Raven Halfmoon / Paul Stephen Benjamin

Raven Halfmoon / Paul Stephen Benjamin

Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts

From left: Raven Halfmoon, Flagbearer, 2022. Stoneware, glaze. Courtesy of the artist and Ross + Kramer Gallery, New York. Photo: Jason Mandella. Paul Stephen Benjamin, Black Suns, 2023. Black Light, Black Power strip, Black extension cord. Courtesy of the artist.

May 28, 2024
Raven Halfmoon: Flags of Our Mothers
Paul Stephen Benjamin: Black of Night
May 18–September 15, 2024
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Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts
724 S. 12th Street
Omaha, Nebraska 68102
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Two new exhibitions are now on view at Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, Nebraska. Raven Halfmoon: Flags of Our Mothers and Paul Stephen Benjamin: Black of Night. 

Raven Halfmoon: Flags of Our Mothers
Organized by Bemis Center and The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Flags of Our Mothers is the first major traveling exhibition for artist Raven Halfmoon. Her practice spans torso-scaled and colossal-sized stoneware sculptures, with some soaring up to twelve feet and weighing over eight hundred pounds. With inspirations that orbit centuries from ancient Indigenous pottery to Moai statues to Land Art, Halfmoon interrogates the intersection of tradition, history, gender, and personal experience.

Halfmoon, who was born and raised in Norman, Oklahoma, learned about ceramics as a teenager from a Caddo elder. Working mainly in portraiture, she hand-builds each work using a coil method. Her surfaces are expressive and show deep finger impressions and dramatic dripping glazes—a physicality that presences her as both maker and matter. She fuses Caddo pottery traditions (a history of making mostly done by women) with more contemporary gestures, often tagging her work as a reference to Caddo tattooing and ancient pottery motifs. Her works reflect stories of the Caddo Nation, specifically her feminist lineage and the power of its complexities.  

Raven Halfmoon: Flags of Our Mothers is co-curated by Rachel Adams, Chief Curator and Director of Programs at Bemis Center and Amy Smith-Stewart, Chief Curator at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum. Halfmoon was commissioned by both institutions for the exhibition to create some of her largest works to date, including Flagbearer, a three-part stacked ceramic sculpture standing over twelve feet tall, greeting visitors at the entrance to Bemis’s building. 

Paul Stephen Benjamin: Black of Night
Paul Stephen Benjamin’s practice is an ongoing investigation of blackness through concept, thought, and perception. From wordplay with the actual letters that comprise “BLACK,” to utilizing the expanse of shades of black house paint—including as Nightfall, Soot, Ebony Field, and Black Beauty—to posing the question, “If the color black had a sound, what would it be?,” Benjamin calls attention to the color’s deep historical and social resonance. Across his practice, the artist’s work references integral moments in Black history as well as art history.

Black of Night—the artist’s first solo exhibition in the region—features video installations, paintings, text-based work, and sculpture as conceptual entry points for dialogue around identity, race, and patriotism. By continually “documenting” the color black through his multifaceted practice, he is also deconstructing its meaning—breaking it down to its simplest form and allowing for it to operate as a medium for interpretation and introspection.  Focusing on the connotations of the color black in society, culture, and language, Benjamin incorporates history, text, imagery, and sound from popular culture, in turn discussing the absence and presence of color.

Support for Raven Halfmoon: Flags of Our Mothers was provided by Mid-America Arts Alliance. Additional support by Douglas County Visitor Improvement Fund; Michel Cohen, Collection Montparnasse; Mutual of Omaha; Nebraska Arts Council/Nebraska Cultural Endowment; Omaha Steaks; and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Arts. Funding for the Poetry Reading + Workshop was provided by Humanities Nebraska/Nebraska Cultural Endowment.

Support for Paul Stephen Benjamin: Black of Night was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art. Additional support by Douglas County Visitor Improvement Fund, Mutual of Omaha, Nebraska Arts Council/Nebraska Cultural Endowment, Omaha Steaks, and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Arts.

Poetry reading and workshop: June 8, 2–4pm
Ekphrastic poetry workshop led by Kinsale Drake and Maritza N. Estrada.

OMA ARTalks: July 20, 2pm
Omaha artists will discuss their favorite works in the exhibitions.

Curator-led tour: July 25, 6pm
Exhibition tour and discussion with Rachel Adams, Chief Curator and Director of Programs.

Raven Halfmoon and Rachel Adams in conversation: August 10, 4pm
Exhibiting artist Raven Halfmoon will discuss her influences and expansive artistic practice.

Seth Parker Woods cello performance: August 15, 8pm
Seth Parker Woods will play Julius Eastman’s The Holy Presence of Joan d’Arc (1981).

RSVP for Raven Halfmoon / Paul Stephen Benjamin
Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts
May 28, 2024

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