STORIES FROM PAFA

Closing Soon: Rising Sun | A Reflective Exploration of American Democracy through Art

Rising Sun: Artists in an Uncertain America will be closing soon at PAFA.  Featured here are a selection from all the amazing artists who contributed to the exhibition.

Soon the time will come for the de-installation of "Rising Sun: Artists in an Uncertain America." This immersive and powerful exhibition, in collaboration with the African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP), brings together twenty talented artists to delve into the complexities of contemporary American society. With the exhibition set to close December 31, 2023, there's a limited time left to engage in full with these profound works that challenge perceptions and spark conversations.

The central theme revolves around the metaphor of the rising sun, a symbol embedded in two pivotal moments in U.S. history. Benjamin Franklin, during the Constitutional Convention in 1787, pondered whether the sun carved into George Washington's chair was rising or setting. Poet James Weldon Johnson, in 1900, echoed optimism in the face of challenges with the line, “Facing the rising sun of our new day begun” from "Lift Every Voice and Sing."

As the exhibition prompts a deep reflection on the state of democracy in a time marked by divisiveness and change, these diverse works invite visitors to join a multifaceted conversation. Art becomes a catalyst for reappraisal, reflection, reckoning, and repair, offering a unique lens through which to envision a new way forward.

With the closing date approaching, seize the opportunity to witness the powerful narratives and perspectives encapsulated in "Rising Sun." It's an artistic journey that challenges, inspires, and encourages dialogue—a testament to the enduring power of art to shape and question the world around us.

Featured Artists:

an angled view of Lenka Clayton's "A True Story of a Stone"

Lenka Clayton - The True Story of a Stone, 2023 (installation detail view), Paintings, sculptures, and archival documents from PAFA’s permanent collection selected by the artist, text labels written by the artist, mirror, and a marble replica of Pekin Drake by Charles Rudy, 1941 (10 1/8 x 7 x 12 ¼ in.), Joseph E. Temple Fund, 1942.9. Commissioned by PAFA for Rising Sun: Artists in an Uncertain America at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, March 23, 2023–October 8, 2023 in the Historic Landmark Building. Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia. Photography by Constance Mensh.

Lenka Clayton, an interdisciplinary artist, presents "The True Story of a Stone." Through paintings, sculptures, and archival documents, Clayton weaves a narrative around a stone that was once a classical sculpture of a Greek goddess, ultimately leading to the creation of a marble duck. The installation challenges our perceptions of time and history. “I worked with the registrar and the archivist to select artworks from the museum's permanent collection as well as a few surviving archival documents to tell this story that unfolds over thousands of years…that explains, among things, how a Greek goddess turned into a duck.“ (source)

Read more about "The True Story of a Stone" by Lenka Clayton →

"Delegate" by Rose B Simpson

Rose B. Simpson - Delegate, 2022, Glazed ceramic, steel, hardware, twine, rope, and grout, 75 x 21 x 16 in. Commissioned by PAFA for Rising Sun: Artists in an Uncertain America, courtesy Jessica Silverman, San Francisco. Rising Sun: Artists in an Uncertain America at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, March 23, 2023–October 8, 2023 in the Historic Landmark Building. Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia. Photography by Constance Mensh.

Rose B. Simpson, hailing from Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico, created "Delegate." This larger-than-life ceramic figure, adorned with clay pots and carrying a vessel on its head, symbolizes the silencing and erasures of Native American narratives in U.S. history. It prompts viewers to question who our elected delegates truly represent. “I think in clay…Clay was the earth that grew our food, was the house we lived in, was the pottery we ate out of and prayed with. So my relationship to clay is ancestral and I think it has a deep genetic memory. It’s like a family member for us.” (source)

Watch “Everyday Icons”  S11 E1, PBS WHYY Art21 featuring Rose B. Simpson (April 7, 2023) →

Sheida Soleimani's "Absolute Powers"

Sheida Soleimani - Body Language Academy, 2022 (installation view), 2-channel video, 7 minutes, 23 seconds, from Absolute Powers, 2021-2022, 12 archival pigment prints and 2-channel video. Commissioned by PAFA for Rising Sun: Artists in an Uncertain America, courtesy of the artist, Denny Gallery, New York, Edel Assanti, London, and Harlan Levey Projects, Brussels. Rising Sun: Artists in an Uncertain America at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, March 23, 2023–October 8, 2023 in the Historic Landmark Building. Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia. Photography by Constance Mensh.

