Guest of Honor | "Souvenir II" by Kerry James Marshall
The DIA welcomes Souvenir II by Kerry James Marshall as a Guest of Honor, on loan from the Addison Gallery of American Art in Boston. This piece is heavily associated with the Civil Rights Movement, and features a prominent Michigan connection.
Souvenir II takes place in one of Marshall’s relative’s living room, setting the scene for a memorial, which hangs above the couch. The memorial reads “In Memory of” and features President John F. Kennedy, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, and centered between the Kennedys is Martin Luther King, Jr. In clouds floating above, Marshall depicts individuals in the form of angels, both black and white, associated with the Civil Rights Movement, who were violently killed between 1959–1970. The most prominent part of the work is that of a black angel with gold wings, preparing the living room’s memorial setting, holding a vase with flowers, inviting the viewer into the scene. Souvenir II is one of four in a series, narrating the loss of leaders in politics, literature, arts, and music.
Among the angels depicted in the clouds are Detroit native, Viola Liuzzo, a housewife and 39-year-old mother of five. She was shot by Ku Klux Klan night riders on Highway 80 in Montgomery, Alabama making her way home to Detroit after participating in the Selma to Montgomery marches in the wake of Bloody Sunday. Liuzzo was a member of the Detroit chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and became acutely aware of the intolerance of African Americans’ feelings of invisibility. To this day, she is known as the only white woman killed during the Civil Rights Movement. The other angels depicted in the artwork include Jimmie Lee Jackson, Medgar Evers, Denise Mcnair, Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, and Malcolm X; all violently murdered for their work during the Civil Rights Movement.
Souvenir II is on display outside of the glass gallery in the contemporary gallery space, adjacent to the Aviva & Jack A. Robinson Gallery, located on the second floor.
Image: Souvenir II, 1997, Kerry James Marshall, American, Acrylic, collage, and glitter on unstretched canvas banner. Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy