“Deconstructed and Raw” by Mary Jo Whitman

Exhibit Dates: November 30, 2022 – February 18, 2023

Reception: December 15, 2022

Artist Bio

Mary Jo Whitman is the Education/SCR Director at GO ART! and an Adjunct Art History Professor at Genesee Community College. She has been a practicing artist for over 20 years, working in a variety of forms including drawing, mural painting, photography, digital art, and sculpture with a focus on conceptual art. Although much of her work is commissioned, she has exhibited in various group and solo exhibits, both locally and internationally. Earning a MA in Critical Museum Studies from the University of Buffalo, her graduate research focused on exploring critical theory as it pertains to the construction of identity in a postmodern era. Graduating from SUNY Brockport summa cum laude, she holds a BA in Studio Arts with a concentration in Sculpture and a minor in Art History. Mary Jo also has an AAS in Fine Arts, with a concentration on Digital Art, from Genesee Community College.

Passionate about promoting and fostering the arts, Mary Jo served on the Board of Directors at GO ART! from 2015-2018, chairing the External Affairs and Gallery Committees. As the former Art Gallery Coordinator for the Rosalie “Roz” Steiner Art Gallery, Mary Jo focused on enhancing the students’ education through exposure to a variety of mediums and art forms while curating diverse and dynamic exhibitions for the community to enjoy. She has also had the honor of speaking as a guest lecturer to several artistic and educational groups, as well as served as a juror for many exhibitions across the region, including the Congressional Art Competition for the 27th District.

Artist Statement

I attribute much of the success in my life to my ability to assume whatever identity is necessary to function within any social situation with which I am presented. My appearance, my clothing, my mannerisms, my vocabulary, even the tone of my voice differ from situation to situation. I am the crazy hippie, dancing barefoot at a festival as my flowing skirt chases me. I am the curator, entertaining pretentious conversation in stilettos. I am the smart-ass bartender, donning pigtails and a bowtie with a mischievous grin. I am the country girl in mud covered, ripped up jeans, destroying targets with a shotgun and riding wheelers. I am an artist, conceptualizing all my observations in an array of mediums, often in wax and plaster covered clothing. I am a sister. I am a daughter. I am an aunt. I am a mom. The sheer size of my closet can attest to how many different people I can be and who I may need to be at any given moment. This begs the question; is this fluid and fractured sense of identity nothing more than a performance?  The act of performing identity would be considered indicative of an identity crisis from a modernist perspective, however, it is simply part of identity formation from a postmodernist point of view. The concept of a unified self with a fixed identity has given way to an idea of multiple selves, which allows for the constant construction and reconstruction of identity. For postmodern theorists, identity is fluid and considered a construct formulated according to one’s environments, interests and interactions. Social constructs can become so entrenched that we take them for granted as ‘normal’ and ‘natural’, but they’re always informed by the specific sociocultural contexts that produced them and they have a significant impact on who we perceive ourselves to be. In essence, an individual’s identity is culturally constructed, and necessarily fluid to meet the demands of changing social dynamics. So, who am I beneath the fractured and fluid identity which has been constructed in accordance with societal expectations? The truth is, I am all of these identities… and none of them at the same time. Although, I use myself as an example in this theory because my identity certainly has many extremes, the truth of the matter is that everyone, in one way or another, possesses a fractured and fluid identity. Although the theory of identity construction in of itself is thought provoking, what I really seek to understand is the psychological impact of constructed identities. What happens when we stop performing these identities? What do we look like deconstructed and raw?

– Mary Jo Whitman