Photo: Bill Wade Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
With her Humanae project, Brazilian photographer Angelica Dass is traveling the world to record and catalog all possible human skin tones and to connect the resulting portraits in a global collage. Here in Pittsburgh, theHumanae/I AM AUGUST installation features two hundred portraits reflecting the diversity of who we are as a city, on the façade of a building that reflects the resilience and rich promise of our community.
In July 2015, when we invited the public to participate in a 5-day photo shoot for the installation, there was such a tremendous outpouring of community spirit (nearly 250 participants) that we have enough portraits for a supplemental exhibition at 937 Gallery. About half of the participants also participated in oral history interviews during the photo shoot; these interviews will be featured in an extension of the installation at a later date during its one-year run.
Janera Solomon had heard of Humanae prior to Jeremy Waldrup of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership introducing her to MaryAnn Camilleri, founder of the Magenta Foundation . When they met, janera shared with MaryAnn her interest in community art that would directly engage as well as enrich the community. When MaryAnn suggested bringing Humanae to Pittsburgh, janera felt it would be a great way to reactivate the AWC, post-recovery. During the year-long AWC Recovery Conversations in the community, "I AM AUGUST" became a rallying cry of artists, community leaders, and friends of the AWC. The overwhelming sentiment was that people wanted to see bold, dynamic programming that reminded everyone that the Center, like August Wilson, is for everyone. Humanae/I AM AUGUST accomplishes this.
August Wilson was once asked if he ever felt limited or got tired of writing exclusively about the lives of Black people. He replied, “I could write forever about the Black experience in America. There's no idea in the world that is not contained by Black life.” And indeed, Wilson’s art, his ground-breaking 10-play cycle, tells universalstories about love, honor, beauty, betrayal, family, and duty; the triumphs and struggles of being human unite us across the borders of our differences. It is fitting then that a center named for Wilson is currently home to a work of art of that, in the words of Angelica Dass, brings people together “beyond the borders" of difference.