“An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.” -Nina Simone
Ocean Morisset’s unique, Black Lives Matter, Corona sensitive, exhibit is displayed in the large windows on what was the Worker’s Comp Building on Bank, Main and N. Division Sts., Peekskill, New York. The exhibit was made possible by a Peekskill Art Grant from Bre Pettis and additional funding from Ben Green, Chuck Newman, Stacey Phillips, and Randy Turner. These community actions against Racial Injustice were organized by the Peekskill NAACP, Peekskill Committee for Justice, Westchester Dawaii Committee, The City of Peekskill, and Peekskill High School students.
Morisset’s photographs, which document the Peekskill Protests against Racial Injustice in June 2020, are a cross-generation vision, a vision where youths are galvanized to action with their elders, and a city shows its best self. But, it is the portraits of the participants, their humanity, the belief that they are making a difference, and, at times, the sorrow, and tiredness in the eyes of some that made me walk the exhibit several times. Each time seeing another nuance. Nuance is Morisset’s signature. Even in a crowd picture, there is one individual he captures that pulls one in. In all his work, he captures the singularity, the uniqueness of each of those he photographs.
In one photograph, a woman sits, fist raised, eyes shuttered. In the midst of the crowd her eyes, dark and unfathomable caught me. Who was she, what has she seen? What was she seeing now? Morisset’s photos do that, they draw you into the individual, focusing our eyes on those we do not always see, whose story we now want to know. Sometimes, it is the choice of angle that creates a tension and an energy. In the photograph of a young woman and her sign: George Floyd 5/26/20. Because of Morisset’s angle the sign is the focal point, and then we become conscious of the energy, intensity, and tension of the young woman.
And it is especially in the photographs of the youth that Morisset shows us the way. The youth are not bystanders in this exhibit, they are leaders. Their signs for change, for morality, for justice, and against the racism that destroys lives and society are homemade, they know what they are carrying and what they are saying. The signs they hold call for change, but it is the youth, themselves, each individual one, who are agreeing to be the change. And they know it.
Ocean Morisset’s photographs ever give a sense of excitement and courage. He shows us the voices of the people and challenges us to hear.
Take your mask and see Peekskill Rises Up Against Racial Injustice. Exhibition ends at the end of August.
Mara Mills is Artistic Director, Studio Theater in Exile, Curator, Climbing the Walls. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.