Since Joe Biden was announced as the winner of the 2020 presidential election on Saturday, November 7, the president-elect’s messaging has called for unity and healing the rifts of a polarized American society. A new video released by the Biden-Harris campaign this past weekend draws inspiration from artist Lorraine O’Grady’s work to articulate this message, with the artist’s blessing.
The video shows Americans from various backgrounds and hailing from different parts of the country holding empty golden picture frames to the tune of “America the Beautiful.” The video is a reference to O’Grady’s iconic 1983 performance “Art Is…” in Harlem, New York. In the performance, 15 performers, dressed all in white, carried empty gold picture frames during the annual African American Day Parade, inviting members of the community to pose as the subject of the artwork. The performers leaped out of a float that O’Grady created for the parade.
In a statement on Instagram made Sunday, November 8, Alexander Gray Associates, the New York gallery representing O’Grady, said that the Biden-Harris campaign reached out to the artist and the gallery before creating the video. According to the statement, O’Grady approved of the video, saying, “I gave to them and they gave to me.”
O’Grady 1983 performance lives through a series of photographs that she collected from the parade participants. A collection of these images was shown at an exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2015 and was also included in the traveling exhibition Soul of a Nation. A major retrospective of O’Grady’s work is planned to open at the Brooklyn Museum in March of 2021.
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