Galleries pop up across the city and invite art enthusiasts and spectators to travel around where they can sip wine or coffee and have hors d'oeuvres as they view diverse expressions from varied artists.
In February, St. Stephen’s hosted Pastor Linda Gunderson. Pastor Linda is a local artist out of Elkton, Maryland and an ELCA pastor in Newark, Delaware. Linda’s show was titled “Glances from White Privilege.” Different scenes from her personal journey and understanding of her privilege as white woman were painted on retro screens...screens that many of us remember seeing film projections on while in grade school and high school.
All were very striking and a sharp reminder of the impossibility to deny the existence of white privilege AND just how subtle it can be. In the subtlety, however, the paintings also remind us of the systemic racism and damage caused to so many people of God simply because they happen to be of a different color.
One of her paintings (shown in the picture) is that of a woman’s legs mimicking a pantyhose ad for Leggs. I remember as a child playing with the egg-shaped container at my grandmother's house...sometimes finding coins hidden inside like an easter egg hunt. The unassuming picture of a white woman’s legs is accompanied by a sign that reads: “in surprise, the woman said, ‘I had never thought of that.’”
Thought of what?
The color on the egg says ‘nude.’
Not beige, not tan or light brown or taupe...but nude. Well, for the white lady that may be true.
Subtle for some, erasure of humanity for others.
I was brought back to my childhood through this piece initially focused on the egg, however, the commentary brought me back to another event. My father and I loved to color, in fact, I had a huge ice cream tub filled with crayons. One evening I was coloring and needed a particular color and asked Dad for the ‘flesh’ colored crayon. In the ’80s Crayola was not as cognizant as they may be today, so the peach crayon was labeled ‘flesh.’
Dad complied, and handed me the crayon, but not without telling me that the name is not really appropriate. I do not remember the exact conversation, but he did tell me that flesh came in many colors and reminded me of friends I had and friends he had - and the fact that we were all of different colors. I remember him showing me the many other colors that could (and should) be labeled as ‘flesh.’ Sitting at that table in the ’80s, that night, I do not think either of us understood what white privilege meant...but I began to understand how words can cut deeply. I began to understand how easily the humanity of a person can be taken away in just one word.
“Glances of White Privilege” gave us a perspective into the story of one person’s understanding. It gave us a glimpse into the painful yet life-changing moments - captured in art - of what one person can tell us. Imagine if more people told their stories of moments that were life-changing. Imagine if we, too, could capture the moment we began to understand.
Yours in Christ,