The Muskegon Museum of Art presents SONS: Seeing the Modern African American Male, an exhibition of portraits of black men from greater Muskegon, as photographed by artist Jerry Taliaferro. The exhibition runs December 13, 2018 through March 10, 2019.
The 94 portraits in the SONS exhibition explore how the black American male perceives himself and how he is perceived by others. The men pictured in the show were nominated from the greater Muskegon area by a committee of their peers. The goal was to portray a wide range of ages, backgrounds, occupations, and interests to best represent not only the black men of our community, but also to mirror the day-to-day experiences of their fellow Americans.
The men pictured are artists, musicians, barbers, doctors, lawyers, health care workers, engineers, entrepreneurs, businessmen, teachers, athletes, retired servicemen, clergy, poets, factory workers, laborers, security guards, school administrators, and coaches. They are also husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, co-workers, teammates, friends, and neighbors. It is the first time many of these men have been publicly recognized.
In the artist Jerry Taliaferro’s words:
“[The exhibition] is both timely and relevant. Recent events point to the urgent need for conversations about the contemporary black American male. Any effort, however humble, to foster an understanding of this largely misunderstood and often marginalized segment of the American population is of utmost importance.”
SONS: Seeing the Modern African American Male is an invitation to share the experiences of the black men in our city, to see them as individuals, hear their stories, and better understand how their lives have been impacted by a legacy of racial and social injustices. In bringing this exhibition to Muskegon, it is the hope of the SONS Committee and the staff and Board of Trustees of the Muskegon Museum of Art that we can foster an open and welcoming dialogue that leads to greater understanding, empathy, and community.
About the Artist
Jerry Taliaferro was born in the small southern town of Brownsville, Tennessee. After graduating high school in May 1972, he joined the Army. He entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1973 and graduated as a member of the Class of 1977. Taliaferro’s interest in photography began during his post at Fort Bragg, North Carolina for Special Forces training in 1981. While serving in Germany, his interest in photography continued and, in 1985, his work was published for the first time when a Munich magazine purchased the rights to one of his images. Jerry returned to the U.S. and began doing assignments for advertising and design firms in 1985. He left the military in 1988 and began a career in commercial photography. Over the ensuing years, his interest turned more to fine art photography. This change in direction has resulted in several projects and published pieces. Women of a New Tribe, a photographic study of the spiritual and physical beauty of black women, is one of his latest projects. Jerry Taliaferro currently resides in Charlotte, NC.
Special thanks to the members of our SONS Committee, without which this exhibition would not have been possible: TJ Chappel, Jon Covington, Chris Dean, Arthur Garner, Ed Garner, Justin Jennings, Bernard Loudermill, William Muhammad, Marvin Nash, Dr. Dale Nesbary, Kelly Richards, J. Arthur Sanders, Andrew Sims, George Walker, Rodney Walker, James Waters, and Jonathan Wilson.
SONS: Seeing the Modern African American Male is underwritten by Fifth Third Bank, and co-sponsored by Arconic – Whitehall Operations and Warner Norcross & Judd, LLP. Program support is provided by the Michigan Humanities Council and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Media Partner is WGVU Public Media.