The dual exhibition What’s Left to Give? features a range of media, sculptures, paintings, video work, and installations from Gen Fraser, a community artist and educator, and Ky Vassor, a mixed media artist and curator. The exhibition speaks to the persistent tug that Black women and femmes experience from everyone and from everything around them. What’s Left To Give? offers the viewer a chance to interrogate the ways in which they interface with and make demands of Black women and femmes in their lives. 

A color photo of an artwork. It is a series of T-shirts that resemble tiles, the shirts displayed together to make an image of two young boys with brown skin. Behind them, a figure is standing with its face obscured. The image is made of red, blue, purple, yellow, and white.
Ky Vassor’s “The End of a Hold” / Courtesy Ky Vassor

Gen Fraser’s “Unraveling (Illusion Shattered)” is like an unfurled canvas, scroll-like, or a drop cloth marked with paints. In thick capital letters, the words “I NEED X WANT TO DO + BE EVERYTHING 4 EVERYONE” appear. The letter “X” has bifurcated the word “WANT,” changing the writer’s original message to “I NEED TO DO + BE EVERYTHING 4 EVERYONE.” The letters are hurried, and the shift from “WANT” to “NEED” is displayed next to the shattered fragments of a Black clay mask. The need to be available to everyone—and to provide and give to everyone—replaces the artist’s desire to do these things. 

Ky Vassor’s “The End of a Hold” is playful and creative: 25 t-shirts, each with a portion of Vassor’s art printed on vinyl before being adhered to its surface, all 25 together creating a larger artwork. When the viewer steps back and looks at the display as a whole, a larger image appears: Two Black boys, their skin brown and lined with gold paint, wearing navy tank tops, while behind them a large figure with an obscured face places a hand on each boy’s shoulder. At the very bottom of the work, two t-shirts with more detailed paintings within their borders, overlapping, forming a  larger image: A Brown woman with orange hair and an arabber’s cart, before a haze of pink. Each shirt is for sale, the opportunity to own and wear a work of art offered by Vassor and The Cahoots Brothers.

The last line of the exhibition text for What’s Left To Give? raises a question for anyone who comes to see the show to contemplate: “What’s left to give at the end of it all” for Black women and femmes?

Ask yourself: What are you doing to enrich the lives of the Black women and femmes you live and work with? Are you making their lives easier or worse? Are you demanding extra labor without additional compensation? 

The Cahoots Brothers, a Black-owned retail space, is currently showing What’s Left to Give? through Sept. 21. 

Teri Henderson is the Arts and Culture Editor of Baltimore Beat. She is the author of the 2021 book Black Collagists. Previously, she was a staff writer for BmoreArt, gallery coordinator for Connect +...