An art exhibit aimed at putting racism in a historical context will open this Friday, Feb. 1, at the Newport Visual Arts Center.

“I Am My White Ancestors: Claiming the Legacy of Oppression,” includes 13 life-size photographic self-portraits by Portland artist Anne Mavor. Each portrait is accompanied by audio and written narratives from the perspective of each character.

Mavor will be on hand to discuss her work at Friday’s opening reception, which runs from 5 to 7 pm.

In creating the exhibit, Mavor claimed each of the 13 ancestors through the physical act of making and wearing period clothes and posing as that persona. The repetition of the artist’s altered face and body through the self-portraits conveys how beliefs and qualities are passed down through the centuries. The first-person narratives reveal historical events and how those events led to the choice to oppress others.

“Like many artists working on identity I began from the perspective of the victim but in recent years have focused on examining oppressor roles,” Mavor said. “My process involves asking open-ended questions about a given topic. What would it look like if I claimed my white ancestors? How can I be an artist and a mother? How can I connect to home?”

Mavor holds a BA in art from Kirkland College and an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University in Los Angeles. Her work combines storytelling, research, performance, visual imagery and collaboration to illuminate social issues.

Originally from Massachusetts, Mavor moved to Los Angeles in 1976 to join the Feminist Studio Workshop at The Woman’s Building. She received a grant from the John Anson Kittredge Fund for her 1996 book “Strong Hearts, Inspired Minds: 21 Artists who are Mothers tell their Stories,” and a writing residency from The Mesa Refuge. Since 2010, paintings from Mavor’s Mounds and Stones series have been exhibited in Oregon, Washington and Massachusetts. The touring installation “I Am My White Ancestors: Claiming the Legacy of Oppression” premiered in 2016 and has been supported by The Puffin Foundation and the Regional Arts & Culture Council.

The exhibit will be on display in Newport through Feb. 24, available to view from 11 am to 5 pm at 777 NW Beach Drive.

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