Though local artist Caron Tabb is no stranger to Beacon Gallery and the art world of Boston and beyond, her new exhibition, Humanity Is Not A Spectator Sport, calls for a closer look into the person behind it all.
Caron Tabb was born in apartheid South Africa, raised on a farm in Israel from the age of eight, and has lived in the US for the last twenty years. Following several years of working in the nonprofit world, she turned her focus to art. These key biographical elements and her passion for social justice issues deeply impact her artistic practice. In addition to traditional painting and photography, she incorporates found objects and unconventional materials into her work. Her conceptual mixed-media and instillation pieces address issues of social inequality, racial justice and, feminism as seen through the lens of her deep Jewish identity. When questioning her role as a Jewish, white woman, and a human being today, her goal is to raise the level of discourse, increase empathy and engage people in difficult conversations about a just and equal society. Her art serves as a voice and a vehicle for conversations about what it means to be an American in this day and age.
Tabb notes that her past – having experienced living on three continents and within vastly different societies – has profoundly molded and impacted her world view; All of the artist’s background experiences have, in some way, helped to shape the work that ultimately became Humanity is Not a Spectator Sport.
In her newly released exhibition catalogue, Tabb details a multitude of experiences and connections which have, over time, molded her beliefs and purposes in revealing detail. Ranging from discussion on the black nanny her family employed during her childhood in apartheid South Africa to rocks she found in her own neighborhood graffitied with the words “JEWS OUT” just recently during 2020 elections, her recollections speak volumes.
However, rather than focusing on the division encountered in such challenging situations, Tabb seeks to promote the aspects of life that instead connect and bond us in both shared joys and struggles:
“Growing up on a farm in southern Israel afforded me the opportunity to work alongside multitudes of people from many walks of life: Palestinians from the Gaza area (the Palestinian enclave between Israel and Egypt), Jewish Yemenite immigrants, Arab Israelis from nearby villages as well as local Jewish Israelis from a nearby town. These experiences, hearing about both hardships and happiness, families, children, friends, nurtured within me a sense that we all shared much more than what seemingly divided us.”
The racial vitriol towards President Obama, the election of Donald Trump, the racial murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery and others, and the endemic issues surfaced by the Covid outbreak caused a profound reckoning for many, including Caron Tabb and her artwork. Tabb found herself spending significant time engaging in difficult conversations where she questioned her role, responsibilities, and culpability as a white woman. The people with whom she had these conversations inspired and pushed her to the point of profound awakening and introspection.
A difficult conversation, or as Harvard’s Robert Livingston calls it, The Conversation, can happen when one looks beyond norms and obvious answers to seriously explore and choose a new path. By challenging fundamental assumptions these difficult conversations are courageous because of the inherent discomfort they bring. They often force introspection as one must reconsider both oneself and others. If one is willing, these conversations can alter fundamental beliefs and understandings and lead to a new perspective, and sense of accountability, or commitment.
Humanity Is Not a Spectator Sport, Tabb’s second exhibition at Beacon Gallery, stems from such introspection and offers a personal portrait as well as a communal call to action. The conceptual mixed media work in this show draws heavily from Tabb’s deep Jewish identity while demonstrating we can encourage change in others through our own resilience and intentions.
The most enduring memory of racial hatred was an instance I witnessed first-hand directed towards a Muslim after 9/11. A frequent user of the carpool lane to commute to San Francisco, I relished in a unique system that developed at the Berkeley train station where you can pick up commuters and ride together, offering a convenience and saving everyone time. Shortly after that day in 2001, a young Muslim woman wearing a traditional Hijab got into the passenger seat next to me. The next man in line started to get in, but glanced up, saw her head scarf, and proclaimed, “I don’t get into cars with people like you.” Stunned, the two of us spent the rest of the ride in silence. I did not know what to say after experiencing such hate.Caron Tabb’s “Humanity Is Not A Spectator Sport” 2021 Exhibition Catalogue, pg. 11
In Humanity is Not a Spectator Sport, Tabb unflinchingly invites the viewer to both experience her own struggles with race, racism, and white privilege while also providing tools for others to take a similar look into their own lives.
While never seeking to preach, Tabb instead extends an invitation to engage. She allows the viewer glimpses of the innate goodness we all have inside of ourselves through portraits of courageous women and her own introspection. She endeavors to reveal our common bonds while breaking down the artificial barriers we create so easily.
Featuring all original never-before-seen works, Tabb aims to shed light on white privilege, systemic racism, and inequality, as well as our shared humanity. Even more important than the awareness she hopes to bring, Tabb seeks to challenge viewers and inspire difficult conversations. In addition, examples of successful community-building leadership from her Be The Change series demonstrate that while words and visuals can bring awareness to an issue, true progress requires action.
If we work to change behaviors and policies for the better in each of our individual domains we can make real, meaning- ful change. We can and will improve the world, as a whole, immeasurably. As Ibram X. Kendi says in his Be Antiracist podcast: “An anti-racist future depends on our actions. On yours. On mine.” On ours together. If this work can spark even one person to pick up the mantle of social activism, I will feel that I have accomplished my goal. Thank you for what you might still do.Caron Tabb’s “Humanity Is Not A Spectator Sport” 2021 Exhibition Catalogue, pg. 4
Caron Tabb’s Humanity Is Not A Spectator Sport is on view at Beacon Gallery from November 5th, 2021 through mid-January 2022. Please visit our website for a full listing of events, selected readings, initiatives, collaborations, and so much more.
To keep up with Caron Tabb’s work, find her on instagram @carontabb and on her website www.carontabb.com
For all other inquiries, please reach out to us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org