WORCESTER, Mass. - All art is different and reflects the artist who created it, which is the idea behind the “Us. Them. We. Race. Ethnicity. Identity” exhibition at the Worcester Art Museum.

“I think it’s almost impossible for an artist to make work that doesn’t reflect some form of their identity,” co-curator Toby Sisson said. 

Co-curator Nancy Burns calls the exhibition complicated and said its message is just as complex. The gallery highlights over 60 pieces, including the work of many black artists including Troy Michie, Robert Pruitt, Glenn Ligon and Kara Walker.

Burns referenced one piece in the gallery by artist Dread Scott. She said Scott’s pieces “#WhileWhite” and “#WhileBlack” are his take on present-day social issues.

“The soap box of our time is social media,” Burns said. “Here, Dread Scott is really using the language of our moment to comment about life in our current society based on race. Particularly in this case, for African Americans.” 

What You Need To Know

  • "Us. Them. We. Race. Ethnicity. Identity" exhibition opens to the public Saturday
  • The gallery highlights the way an artist's identity is expressed in their work
  • The gallery highlights over 60 pieces from 47 contemporary artists​
  • Identity impacts the way a viewer understands a piece the same way it influences its creation

Included in the gallery is a piece by artist Nafis M. White. She made the sculpture out of hair and reflects how working with hair shapes White’s life. 

“Some of the things (White) lists here are hair, embodied knowledge, ancestral recall and the audacity of survival,” Sisson said. “Then, bobby pins.”

​Not only does an artist’s identity come out in their work, so does the viewer’s by the way they understand a piece.

“Their position, their perspective, their lived experience influences what they actually see,” Sisson said. 

The exhibition features contemporary artists from all backgrounds. It opens to the public Feb. 19 and runs into June.