Underpin and Overcoat

July 10, 2020 - February 28, 2021

Rochester Contemporary Art Center (RoCo), The National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House, and SewGreen Rochester present a new public art installation celebrating the major women’s rights anniversaries being celebrated this year. "Underpin and Overcoat", by artists Amelia Toelke and Andrea Miller explores the idea of jewelry as signage, which wearers adorn for both themselves and for others. Inspired by the objects Suffragists often made - such as pins, ribbons, sashes, and medals - "Underpin and Overcoat" gives greater presence to jewelry and wearable objects that are tools for protest, action, and identity-formation.

This public installation takes the form of oversized buttons that are proportionally scaled to ornament several Rochester buildings. Incorporating expressions, icons, sayings, and slogan, these buttons are affixed to several building facades between Rochester Contemporary Art Center (137 East Ave.) and Susan B. Anthony Museum and House (17 Madison St.), including 17 East Main St., Sew Green (438 West Main St.), and 36 King St. "Underpin and Overcoat" aims to unify the public, inspire action, bring joy, and create a space for viewers to insert their own messages and ideals. The work aims to help us discuss opposing views, ask questions, and find commonality in shared sentiments. During this critical political season, Underpin and Overcoat enlarges the intersection of jewelry, political history, and social justice on the streets – much as the Suffragists did themselves.

The artists also invited local artists and organizations to contribute designs for some of the buttons to provide a platform for additional voices. Contributors include Amanda Chestnut, Tania Day, Stephen Dorobiala/Thievin’ Stephen, Erica Jae, Abiose Spriggs, and the Seneca Art & Culture Center at Ganondagan.

In partnership with SewGreen Rochester, Christ Church, and Susan B Anthony Museum and House, RoCo will host an artist talk and Sash Memorial workshop on Saturday, July 25. Inspired by the iconic “Votes for Women” sashes worn by Suffragists from 1850 - 1920, the artists, Sew Green staff, and other collaborators invite all community members to create their own, contemporary versions of this historic piece of political ephemera. All are welcome, especially those with little sewing experience. Sashes made at this event will be collected and exhibited in the artists' larger exhibition, Worn.

About the Artists

Andrea G. Miller is an educator and visual artist whose practice is greatly influenced by the traditions of metalsmithing and sculpture, community outreach, and public education. Miller, born and raised in the Midwest, completed her MFA from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and earned a BS in art education as well as a BFA in metals from Ball State University. She maintains an active studio practice and exhibition record outside of the classroom. In 2017, she was awarded the Lilly Endowment’s Teacher Creativity Fellowship, which allowed her to restore and travel with her vintage camper, LeRoy. She and the camper traveled over 5,000 miles from Indiana, throughout the southwest and back. Travel and adventure have become an important part of her life and she strives to empower her students to approach making and their life with the same sensibilities.

Amelia Toelke is a visual artist whose work engages the language of jewelry to explore the complex negotiation between identity, culture, and adornment. Toelke’s work activates the space between object and image, reality and representation, revealing her long-time infatuation with flatness. Through a palette of recurring imagery and tropes her work seeks the point where humor and sentimentality meet. Toelke currently lives in Chatham, NY.

About the Collaborators

Amanda Chestnut’s work focuses on the representation of history – and in particular, how the history of race and gender impacts modern narratives. Her art has been exhibited in Rochester at Firehouse Gallery, Joe Brown Gallery, University of Rochester, and High Falls Art Gallery at the Center at High Falls. She was formerly a resident at the Center for Photography at Woodstock in Woodstock, NY, and at Genesee Center for the Arts & Education in Rochester, NY. She has held graduate assistantships at Visual Studies Workshop and the Criminal Justice Department, both at the College at Brockport in Rochester. Chestnut holds an MFA graduate of Visual Studies Workshop, Rochester, NY. As an artist interested in both upending and interpreting traditional definitions of the archive, she pairs archival images and text with contemporary imagery and her own perspective to convey the history, emotion, and lasting socio-economic impact of the past. Her previous works incorporate photographic poems that draw from archival imagery, text-based poems, and Chestnut’s hair. Most recently Chestnut curated “Verified” a group exhibition at Loud Cow in Spencerport, NY, and the Rochester Biennial at the Rochester Contemporary Art Center (RoCo). To learn more about Amanda Chestnut, her personal artistic and curatorial endeavors visit amandachestnut.com.

Tania Day-Magallon is a Mexican American artist who has collaborated in numerous art events and exhibits in Rochester. She started her art education at a young age and attended to different art institutions in Mexico City where she also began her licentiate studies in Fine Arts at a renowned university where Frida Kahlo taught for some years, contributing to an undeniable legacy in the style of many Mexican female artists. Day-Magallon has received and embraced that artistic influence during the years she lived in Mexico, and it is manifested in her artwork as she employs a rich symbolism emphasizing her own cultural identity and spiritual views. Tania Day-Magallon has also participated in art exhibits in Chicago, where she resided for several years; and she has participated in collaboratives, presentations, performances, and has given art workshops at different venues including at her private studio. In addition, Day-Magallon is also passionate about body art including henna design and tattoos; she owned a tattoo parlor in the city of Chicago which has influenced and enriched her artistic career in many aspects. Tania Day-Magallon is currently a member of WOC-Art collaborative, and other art groups and collectives where she remains active. She has also a BA from SUNY, where she continued her studies in visual arts and psychology. Learn more here: daymagallonart.com

Erica Jae was born and raised in the 19th ward of Rochester, NY. Out of love and protection, her mother allowed her only to play from in front of her house up to the stop sign that was located two houses down. Naturally, Erica grew curious about the world beyond her parameters and in college, she majored in social sciences with a concentration in mental health. Over the last 8 years, Erica has worked as an assistant manager, a clinical case manager, and a residential counselor in various group homes. Her work has been featured on NBC nightly news with Lester Holt and published in local magazines. From an early age Erica expressed herself through writing fictional short stories, poetry, and blasting hip hop from the stereo in her room. With her camera as an advocate, Erica tells the stories of the people within her community and beyond. Her work seeks beauty in hidden gems, balance with the duality of light and dark, and stillness in the poetic rhythm of the streets. Learn more here and IG: @artxericajae // @ello_yellow

Born and raised in Atlanta, Ga. Abiose Spriggs received an undergraduate degree at the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio for fine art. The artist's mother is an educator and father was in art administration. Abiose's entire upbringing was centered around art, thus growing their appreciation for it and leading to further study. Spriggs' art focuses primarily on the artist's personal experience and interest as a black person in America. Expressed through various mediums, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, and paint. In paintings, Abiose loves utilizing the medium to show the artist's hand and often works against any attempt to create the absences of the artist hand. Painterly brush strokes that are free and dance across the surface confined by the square. This, to the artist, is what it's like to be black in America. Being fed the illusion of freedom but never allowed to have it. Color has always been important to the artist, the connection of color to emotion is a large driving force behind the artwork. Spriggs is continually inspired by painters who utilize bold colors and big canvases and those that use multiple mediums. Jacob Lawrence, Josef Albers, Sam Gilliam, David Hammonds, Cezanne, Paul Gaugin, Egon Schile, Emma Amos, Wanda Koop, Radcliffe Bailey, Virginia Jaramillo, Betye Saar, Kerry James Marshall, and Elizabeth Catlett to name a few.

Thievin’ Stephen makes art in Rochester, where part of supporting local artists is avoiding businesses that don’t. Learn more here: thievinstephen.com or Instagram: @thievinstephen