Overstreet Ducasse inaugurates Jacksonville’s Moving the Margins artist-in-residence program

In using cutout shooting targets to compose the figures – the Black figures – in his politically, racially, emotionally charged mixed-media artworks, Overstreet Ducasse makes powerful statements about gun violence.

Statements about America’s staggering levels of gun violence and the culture which produces it.

The U.S. gun homicide rate is 25 times that of other high-income countries. An average of 200 people have been killed and 472 injured by guns each weekend in the United States this summer, not including suicides, according to an analysis done by the Gun Violence Archive for CNN. This exhibition was purposefully mounted in summer when gun violence across America peaks.

Statements about who’s being targeted.

Black men and boys ages 15 to 34 make up just 2% of the nation’s population, but they accounted for 37% of gun homicides in 2019. That’s 20 times higher than white males of the same age group.

Statements about what’s being done to protect them.

Half of the murders resulting from gun violence in Ducasse’s hometown of Jacksonville are never solved. Is that because police don’t care enough about the communities being affected to seriously investigate these cases or are they simply incompetent? In either case, should their funding be reduced based on poor performance and in the effort to spend that money where it would be more effective in actually protecting these communities?

Statements about why this nation for so long has done nothing to meaningfully address this epidemic.

Moving the Margins

Overstreet Ducasse, Get the Bag, Get the Straps, 2021. Mixed media, 72 x48 inch. Courtesy of the artist.
Overstreet Ducasse, Get the Bag, Get the Straps, 2021. Mixed media, 72 x48 inch. Courtesy of the artist.

Ducasse’s exhibition, “Triggered: Catalyst to Activist,” marks the debut presentation of a new Jacksonville-based artist-in-residence program known as Moving the Margins. Moving the Margins seeks to foster an environment that builds creative communities by providing resources and support for BIPOC artists and makers to flourish. Artists like Ducasse, a Black man who moved to Jacksonville from Haiti at age six.

I recently visited the program’s exhibition space in the newly created The Corner Gallery inside the Jesse Ball du Pont Center in downtown Jacksonville to see Ducasse’s work and meet with Moving the Margins Executive Director, Creative Director and Curator Shawana Brooks.

“Who’s doing hard work, who’s doing work that wouldn’t be recognized by a museum or a gallery,” Brooks told me when asked about how she selected Ducasse to debut the program. These are the artists she wants to spotlight. “(Jacksonville is) always looking at, ‘who’s the bigger artist,’ instead of making our own artists bigger.”

Moving the Margins splits its residency between three months of collaborations with local non-profits to develop and produce an idea, followed by a three-month exhibition at The Corner Gallery. “Triggered” will be on view through October 29. Artists are provided with an equitable stipend and material costs to complete their work.

Catalyst to Activist

Brooks desires for Moving the Margins artwork and artists to have long term impact on Jacksonville. She’s not interested in “create and go artists” who drop new work and then leave town. Brooks is seeking activist artists whose visual images can spark change.

Ducasse fits that mold and the title of his exhibition speaks to the responsibility of artists – and art lovers – to do more than just comment on issues of social justice, but to engage in real, street level activism. That’s why hands are so prominent in this series of work. Hands do the work. Hands replace heads in Ducasse’s artwork created for Moving the Margins. Hands spell out the letters “B-L-M” in American Sign Language.

Pay close attention to Ducasse’s titles. No Trashpassing. A brilliant point/counterpoint pair of works Decide Peace and Decide Piece. (The side piece.)

Overstreet Ducasse, Decide Piece (detail), 2021. Mixed media, 72 x 28 inch. Courtesy of the artist.
Overstreet Ducasse, Decide Piece (detail), 2021. Mixed media, 72 x 28 inch. Courtesy of the artist.

Bold. Provocative. Incorporating a unique visual language, Ducasse’s work on view here would not be out of place hung next to Kerry James Marshall or Hank Willis Thomas despite the latter’s greater fame.

All of the works on view are for sale, most in the $5,000 range, a genuine opportunity for serious collectors (and institutions) wanting to build serious collections of serious artworks that define serious times. Prints, and even Ducasse’s artworks viewable on old school Viewmaster reels, are available for sale at The Corner Gallery as well.

Moving the Margins has made a dramatic, and dynamic, first impression that all of Jacksonville should be proud of.

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