Digital Exhibition Catalog

WELCOME TO

EYE TO EYE
Photographs and Projects
MARY BETH MEEHAN
at the WaterFire Arts Center

EYE TO EYE Photographs and Projects Mary Beth Meehan, WaterFire Arts Center. July 2021. Photograph by Elaine Fredrick

WaterFire Providence presents EYE TO EYE Photographs and Projects Mary Beth Meehan at the WaterFire Arts Center (WFAC), an exhibition of work from all four of Mary Beth Meehan’s most recent in-depth projects – from Brockton, Massachusetts, to Providence, Rhode Island, to Newnan, Georgia, to her newest project and book on Silicon Valley, California. A collaborative installation, ANNYE RAYE PITTS: WITNESS an installation by Mary Beth Meehan and Jonathan Pitts-Wiley will be on display in the Visitor Center Gallery. This exhibition will be at the WFAC from Wednesday, June 30 – Sunday, August 22, 2021. The exhibit is free for all, donations encouraged. The WFAC Hours are: Wednesday – Sunday, 10:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m, Thursday 10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. 

WaterFire Providence is presenting a series of exhibition related programming in association with the current exhibition; funded in part by the Rhode Island Foundation.

For a full listing of exhibition related programming visit, waterfire.org/eyetoteye-programming.

ABOUT THE WORK

PROVIDENCE, RI, 2015-2018 | NEWNAN, GA 2016-2018 | BROCKTON, MA 2011 | SILICON VALLEY, CA 2017 | ANNYE RAYE PITTS: WITNESS | ARTIST BIOS | EXHIBIT RELATED PROGRAMMING | SIGN UP FOR MORE INFO

The photographic gaze has been much dissected by critics and theorists. Our media-saturated social world is awash daily in casual imagery that vanishes as quickly as it arises. 

Yet photography in the hands of an engaged artist can be transcendent – a silver mirror to the soul. Meehan’s photographs are the result of her radical purpose, a sincere and thoughtful engagement with the people around her, and the revelations that come from such a committed outlook. Her concern over the past two decades has been to examine her own preconceptions and to urge us into a new regard for one another – across differences of race, class, culture, or religion. Reflected in this process we are able to see ourselves more clearly. 

Meehan has spent her career working in American communities, engaging them as ecosystems of interdependent individuals, often challenging the dominant narratives that valorize and celebrate a few and erase and deny the many. Meehan’s stunning portraits allow each of us to behold one another – in the formal sense of the word ‘behold,’ to see a person anew, with a kind, active and attentive regard – with the intention of achieving understanding and sharing respect. In essence, coming Eye to Eye with one another. 

The WaterFire Arts Center is pleased to present work from all four of Meehan’s most recent in-depth projects – from Brockton, Massachusetts, to Providence, Rhode Island, to Newnan, Georgia, to her newest project and book on Silicon Valley, California. In these times of a much needed re-examination of our society’s failure to assure equity and justice for all, we hope these portraits can contribute to this important on-going conversation.  The WaterFire Arts Center will be producing a series of talks and community discussions that will extend and amplify the ethos and impact of Mary Beth Meehan’s photographs and projects.

In 2011 in her hometown of Brockton, Massachusetts, Meehan began installing her work as large-scale banners right in the public square to prompt dialogue and engagement among the people who share space together. These public art projects continued here in Providence with a large-scale collaboration with the Providence Department of Arts, Culture and Tourism, and in Newnan, Georgia, at the invitation of the University of West Georgia. Her most recent banner was just installed in Providence in collaboration with Jessica “The Lady J” Brown, For Freedoms, and the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society. We are pleased to include a sampling of her original banners here. 

“Seeing Silicon Valley: Life Inside a Fraying America,” in collaboration with Fred Turner, has just been published by the University of Chicago Press.

The exhibition is made possible in part by the support of BankNewport. It was organized by WaterFire Providence in collaboration with the artists.

A special thanks to Art at Watson, Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University, iolabs, and Sign Design.

The artwork in the exhibition is available for acquisition. Prints of any size can also be made available for purchase. For more information, please ask our docent.

Providence, RI

1
Trudy, 2015
Archival digital inkjet print on paper
48 x 39 in
Trudy’s Story

2
Annye, 2015
Archival digital inkjet print on paper

Annye, 2018
Photograph printed on weatherproof vinyl
Annye’s Story

3
Bidur, 2018
Archival digital inkjet print on paper
48 x 33.5 in
Bidur’s Story

4
Stephanie & Ashley, 2017
Color inkjet print on paper
33.5 x 48 in
Stephanie & Ashley’s Story

5
Molly, 2017
Archival digital inkjet print on paper
48 x 33.5 in
Molly’s Story

6
Wannton, 2015
Archival digital inkjet print on paper
48 x 33 in
Wannton’s Story

7
Albanery & José, 2015
Archival digital inkjet print on paper
48 x 36.5 in
Albanery & José’s Story

8
Darnell, 2015
Archival digital inkjet print on paper
48.5 x 32 in
Darnell’s Story

9
Rosaleen, 2015
Archival digital inkjet print on paper
38.5 x 48 in

10
Omowunmi, 2015
Archival digital inkjet print on paper
48 x 37 in
Omowunmi’s Story

11
Thaun, 2015
Color inkjet print on paper
48 x 32 in
Thuan’s Story

12
Fernando, 2015
Color inkjet print on paper
48.5 x 31 in

Fernando, 2015
Photograph printed on weatherproof vinyl
Read Fernando’s Story
Listen to Fernando’s Story:

13
Imam Allie-Owe, 2017
Photograph printed on weatherproof vinyl
252 x 175.5 in
Imam Allie-Owe’s Story

14
Styles, 2018
Photograph printed on weatherproof vinyl
294 x 196.5 in

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Newnan, GA

1
Trent, 2016
Archival digital inkjet print on paper
48.5 x 31 in.
Trent’s Story

2
Zahraw & Aatika, 2018
Archival digital inkjet print on paper
35 x 48 in.
Zahraw & Aatika’s Story

3
Ariel, 2017
Archival digital inkjet print on paper
48 x 32 in.
Ariel’s Story

4
MacDonald
Archival digital inkjet print on paper
48 x 34.5 in.
MacDonald’s Story

5
Brittany, 2017
Archival digital inkjet print on paper
48 x 32 in.
Brittany’s Story

6
Rev. Rufus. 2017
Archival digital inkjet print on paper
48 x 32.5 in.
Rev. Rufus’s Story

7
Tina, 2017
Archival digital inkjet print on paper paper
32.5 x 48 in.

8
L. C., 2016
Archival digital inkjet print on paper
48 x 31 in.
L. C.’s Story

11
Suzanne, 2018
Archival digital inkjet print on paper
48.5 x 32.5 in.
Suzanne’s Story

10
Helen, 2017
Archival digital inkjet print on paper
34.5 x 48 in.
Helen’s Story

11
Wiley, 2017
Archival digital inkjet print on paper
48.5 x 34.5 in.
Wiley’s Story

12
Jineet, 2017
Archival digital inkjet print on paper
48 x 33.5 in.
Jineet’s Story

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Brockton, MA

1
Ashleigh, 2011
Photograph printed on weatherproof vinyl
120 x 143 in.

2
Ludgy, 2011
Photograph printed on weatherproof vinyl
120 x 143 in.

3
Fourth of July, 2011
Photograph printed on weatherproof vinyl
120 x 143 in.

4
Mrs. Mathers, 2011
Photograph printed on weatherproof vinyl
120 x 143 in.

5
Mr. DaGraca, 2011
Photograph printed on weatherproof vinyl
120 x 143 in.

6
Suzanne & Eli, 2011
Photograph printed on weatherproof vinyl
95.5 x 120 in.

7
C. B., 2011
Photograph printed on weatherproof vinyl
120 x 142.5 in.

8
Election Night at Irish Bar, 2011
Photograph printed on weatherproof vinyl
95.5 x 120 in.

9
Turon, 2011
Photograph printed on weatherproof vinyl
122 x 143 in.

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Silicon Valley, CA

1
Abraham & Brenda, 2017
Archival digital inkjet print on paper
33 x 48 in.
Abraham & Brenda’s Story

2
Imelda, 2017
Archival digital inkjet print on paper
33.5 x 48 in.
Imelda’s Story

3
Erfan, 2017
Archival digital inkjet print on paper
34.5 x 48 in.
Erfan’s Story

4
Ted, 2017
Archival digital inkjet print on paper
33 x 48 in.
Ted’s Story

5
Justyna, 2017
Archival digital inkjet print on paper
48 x 32 in.
Justyna’s Story

6
Elisa & Family, 2017
Archival digital inkjet print on paper
32 x 48 in.
Elisa & Family’s Story

7
Diane, 2017
Archival digital inkjet print on paper
48 x 32.5 in.
Diane’s Story

8
Cristobal, 2017
Archival digital inkjet print on paper
32 x 48 in.
Cristobal’s Story

9
Warren, 2017
Archival digital inkjet print on paper
32.5 x 48 in.
Warren’s Story

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Annye Raye Pitts: WITNESS

A view of the ANNYE RAYE PITTS: WITNESS Installation. Photograph by Matthew TW Huang.A view of the ANNYE RAYE PITTS: WITNESS Instllation. Photograph by Matthew TW Huang.
A view of the ANNYE RAYE PITTS: WITNESS Installation. Photograph by Matthew TW Huang.A view of the ANNYE RAYE PITTS: WITNESS Instllation. Photograph by Matthew TW Huang.

