23 African American homesteaders inspire exhibit at San Bernardino County Museum – San Bernardino Sun

“Contradictions – Bringing the Past Forward” at the San Bernardino County Museum runs through April 10.

The exhibit, which opened in February, is a research-based multimedia arts and humanities project by artist Barbara Gothard, consisting of mixed-media installation works that interpret 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 experiences.

While searching for information on another topic, Gothard discovered an article about African American homesteaders by Joe Blackstock, a longtime journalist and columnist for this news organization, who also is a San Bernardino County Museum volunteer. Included in the piece was an ad recruiting “colored” homesteaders from a 1910 edition of the Los Angeles Herald. In response to this ad, 23 families became settlers in far eastern San Bernardino County. This article was the impetus for Gothard’s project.

During her artist residency at Joshua Tree’s BoxoPROJECTS in November, Gothard continued to develop he concept of creating 23 digital paintings and printing them on raw linen canvas. Each of these 23 pieces interprets a story of one African American homesteader family. Their struggles are contrasted in the context of Gothard’s own experience as an African American female artist living in the desert.

Gothard grew up in Springfield, Illinois, knowing she wanted to be an artist. Her mother saw the interest and enrolled her in Saturday art classes in the second grade. Gothard went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in art from Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, her M.A. from Long Island University and her doctorate in educational administration from Michigan State University. Her travels have since taken her around the world.

Now a resident of Palm Springs, Gothard has exhibited her work at the Palm Springs Art Museum  as well as in Santa Monica, Cincinnati and Paris, France.

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