Swan Song features the individual and collaborative work of Halima Cassells and Shanna Merola, combining their photo-based collages alongside sculpture and installation. This exhibition examines the cause and effects of colonization, resource extraction, climate crisis, and corporate domination. While Merola’s dystopian landscapes seem fractured beyond repair by free market deregulation, Cassells work manifests the collective liberation of both people and land from the grip of White heteropatriarchal systems of oppression.
OCTOBER 29, 2022 – MARCH 26, 2023
MIKE KELLEY’S MOBILE HOMESTEAD
Swan Song features the individual and collaborative work of Halima Afi Cassells and Shanna Merola, combining their photo-based collages alongside sculpture and installation. This exhibition examines the cause and effects of colonization, resource extraction, climate crisis, and corporate domination. While Merola’s dystopian landscapes seem fractured beyond repair by free market deregulation, Cassells work manifests the collective liberation of both people and land from the grip of white heteropatriarchal systems of oppression.
The swan is a recurring figure, both aesthetically and metaphorically. As an archetype and motif, the graceful creature holds multiple meanings handed down through the centuries and across different cultures. According to ancient Greek mythology, the silent swan sings a beautiful song just before death. As we stand on the precipice of collapse, in the wake of a new paradigm shift, can we also learn to experience beauty and joy amidst the terror?
Halima Afi Cassells is an award-winning interdisciplinary community-engaged artist, mom of three, and avid gardener with deep roots in Waawiiyaataanong/Detroit, MI. She credits gardening as inspiring her move away from painting to a practice where she aspires to use natural and upcycled materials and processes that lend to the thriving of all (human and non-human) communities.
She is continually going down rabbit holes, seeking to understand the interconnectedness of the British monarchy and common law systems, global corporatism, climate crisis, and the impacts on the self to return to a right relationship. As an advocate for all artists and cultural practitioners, she has spearheaded many community processes that uplift cultural capital from often-exploited communities and continually create in a collaborative context. She is a core partner of Arts in a Changing America, the Waawiiyaataanong Arts Council, Equitable Detroit Coalition, Oakland Avenue Artists Coalition, and a longtime National Conference of Artists member.
Cassells continues to explore relationship-building and the notions of freedom/work, value/disposability in a participatory context through projects like the “Free Market of Detroit” (2015 Knight Arts awardee), her Tables and Thrones series (featured on WDET’s Artist Next Door 2021), and “Travelling Indigo Vat”. Her work has been featured at Art @the Max, Virgil Carr Center, The Wright Museum, MOCAD, Skylight Gallery (Brooklyn), Njelele Art Station (Harare), Ny Carlsberg Foundation (Copenhagen), and in a multitude of spaces in the public realm.
Shanna Merola is a visual artist, photojournalist, and legal worker. Past and present environmental justice struggles inform her sculptural photo collages. Traveling to EPA-designated Superfund sites, she has documented the slow violence of deregulation and frontline resistance from her own neighborhood on the eastside of Detroit to Chicago’s Altgeld Gardens and Love Canal, New York. She facilitates Know-Your-Rights workshops for grassroots organizations in Detroit through the National Lawyers Guild.
Merola has been awarded studio residencies and fellowships through MacDowell, the Studios at MASS MoCA, Banff Centre for Arts + Creativity, Kala Institute of Art, the Society for Photographic Education, the Puffin Foundation, and the Virginia Museum of Fine Art. Merola has held teaching appointments at Cranbrook Academy of Art, Wayne State University, and the Department of Art Practice at UC Berkeley. Her work has been exhibited both nationally and abroad.
PRESS + MEDIA