Sheida Soleimani, a multimedia artist and activist, brings attention to the stereotyping of Middle Eastern culture in the West. In "Absolute Powers," she explores the relationships between global political leaders, governments, and corporations, emphasizing the performative nature of leaders on the world stage. “This project was challenging in so many ways, as it made me think not about how to invent my own political theaters, but how to interrupt those that take place on one of the world’s biggest stages.” (source)

Watch "History Rising" Rising Sun Artist Talk with Sheida Soleimani (July 6, 2023) →

Angled view of Shiva Ahmadi's "Marooned" and "Red Light"

Shiva Ahmadi - Marooned, 2020-2021 (still frame), Single-channel video animation, 5 minutes and 8 seconds, sound. Commissioned by PAFA for Rising Sun: Artists in an Uncertain America, courtesy Haines Gallery, San Francisco; Shiva Ahmadi - Red Light, 2020, Acrylic on canvas, 56 x 72 in. Commissioned by PAFA for Rising Sun: Artists in an Uncertain America, courtesy Haines Gallery, San Francisco; Rising Sun: Artists in an Uncertain America at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, March 23, 2023–October 8, 2023 in the Historic Landmark Building. Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia. Photography by Constance Mensh.

Shiva Ahmadi, a multimedia artist whose creations resonate with the turmoil of her upbringing during the Iranian Revolution. Her animation, "Marooned," and the accompanying painting, "Red Light," draw attention to the destabilizing effects of war on ordinary lives, particularly highlighting the consequences of U.S. international engagements. She created these works “after seeing an image of a young child watching cartoons from behind a table during the bombing in Gaza, a reminder of my own childhood.” (source: artist chat label)

Watch "Moving Paintings" Art At Noon with Shiva Ahmadi (October 18, 2023) →

Tiffany Chung's "USM Global"

Tiffany Chung - USM GLOBAL, 2022, Embroidery on fabric, 52 x 114 x 2 ½ in. Commissioned by PAFA for Rising Sun: Artists in an Uncertain America, March 23, 2023–October 8, 2023 in the Historic Landmark Building. Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia. Photography by Constance Mensh.

Tiffany Chung came to the U.S. as part of the post-1975 refugee migration from Vietnam. Her work focuses on remapping countries and continents that have been traumatized by war, human destruction, or natural disaster. Chung’s detailed cartographic works for Rising Sun grapple with the global scale of the U.S. military footprint, which is inextricably linked to a history of wars and territorial expansion. One map concentrates on Africa, where, little known to those in other parts of the world, the U.S. has many military bases. "This project is an attempt to look at a giant without losing sight of what the focus should be and therefore, it is to be seen in relations to my other projects that foreground people’s memories and histories – and certainly, their hopes." (source)

Read more about USM GLOBAL on the project website →

Wilmer Wilson IV's "Rumblings"

Wilmer Wilson IV - Rumblings, 2023, Mixed media on wood, 4 components: each 84 x 30 ½ x 30 ½ in. Commissioned by PAFA for Rising Sun: Artists in an Uncertain America, courtesy Susan Inglett Gallery. Rising Sun: Artists in an Uncertain America at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, March 23, 2023–October 8, 2023 in the Historic Landmark Building. Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia. Photography by Constance Mensh.

Wilmer Wilson IV's "Rumblings" serves as a poignant commentary on societal issues. The tall cylindrical sculptures, covered with street-found ephemera, draw attention to everyday activities and underscore the importance of common people and incidents in contrast to traditional bronze monuments. “These kinds of public structures that have a working surface and have a materiality that is more accessible and feel like they hold potential for generating a kind of dynamic monument that can also hold the complexities of social interaction and conflict…”(source)

Watch "Artists in Dialogue with the City" Rising Sun Artist Talk with Wilmer Wilson IV (June 15, 2023; also with Rising Sun artists Martha Jackson Jarvis and Dyani White Hawk) →

Join us for the final weekend of Rising Sun at PAFA with a guided tour on Dec 30 and Dec 31 at 1pm!


Featured Image: Shiva Ahmadi - Red Light, 2020, Acrylic on canvas, 56 x 72 in. Commissioned by PAFA for Rising Sun: Artists in an Uncertain America, courtesy Haines Gallery, San Francisco


About PAFA

Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is America's first school and museum of fine arts. A recipient of the National Medal of Arts, PAFA offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the fine arts, innovative exhibitions of historic and contemporary American art, and a world-class collection of American art. PAFA’s esteemed alumni include Mary Cassatt, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Thomas Eakins, William Glackens, Barkley L. Hendricks, Violet Oakley, Louis Kahn, David Lynch, and Henry Ossawa Tanner.