Last month, WACO Theater Center in North Hollywood debuted “Witness,” a multimedia exhibition centering the perspectives of L.A.-based Black women and nonbinary artists. On view through May 27, the collection was curated by WACO’s co-founder Tina Knowles Lawson and Genel Ambrose, founder of the cultural programming incubator Good Mirrors. The 14 featured artists explore themes of family, community and identity in works that feel celebratory, honest and uninhibited.
“Black women are underrepresented,” said Knowles Lawson, an avid collector of African American art. “It just seems to be tougher for them to get started and to get their work out there. So, this was a labor of love, really.”
That uphill battle can be so daunting that one of the show’s artists had a hard time even imagining such an opportunity could be real. Filmmaker Amber J. Phillips, whose 2021 short film “Abundance” is on display in the exhibition, said she was in such disbelief when WACO’s director of communications and strategy, Nijeul X, reached out to her that she disregarded his introductory email and continued to make the pot of butter beans she had been preparing.
She wasn’t readily convinced the curators would be genuinely interested in providing a platform for her work, which unapologetically comments on white supremacy and its impact on her life as a self-identified “dark-skinned, fat Black girl from the Midwest.” Ultimately, she was