In Dear 1968,… artist Sadie Barnette mines personal and political histories using family photographs, recent drawings, and selections from the file that the FBI amassed after her father joined the Black Panther Party in 1968. The exhibition takes its title from Barnette’s large-scale drawing, which reads “Dear 1968,” “Love, 1984”. Laboriously rendering its seemingly mechanical lettering by hand, Barnette approaches the year 1968 with a mixture of sentimental devotion and critical distance. Born in 1984, she sprinkles the embellishments of her birth era—glittery vinyl, rhinestone stickers—throughout the exhibition in an attempt to reclaim her family’s history.
Barnette and her family recently obtained her father’s 500-page FBI file through the Freedom of Information Act and she responded to its intimate details by further redacting its contents with her signature stickers and paint splashes. Here, in its third iteration, Barnette has mounted the pages to pink panels, giving them a dystopic glow. On another wall, she has transformed the file’s official stamps into a domestic-style wallpaper. On top of the wallpaper, a pair of photographs show her father in his Army uniform after being drafted to fight in Vietnam in 1966, and just two years later in his Black Panther uniform, fighting against racism on his own soil.
In Barnette’s immersive reimagining of the family album, she demonstrates that her family’s story is not theirs alone. Examining the fraught relationship between the personal and the political, the everyday and the otherworldly, the past and the present, Barnette reveals that the injustices of 1968 have not yet been relegated to the pages of history, but live on in new forms today.
Sadie Barnette: Dear 1968,… has been organized by the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at the University of California, Davis and Associate Curator Francesca Wilmott. Funding for the San Diego presentation is made possible by gifts to the annual operating fund. Institutional support of MCASD is provided by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture and the County of San Diego Community Enhancement Fund.