Painter Fran Joy Brings Black Artists Together for ‘Justice for Peace’ exhibit

"Jesus" was among several works by artist Fran Joy, which was on display throughout February at the "Justice for Peace" exhibition at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center.

By Carlos D. Williamson

For Fran Joy, art is another way to challenge people’s perspectives on race, gender and inequality.

And the 65-year-old painter had yet another opportunity to display her unique artwork when she curated the “Justice for Peace” exhibition from Jan. 31 until the end of February. One of the objectives was to showcase the works of prominent black artists from the Chicago metropolitan area.

In addition to Joy’s paintings, many artists’ works were on display at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center in Evanston, Illinois, including painter Jevoid Simmons; David Anthony Geary; Dino Robinson, founder of  Shorefront, a non-profit historical organization; and up-and-coming artist Angela Williams.

Joy said that artwork is not only impactful because of its beauty and uniqueness, but its power to reveal truth, which can ultimately change minds.

“Seconds create moments, and moments create reality,” Joy said. “For example, if there was a moment where you had a chance to make a decision about somebody’s life or death, if you plug into the humanity and the value of life for a couple of seconds, you can make that right decision.”

She also noted the death of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old who was shot and killed by police, as an example of not taking the time to critically evaluate situations.

"Hands Up!"
“Hands Up!” is another portrait by Fran Joy that focuses on social justice and institutionalized racism.

Joy’s artwork and upbringing

Joy’s painting, “Hands Up!,” is a depiction of how black youth are unjustly killed solely based on their appearance. In the painting, a silhouetted figure, who’s clearly a black boy, has his raised above his head. His T-shirt reads “STOP.” And beneath it is a bull’s-eye marked on his chest.

Joy added that her artwork is meant to challenge the beliefs of privileged individuals, who either don’t believe in institutionalized racism or are oblivious to it. Her upbringing in Centralia, Illinois during segregation is one the many reasons her works focus on social issues, Joy said.

She said she knew she wanted to be an artist since she was in kindergarten, but tackling issues dealing with poverty has always been her concern. “I’ve considered myself an activist probably since grade school, but didn’t really know what to do with,” Joy said.

"Saturn Queen"
Artist David Anthony Geary uses abstract imagery in the painting “Saturn Queen.”

David Anthony Geary

In addition to being an artist, David Anthony Geary said he also considers himself an activist. Geary said he’s not on the front lines with protesters, but his work includes social justice themes, and in some ways can be equally powerful.

“There are multiple forms of activism,” Geary said.

While Geary said that there are some African-Americans who fully embrace who they are, it’s not “a fluid process” since there are individuals who aren’t aware of who they are and don’t embrace their culture.

“For me [my artwork] is a reclaiming of our humanity and our beauty,” Geary said.

Photo at top: “Jesus” was among several works of art by artist Fran Joy, which was on display throughout the month of February at the “Justice for Peace” exhibition. (Carlos D. Williamson/MEDILL)