Artists Explain Civil Rights Influences in de Menil Gallery Talk

Art and history are often interwoven. This is especially true in the art works of both Pamela Chatterton-Purdy and Mark Person, who currently are showing their works at Groton’s de Menil Gallery. As a kick-off to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Purdy and Person gave a talk at Groton about both their art and their reflections on the civil rights movement.
Pamela Chatterton-Purdy’s series, "Icons of the Civil Rights Movement," honors those who sacrificed for freedom. Using wood with gold leaf, she created stunning icons dedicated to prominent figures in the struggle for equal civil rights, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Emmett Till, and Rosa Parks, as well as to heroes who may be lesser known: Viola Liuzzo, a white woman who was shot by the Ku Klux Klan while transporting marchers from Selma, Alabama, and Vernon Dahmer, chapter president of the NAACP who was killed when the KKK bombed his house. The 26 icons are enhanced by written accounts by the artist’s husband, the Reverend David Purdy.

Chatterton-Purdy relayed her experiences working at Ebony magazine in 1963, as one of two white people in a workforce of 150, and as a mother to two adopted black sons. “Icons of the Civil Rights Movement” grew as Chatterton-Purdy learned of more stories, often told to her by relatives or friends of people who participated in the civil rights movement.

Photojournalist Mark Person, who was born in Alabama and raised in Georgia, also participated in the gallery talk, explaining how his connection with his family influenced his photography exhibition, “Staying Grounded.” Each of the nine, large-scale photographs on display tells a different story, capturing the spirit of each depicted individual. The image “Commerce” captures the foyer to the Old Slave Mart Museum in Charleston, South Carolina—only the foyer because, according to Person, “it was “too painful to go in any further.”—Shangyan Li '14