Beyond the Whitewash was conceived in the fall of 2020 when sculptor Shelby Head began to ask different questions about their cultural heritage of white supremacy and privilege. During this time, Head revisited boxes of family documents connecting their ancestry from England to the planter elite that held political power in Colonial Virginia. The bins contain diaries, generational photographs, and documents confirming male ancestors as militiamen and Indian fighters, politicians, and large plantation owners. They also found several wills, leaving enslaved people to family members. Head's research developed into a project where accomplished Black, Native, and white artists and art workers co-curate and collaborate in a visual and sound discussion about racism in U.S. America.
As a white person committed to anti-racist work, Head's target audience for this project is their community of white people. Head has lived most of their life in affluent, segregated spaces and understands living separately from other racial groups protects white people from seeing the devastating effects of racism in the lives of Black, Indigenous, and other racially discriminated people. The result is a socially and politically constructed environment of white communities that don't have to acknowledge, perceive, or understand racial inequalities. Whereas Black, Indigenous, and People of Color who live in the U.S. are acutely aware of the social, political, and religious constructs, both colonial and post-colonial, that guide and inform their communities.
BIPOC and white people have work to do separately and together in anti-racist work. For this exhibition, a multi-racial group of nationally recognized artists and art workers bring their rich cultural and artistic vision to the project. When one work of art is placed in juxtaposition with another, it can create a nuanced conversation on the complex issue of race in North America. The viewer is invited to see our shared humanity as deserving of dignity, rights, knowledge, social projects, and equity for all.