Contradictions – Bringing the Past Forward

About the Exhibition

Contradictions – Bringing the Past Forward exhibit is a research-based multimedia Arts and Humanities project consisting of mixed media installation works, and interprets the plight of early 20th century African American homesteaders in the Mojave Desert. The series focuses on the Homesteaders’ stories and the contradictions of Gothard’s own desert-lived experience.

While searching for information on a different topic, Gothard discovered a Daily Bulletin article by journalist Joe Blackstock, by chance also a county museum volunteer, about African American Homesteaders which included an ad from the 1910 Los Angeles Herald. In response to this 1910 newspaper ad specifically recruiting “colored” homesteaders, 23 families became western settlers in far eastern San Bernardino County. This article became the impetus for Gothard’s project, Contradictions – Bringing the Past Forward.

During her artist residency at BoxoPROJECTS in November, Gothard continued to develop her innovative concept of creating twenty-three digital paintings on her iPad and printing them on raw linen canvas.  Each artwork interprets a story of one of these African American homesteaders and is the basis for her programs for the community, contrasting their plight in the context of her own lived experience as an African American female artist living in the desert. The project works through a framework of change and continuity, diversity, cause and effect, interconnectedness, community, identity, and belonging in the context of social, political, economic, cultural, and environmental factors prevalent in the early 20th century in the United States. Contradictions – Bringing the Past Forward project explores themes of hope, disillusionment, and strong family bonds based on archival research and interviews.

Artist Gothard shared, “As I’ve made presentations during the last year about my artworks interpreting the stories of these African American Homesteaders and developed the artworks during my residency at BOXOProjects, it became increasingly clear that their stories needed to be brought forward. I’m excited that the museum is sharing their experiences and stories through my creative journey. 

Contradictions – Bringing the Past Forward is made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of National Endowment for the Humanities and is funded in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency.