Canadian Trinidadian artist Curtis Talwst Santiago unearths and critically addresses histories of migration and colonialism through miniature dioramas in reclaimed ring boxes. In the works on view, a selection from Santiago’s Infinity series, the ancestral practice of storytelling in African and Caribbean culture—a form of resistance against dominant social, political, and cultural forces—is enacted through the careful staging of intricate scenes made with modeling materials and found objects. The ring or jewelry box, a container that preserves precious things, here protects and reveals stories that might not be readily visible or that might remain minimized, even entirely suppressed, from history. Referencing the legacies of migration and the transatlantic slave trade, Deluge VII (2016) reveals a boat full of refugees in a menacing, stormy sea. Empty Wagon Leaving Slave Market II (2016) captures a scene where we can witness the material remnants of enslavement and oppression. 1663 John Eliot’s Algonquin (Native American Bible) (2016) depicts a domestic space that alludes to efforts to assimilate Native Americans to US colonial society and customs. Ideally meant to be opened and closed by the viewer, the tension between these powerful stories and their tiny housings invites viewers to look closely and reflect on how and why these histories still matter today.
Curtis Talwst Santiago: Minimized Histories II is organized by the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University and curated by Carla Acevedo-Yates, Associate Curator. Support for this exhibition is provided by the Alan and Rebecca Ross endowed exhibitions fund.