Rich with public and personal history that offers a look into the past and serves as timely commentary on the present, ANNYE RAYE PITTS: WITNESS is an over seven decade chronicle of American life through the eyes of the late Annye Raye Pitts, a community activist, educator, and singer who, in 1959, left the oppression of her hometown of Montgomery, Alabama, to seek freedom and opportunity for herself and her children in Providence, Rhode Island.

Created by acclaimed photographer Mary Beth Meehan and Ms. Pitts’ grandson, photographer and storyteller Jonathan Pitts-Wiley, ANNYE RAYE PITTS: WITNESS explores a captivating swath of American history through the eyes, words, and personal effects of a daughter of the Great Migration. This exhibition centers around the thoughts, meditations, and critical observations of a woman who both embraced and challenged American realities and the notion of the American Dream.

“Beyond being a fashionable and active member of her community, my grandmother was an engaged historian, documentarian and citizen. It has been such an honor and a pleasure to work with Mary Beth in using these artifacts and personal effects to celebrate my grandmother’s incredible journey from Alabama to Rhode Island,” said Jonathan Pitts-Wiley.

About the Artists

MARY BETH MEEHAN is an independent photographer, writer, and educator, who has spent more than twenty years embedding herself in communities across the United States. Beginning in her native New England, and continuing in the Midwest, the American South and in Silicon Valley, her work, which combines image, text, and large-scale public installation, stems from her belief in a collaborative process that should function in and for the communities it reflects. Co-opting the scale of celebrity and advertising, Meehan’s portrait banners activate public spaces and spark conversations among and about the people who inhabit them.

With each project, formal and informal events are organized to engage communities in civic dialogue – about identity, access, visibility, inclusion, social equity, and other concerns. These events include walking tours, panel discussions, church and other community-group dialogues, and student-led interactions. Her most recent project, “Seeing Newnan,” was installed in that small Georgia town in April of 2019, and has already become a springboard for community-wide conversations and connections. That work will be in place until the Spring of 2020.

Mary Beth has held residencies at Stanford University, the University of Missouri School of Journalism and at the University of West Georgia. She has lectured and led workshops at the School of Visual Arts, New York, the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, in Boston, and the Missouri Photo Workshop. A native of Brockton, Massachusetts, Mary Beth received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature at Amherst College, and a Master of Arts degree in photojournalism at the University of Missouri, Columbia. She lives in Providence with her husband and two sons.

JONATHAN PITTS-WILEY is a father, husband, storyteller, and educator. A 2007 Yale graduate, he has been the Artistic Director of Mixed Magic Theatre since 2010.

In 2013, Jonathan joined the faculty at Moses Brown School as an Upper School History teacher, where he has worked as an advisor, department chair, and assistant coach for the boys’s varsity lacrosse team.

Outside of the theater and classroom, Jonathan is also an avid photographer who has been fortunate to capture images for Mixed Magic Theatre, The Rhode Island Black Storytellers, and the marketing and communication firm Rustle and Spark. His work has also been featured in an article for Locus magazine. In the spring of 2020, Jonathan co-founded The Vanta Guild, a collective of Black photographers based in and around Rhode Island that held its first exhibition, The Let-Out, at the WaterFire Arts Center Visitor’s Gallery in December of that same year.

Jonathan is married to Mixed Magic’s music director Kim Morrison Pitts-Wiley. The couple has two children, Corinne and Joshua.

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Eye to Eye Photographs and Projects by Mary Beth Meehan will run June 30 – August 22, 2021. The exhibit is free for all, donations encouraged. The WaterFire Arts Center hours are: Wednesday – Sunday, 10:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m, Thursday 10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. WaterFire Providence is presenting a series of exhibition related programming in association with the current exhibition; funded in part by the Rhode Island Foundation. For a full listing of programming visit, waterfire.org/eyetoteye-programming.