The Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery Presents Tawny Chatmon: What He Left Behind

By Editorial Team on September 27, 2021
Tawny Chatmon, New Life & If Heaven Had Visiting Hours 2
On View: September 27-October 24

Tawny Chatmon: What He Left Behind is an intimate reflection on the life and loss of James “Rudy” Muckelvene (1952-2010), Chatmon’s father. What began as an effort to document his battle with prostate cancer and ultimately his victory over it resulted in her capturing the disease, taking his life. Journal entries chronicled the emotional pain Chatmon felt as she watched her father’s life slowly slipping away. In these ruminations, she shares her innermost thoughts. They remind us of the fragility of life, and losing a loved one is difficult to bear.

This experience would alter the trajectory of Chatmon’s career. As she reflects, “In 2010, my outlook and relationship with my camera changed when I began photographing my father’s battle with cancer. With his passing, something in me died, but something else slowly awakened. I began to think more about the meaning of my life and began to stop solely looking to my camera as a means of making a living and began seeing it as a way to communicate my joy, my pain, and my frustration. I began to think more about the world I wanted my children to grow up in versus the world as it is today.”

Determined that her work would serve a greater purpose, Chatmon ended her career as a commercial photographer to become an artivist, creating imagery that affirms, celebrates, and at times investigates the politics of Blackness. For this exhibition, Chatmon turns the camera inward, sharing the experience of a Black family that would be her own. Viewers are taken on a deeply personal and sentimental journey through photographs chronicling Muckelvene’s battle with cancer. And eleven years later, we experience the pivotal imagery Chatmon creates today.

By appointment only. Contact: Lindsey Yancich, Gallery Manager Lindsey@smithcenter.org.

The Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery is located at 1632 U St NW. For more information, visit www.joanhisaokagallery.org.