Reflections on Humanity Is Not a Spectator Sport

In Dialogue with Caron Tabb

Caron Tabb, Justice Vessels: Tzedakah Box For Tina (2021), Scorched tree branches, stainless steel, wool roving, thread, 16 x 16 x 22 inches. Photo credit Julia Featheringill.

In Humanity Is Not A Spectator Sport, on view at Beacon Gallery in Boston from November 5th 2021 through January 17th, 2022 (sponsored in conjunction with JArts), Caron Tabb draws upon her expertise in multiple media to create works meant to provoke and inspire. She leans into the tensions that have characterized the recent past to question her role and culpability as a White woman; where inaction itself is a statement. The exhibition offers an intimately visual response to Tabb’s personal reckoning along with a wealth of programming focused on sparking difficult conversations about race and privilege as well as presenting opportunities to take action. As the exhibition entered its final weeks, I asked Tabb to reflect on some of the conversations the exhibition inspired.

You’ve described this exhibition as a call to action. What kinds of actions were you hoping the show would inspire, and was it successful?

I believe that each of us, no matter our circumstances, has the capacity to be a change agent. Each one of us has something to give. My goal was to inspire viewers to seek ways in which their actions, small or big, can result in change. I am proud that through the sale of the catalog, we raised over $3,000 for nonprofit organizations, and my two Justice Vessels have inspired a multi-city outdoor art installation called the Be the Change initiative. But mostly, the conversations I had in the gallery were inspiring.

Caron Tabb, Justice Vessels: Tzedakah Box For Ruth (2021), Etched glass, scorched olive wood from Israel 22 x 11 x 6 inches. Photo credit Julia Featheringill.

Were there any particularly memorable or surprising conversations you could share?

I begin the gallery talks looking at my own birth certificate, which reflects being born white during apartheid South Africa. I juxtapose this privilege with the black child, born in the shanti town of Soweto not too far away and the hardship that a black mother has bringing a black child into the world at the time. In one of the more memorable moments a young woman in the group said quietly, “I was that child”. We all took a moment to soak that in and proceeded to talk about what being in the same space focused on art that recognized these issues meant to both of us. It was a very powerful moment.

The piece My Invisible Backpack has sparked many fruitful conversations about the invisible privileges I carry as a white woman. In one group, a woman who has biracial grandchildren said, “I never thought about how many privileges I carry around with me every day, ones which they never will.” In a different instance, a young man who volunteers in the indigenous community said, “ the backpack is only invisible to you (white people), we see it all the time.” Those are just a few of the conversations that stick out.

Caron Tabb, White! (2021), Metal print, broken glass, picture frame, 15.5 x 14 x 2 inches. Photo credit: Julia Featheringill.

What is next for this body of work?

I feel that this is just the beginning. Through the Making Space exhibit within my show, I have met some incredible BIPOC artists whom I have had the pleasure of working with. I hope we continue to foster collaborations and meaningful discussion around race equity. Some of the pieces will make their way into exhibitions around the country and I hope they foster further conversations and become inspiration for people to pick up the mantle of change.

Caron Tabb, Humanity in Red Flashing Lights (2021), Acrylic, LED lighting, 24 x 53 inches. Photo credit: Julia Featheringill

Humanity is not a spectator sport is available for in-person viewing in Boston at Beacon Gallery (524B Harrison Ave, Boston) through January 17, 2022. Personal online tours are also available. More information can be found on Beacon.

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 20 years. After years working in the nonprofit world, she turned her focus to art. Her passion for social justice issues deeply impact her artistic practice. Her conceptual mixed-media and installation 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. Caron holds a B.A in Education and a M.A. in Nonprofit Management, both from Hebrew University, Jerusalem.

Casey Curry is a writer, curator, and administrative consultant for artists. She is interested in administration as a creative act that deeply impacts how cultures are created and experienced. She earned her MA in the History of Art at the University of Oregon and also holds degrees in English and Nonprofit Management. Through Casey Can, her artist support agency, Casey provides direct support to artists to help them strategize and overcome administrative obstacles in their practice.