Courtesy of Kim Weston

As guests trickled into the spacious room, they were greeted by a vibrant array of visual art displayed on every wall, ranging from paintings to three-dimensional works.  

On Thursday, Oct. 26, a cohort of visual artists came together to display their art in “Voir Dire: Truth in all Shades.” The exhibition took place at KNOWN Coworking, a space located in the Palladium Building at 139 Orange St. Curated by Kim Weston, a Black and Indigenous artist living in the New Haven area, she told the News the exhibition aimed to highlight local creatives who are Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, the breadth of talent they have to offer and the challenges they experience in the art world. 

“This show was actually inspired by my experiences trying to display Black art,” Weston said. “It’s still an issue for Black and Brown artists to share their work.”

Weston referred to the show as “gumbo,” alluding to her inclusion of such a wide array of artists. Featuring artists Greg Aimé, Kulimushi Barongozi, Cal Boccicault, Junior Charles, Dooley-O, Howard el-Yasin, Noè Jimenez, Jasmine Nikole, Sain’t and Remy Sosa, the exhibition spanned a wide range of art styles including traditional, post-modern and Afro-futurist works.

Emphasizing the necessity of centering racially marginalized artists, Weston recounted a recent incident where she said she was asked to remove a piece of artwork she had put up. Weston said that a white viewer expressed discomfort at the artist’s graphic critique of settler-colonialism in the United States. Weston took the piece down, but she said incidents like the one she described exemplify why artists of color need spaces of their own.

Weston told the News she hopes to create a gallery specifically for artists of color. Since 2021, she said she has been working to open a gallery called Wábi Gallery at a property she purchased on Court Street. In the space, she said she hopes to create workshops, offices and performance spaces.

“As long as these institutions can push us around, and tell us what we can show or what we can’t  show, we won’t have the freedom that we need to have,” she said.

Titled “Voir Dire,” French for “to speak the truth,” Thursday’s exhibition featured the works of 10 creators of color. Weston collaborated with the poet Lindsay Jean Philippe to come up with the installation’s title. Working backward from that, an atypical method for Weston, she said she contacted artists who she felt exemplified her goal.

One artist, Jasmine Nikole, displayed paintings of women musicians. In her piece, “My Lady,” a woman sings jubilantly, and in “Out Loud,” a woman plays the trumpet. 

“I wanted to portray female musicians because typically for a trumpet player, I just think of prominent men,” said Nikole. 

Uniting the two frames was an abstract painting called “Underneath it All,” composed of a juxtaposition of cool and warm tones. Nikole said she originally made the piece separately from the other works, but decided to place it between them once she noticed how it synthesized the two portraits’ respective color schemes.

Nikole said she usually listens to music while she works. She said her pieces can take anywhere from days to weeks to complete, mentioning that she often had to balance art with her parental duties. 

As for what inspires her work, she said, “I first use pictures or sometimes I see a dream of something and I’ll have to fulfill it.” 

Exhibition guests marveled at the works of each artist, praising their talents and asking them questions about their processes. Howard el-Yasin, an artist who often works with found materials — those usually not intended for art — made one piece entirely of blackened banana peels. Titled “Bananas, Bananas, Bananas,” the work piqued viewers’ interest.

Greg Aimé, a Bridgeport-based multidisciplinary artist, displayed an interactive digital collage. When viewers scanned a QR code, they could hold their phone up to the piece to reveal each element swing into motion.

In his piece, “It’s Gotta Be The Shoes,” Cal Bocicault portrayed two men holding shoe boxes. He described his artistic mission to “master language without words,” adding that he prioritizes “taking control of the narrative” when creating art. 

All the pieces displayed are available for purchase.

“It was important for me to do a show like this,” Weston said. “One that told the truth of these Black and Brown artists.”

The “Voir Dire: Truth in all Shades” installation will remain up until Dec. 29.

Kamini Purushothaman covers Arts and New Haven. A first-year student in Trumbull College, she is majoring in History.