Artist and activist Jackie Black Discusses “Last Meal” at Parrish Art Museum

Artist Jackie Black
Jackie Black at the Parrish Art Museum in 2016 at the opening of Artists Choose Artists. Photo: Daniel Gonzalez

Artist and activist Jackie Black will discuss Last Meal—her exhibition of photographs on view at the Parrish Art Museum—with Exhibition Organizer Savannah Petrick on Friday, November 27. For her images, Black re-created the last meals and statements of 22 individuals who were tried, convicted and executed in Texas under capital punishment between 1984 and 2001. The public is invited to join the talk, which is part of the museum’s online Friday Nights Live! series.

“I’m delighted to join Jackie Black for this important conversation about art and activism in America. After a 17-year informal moratorium, federal capital punishment resumed under the Trump administration in July, just as the United States was entering its current movement for social and racial justice,” said Petrick. “Though made almost 20 years ago, Black’s Last Meal series is as relevant as ever.”

On view at the Parrish through January 2021, Last Meal is Black’s commentary on capital punishment. Petrick, Curatorial Assistant and Publications Coordinator, and Black will discuss the work in the context of today’s America—a country that has had 170 exonerations since 1973, and 1,522 executions since 1976. Since it opened at the Museum on August 7, Last Meal has garnered critical acclaim and attention worldwide in media, including BBC.com and Aesthetica (UK); The AD and Metronieuws.com (Netherlands); Perluigipiccini.it (Italy); CapeTalk and 2 Oceans Vibe (South Africa); Kenyan News (Kenya); as well as Surface, WSJI, and Progressive Christianity.

At first glance, Black’s photographs read as staged food photos on a glossy diner menu. However, suspended against stark black backgrounds in a gallery setting—with no suggestion of social or human interaction—the images are transformed into macabre still-lifes. Some of the meals read as an inventory of favorite foods, such as Allen Castillo: 24 soft shell tacos, 6 enchiladas, 6 tostadas, 2 whole onions, 5 jalapenos, 2 cheeseburgers, 1 chocolate shake, 1 quart milk. Menus like this, evoking Fourth of July picnic fare, are contrasted with simple requests, such as Charles William Bass: Plain cheese sandwich.

Perhaps Black’s most affecting portrait is one devoid of food or drink. Robert Anthony Madden: ASKED THAT LAST MEAL BE GIVEN TO A HOMELESS PERSON (REQUEST DENIED.). Its four lines of white type a plaintive appeal from a distant, disembodied source.

Jackie Black will discuss Last Meal with Savannah Petrick on Friday, November 27, at 5 p.m. as part of the Friday Nights Live! Series. Log-in information is at parrishart.org

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