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vanessa german* (b. 1976) is an artist, activist, performer, and poet. THE RAREST BLACK WOMAN ON THE PLANET EARTH is german’s response to the Joseph Allen Skinner Museum, an early 20th-century cabinet of curiosities at Mount Holyoke. For the exhibition, german began with a question: "How do we decolonize a thing, a museum, a collection?" Her answer turned into an emancipatory endeavor: to touch every object in the Skinner collection.
Throughout history, the conceptual boundaries of Indigeneity have been predominantly shaped, broadened, and constrained by settler colonialism, imperialism, and white supremacy.
Ranging from portraits to fragmented figures, the works in this exhibition serve as meditations on physical and psychological states of being. The suggested presence—and sometimes absence—of the human figure evokes a tension between the mysterious and the concrete, the real and the imagined.
This exhibition series celebrates the landmark bequest of the Joseph Allen Skinner Museum to the College in 1946.