Vegas Things To Do


'Seeing/Seen' explores the presence of Black Women in America

Last chance to view exhibit: Closes Feb. 26
Posted at 7:49 PM, Feb 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-22 23:23:30-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Those looking for a meaningful experience in Las Vegas are running out of time to view “Seeing/Seen."

The art exhibit explores the presence of Black women in America and a visit will likely stick with you well after you leave, and well after the paintings, the photographs and historical objects on view are returned to their owners at the end of the week.

"I thought first about my identity as a Black woman," said professor and curator Erica Vital-Lazare. "I wanted to fill up whatever space that was allotted with imagery that reflected us, and all of our glory, all of our hard work, travails, resilience, and joy."

"So this exhibit 'Seeing/Seen' is purely born of that impetus."

Black Saints: Gynecology

For the exhibit, Vital-Lazare tapped award-winning artist Q’shuandra James to create a commissioned piece honoring three women she knew had to be included but who she had only ever read about in historical texts — the mothers of gynecology.

"They were three enslaved women,” explained Vital-Lazare. "Betsey, Anarcha, and Lucy were actually subjected to medical experimentation at the hands of Dr. J. Marion Sims.”

Records show he operated on them and dozens of other enslaved women, without their consent and without anesthesia. It's horrific. But their story is also one of extreme resilience.

“They learned how to heal their own wounds. They learned how to assist him in surgeries. So, in many ways, they became surgeons,” said Vital-Lazare.


And that’s the story James wanted to tell in her piece titled "Black Saints: Gynecology.”

"There was no record of what they look like. There were no portraits. He didn't describe them," said James. "I didn't want to make up a face. I didn't feel like that would properly honor them."

"I made the halo behind their heads very bright to distort their features but you can tell they are African American women.”


She also did something she’s never done before. After researching what a 17th-century medical uniform looked like, James sewed her first-ever piece of clothing.

"I wanted to uplift them by giving them a uniform," she said.

"These women sacrificed their bodies and their time to help in the progression of surgeries towards women's complications after giving birth."


Changing spaces

Right next to James' work is a contemporary photograph of a young woman.

"We see human anatomy in one of the books that this figure Ariel Hall was able to study human go to medical school, to use the human anatomy in her art in any expression that she so chooses," said Vital-Lazare.


"I mean, that's part of this story. And it's important that we pair Ariel in that confidence, in that certainty, with this piece that is the three mothers.”

The exhibition spans across mediums and time periods and celebrates everything from modern sports icons to the women who came before them.

On one wall in the exhibit is a portrait of the Las Vegas Aces star A'ja Wilson, adorned in pearls. Nearby, a portrait of Flo Jo, once the cover of Newsweek, hangs on a bright pink and orange wall painted for the exhibition.


"What I love about it, the bright coloration, the celebration of color," said Vital-Lazare. "She's also got her nails done. Pearls are on. Hair, you know, is just impeccable."

"The way that we change the space once we enter it, I think is very much a part of the black woman's story."


How to see 'Seeing/Seen'

You can catch "Seeing/Seen" inside the Majorie Barrick Museum, near the library at UNLV, through Saturday, Feb. 26.

There is no fee to enter — it's free to enjoy.

There is also a closing event from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 25.