Louisville, KY – The Muhammad Ali Center is proud to announce a new temporary exhibit, We Don’t Wither, featuring seven local artists. Created to engage our community, We Don’t Wither examines the intersection of art and activism. The artists showcased in this exhibit have created art or chosen from their art pieces that respond to current socio-cultural and socio-political situations, lived experiences, and related current events – to see our world and our community through their unique perspectives.
It is our objective to celebrate the often-unrecognized experiences, opinions, feelings, and perspectives of those who work, create, and fight in our city; to share their artwork and views with our visitors; and to provide a space for conversation and reflection.
Through a rich tapestry of diverse pieces, this exhibition showcases the intersecting and profound role of women artists and women activists, particularly the leadership of BIPOC women, in social justice movements. The lived experiences of these women artists provide a window into the soul of our community—a community deeply wounded by racism and injustice, but a community striving for healing.
The Muhammad Ali Center is proud to share space with these artists and commits to continuing to build community-engaged exhibitions and programs. As you explore each piece, we hope that you will consider and contemplate the responsibility we all share in building a more just and inclusive Louisville for all.
We Don’t Wither is NOW OPEN at the Muhammad Ali Center and FREE with the price of admission. It will run now through December 18, 2023.
As artist Joanne Weis quotes, “Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” – Pema Chödrön
Artists + Artist Statements
Marlesha S. Woods (Multimedia)
LaNia Robers (Painter)
Joanne Weis (Textiles)
Morgan McGill (Painter)
Shauntrice Martin (Multimedia/sculpture)
Nikki Douglas (Collage)
Amadea Schenck (Multimedia and graphic design)
Artist: LaNia Roberts
Self portraiture in my work is used as a way to create ownership over my own image. Growing up never seeing images of plus-size people, especially black women portrayed through a lens of love and power, I often felt invisible and disempowered. When I created my first self portrait at the age of 16, it was the first moment I ever looked at myself through a lens of curiosity and love rather than a learned lens of hate and discouragement. In this series of self portraits I am painting myself enveloped with water, inspired by the autobiographical exploration in David Hockney’s Swimming Pool series, and the place in time in my own life when I was learning how to let go and surrender to the flow of life.
Artist: Shauntrice Martin
Medium: Multimedia and Sculpture
Chahta Noir is my artistic reality. This Gateway series is the culmination of years of research across African and Indigenous inspired journeys through my heritage. The pieces I created for this series are a prelude to my evolution. I am the daughter of Shauntee who was the daughter of Gladys who was the daughter of Willie B. who was the daughter of Beadie who was the daughter of Lillie. Every line is libation for my lineage. This collection is veneration to those who came before me. My mother’s sporadic endowment of creativity and hustle are deeply embedded in my portfolio. It’s giving uninhibited joy.
Artist: Joanne Weis
Artists invited to participate in this exhibition at the Muhammed Ali Center are asked to create art from our unique perspectives and encouraged to create work that respond to socio-cultural or socio-political situations, lived experiences and current events.
My perspective: I am an older white woman, raised in an Irish immigrant community, a social worker who was able to focus on art as I retired, always a wife, mother and now a grandmother.
To help clarify what that means, I embrace a statement on aging by Tracie Ellis Ross: As I get older, the more I stay focused on the acceptance of myself and others, and choose compassion over judgment and curiosity over fear.
To more clearly express compassion and curiosity, I went to Brené Brown’s writing, a social worker and author who bases her writings on solid research. Here is her insight:
Compassion is not the relationship between the healer and the wounded … Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present to the darkness of others.
Curiosity is a component of courageous leadership, …. recognizing a gap in our knowledge … and closing that gap through exploration and learning.
The invitation to participate in this exhibition encouraged us to ask a question and for me that question became “what can I do to take action in the face of suffering”. In response, I explored four concerns that are personal to me and that I view as significant social justice issues:
- Racism, both generally and with the Louisville specific death of Breonna Taylor.
- Addiction, reaching epidemic levels in Louisville and Kentucky.
- Literacy – Children not able to read at grade level as a result of the pandemic and adults not able to read.
- Floyd’s Fork as an example of disregard for the environment.
