Charity White is a figurative ceramicist, artist educator, and community activist. She was raised in Oak Park, IL and received two degrees from The University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, an EdM in Art education and a BFA in Crafts. Her research is rooted in an interdisciplinary and social practice approach to art and art education. This has propelled her into a variety of academic realms including race relations, gender studies, religious studies, and socio-economics. Following the completion of her first masters, she taught high school art in the South Side of Chicago and west suburbs. White received her Master of Fine Arts in Ceramics from the University of Florida in 2016. She is the recipient of the Newberry Library’s Arthur and Lila Weinberg Fellowship for Independent Researchers and the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation grant. Currently, she is exhibiting nationally and living in Chicago, IL where she is a resident artist at Lillstreet Art Center and an adjunct professor at Governor State University.
My work explores questions of space, public policies, inclusion, exclusion, and privilege. From urban, to suburban, to rural, I explore the social dynamics of people and the spaces they inhabit. Specifically, I find inspiration through public spaces designed for specific use, and abandoned properties that are both created by these communities and then collectively discarded.
I construct institutional critiques by imposing my life-size figures in public spaces. These works highlight unseen policies and ideologies that drive our society. My social interventions seek to make conscious the unnoticed consequences of urban design and invite the public to renegotiate the purpose of space and their place within it. I seek to complicate the area between public and private spaces. Through the placement of pieces in abandoned private properties that have become community burdens, or public spaces that are designed to discourage use by people without a private residence, my sculptures highlight the unseen ways in which urban planners and policy makers orchestrate how people “should” interact in those spaces and who can interact and those spaces.
Motion-sensor cameras and time-based photography are used to unobtrusively document the ways the public interacts with my figures. These fragmented recordings are artifacts of human engagement with space. The splintered narrative presents the disjointed relationship between the general public, public policy, and the organization of social space. My work documents how the figure occupies that liminal or transitional space. The hidden camera acts as surveillance to the unaware, and as a stage for the theatrical performance for the ones living in that space. The knowledge of the camera shifts social power dynamics of that space even if it is only perceived power. My work aims to engage the public in a conversation about how the spaces they inhabit unconsciously shape them, and how they in turn have power to intentionally shape them.
Stylistically, the figures operate in a similar manner to the common figurative public art. However, my figures subvert the iconic bronze figure in the park by the figures’ actions and materiality. By sleeping on the benches the sculptures are misusing the space they are meant to accent. Ceramics is a paradoxical material that is both incredibly strong and fragile at the same time. With “proper use” it possesses the ability to withstand the elements and great pressure. However, through “misuse” it can be considered quite brittle and fragile. This conversation of use and misuse relates back to the use and misuse of public property.