As an older white woman and as an artist, I have taken actions that are possible for me in each of these areas and will continue to do so to whatever level I am able because I WON’T WITHER.
Artist: Morgan McGill
What enables us to think beyond each of our own finite belief systems…and is it necessary to do so?
After deconstructing fragmented belief patterns fundamental to Christian purity culture, Morgan McGill pivoted her focus to collage, using this medium to challenge the ease with which our most sacred beliefs are connected to power structures. Her art creates allies of contemporary collage and historic fresco patterns, inspiring compositions that assemble the two harmoniously. Pigment provides moments of static while overlapping symbols and layers remark upon the human experience of transformation. The outcome is a mosaic of translucent patterns that engages the viewer to bear witness to juxtaposing elements that do not fit inside a frame.
Artist: Nikki Douglas
I have always been obsessed with music and its ability to transport us to a moment in time or a memory by lyrics. Through my pieces, I strive to captivate the viewer by the usage of song lyrics with analog collage. I am inspired by emotions and daily life, as well as the music piece itself and its context. With my art I strive to challenge assumptions, tell my story, and create positive change through exploring collective experiences shared through music. I hope my art can serve as a catalyst for meaningful connections between people.
Artist: Amadea Schenk
Medium: Multimedia, Graphic Design
Men take things out of my hands. Once it was my favorite drafting pencil, a workhorse
that I worked out until it snapped in two. I had just peeled back the edge of a roll of
electrical tape when my employer appeared, snatched the Pentel and tape out of my
hands and said, “Let me help you with that.” I watched in horror as he sloppily wound
layer upon layer upon layer of black plastic tape around the aluminum shaft until it was
a bulky, sticky mess. He handed it back with a satisfied smile and walked away. I stood
there, with a worse-than-broken pencil and the all too familiar sensation of having had
something taken from me by someone who thought they knew what I needed better than
My work for this show addresses this phenomenon – what I call “unsolicited help” – and
explores how seemingly benign behaviors can serve to reinforce gendered power
dynamics and disempower women. This unsolicited help ranges from physical
intervention (such as the helpful mutilation of my pencil), to unnecessary explanations
(“well, actually…”), to unwanted advice on how to be more attractive (”smile more”) or
less unattractive (”be…quieter”). I have used a combination of illustration, fiber art, and
found object curation to create a visual representation of my experience of being
interrupted, doubted, and dismissed in my creative, professional, and personal life simply
because I am a woman. I hope that it will resonate with others who have had similar
This is an “I see you” to everyone who has received unsolicited help, as well as a call to
action, inviting viewers to reflect on their own behaviors and the ways in which they may
be perpetuating harmful gender norms. By amplifying the voices of women and
challenging existing power structures, we can work toward a future where everyone is
free to learn from their experiences, and to ask for help when they actually need it.
Artist: Marlesha S. Woods
Marlesha S. Woods will share her collection, Enter with Courage Handle with Care,
accompanied with a digital learning guide that will launch in mid April; to personally hear the
artist’s heart behind the work. The work draws from Marlesha’s personal story, matriarchal
anecdotes, and honors the narrative of the late Mrs. Ada Doss Campbell, a Black woman that
died from professional medical neglect during the 1940s. While incorporating multimedia
including acrylic paint, textiles, and plants grown in the artist’s own garden.
”My desire for those that choose to engage with my art, is to be as intentional as I was
through the art-making process. I welcome each community member as a participant
and not a voyeur. Take a look and then look again. Observe the work, dive into the
color-play, rhythm, broken lines, mergers of styles, layered textures, movement and
emotions. Art is a vehicle to travel our minds to what is, what was, and what can be. If
you notice the tightly crowded paintings or the crooked glaring canvas askew, know that I
will hang the triptych painting, “Mending Fences” upright when the fence of the Colored
section of the unmarked graves located at E.P.Tom Sawyer State Park, stewarded by
Central State Hospital are mended. What is broken can be mended and we are waiting.”
Marlesha’s context for this body of work illuminates human erasure, medical racism, disparities
and place to name a few. In the words of the artist, “we are sacred.”