Published August 17, 2021

Andie Jairam, Unite Together for Change, 2021

Andie Jairam, UNITE (Portrait of Barack Obama), 2021; charcoal, ink and watercolor on paper, 30 x 22 inches (original); Courtesy of the artist

On View Thursday, June 3–Friday, December 31, 2021
at the The Burchfield Penney 
1300 Elmwood Avenue Buffalo, New York 14222 

Words from the Burchfield Penney

2018 MFA Alumni Andie Jairam’s work Unite Together for Change, 2021, an installation in the Burchfield Penney Art Center Atrium, consists of both original works on paper and the same images blown up to a massive scale of 96 x 70 inches, more than three times the original size. The four portraits depict important political leaders Barack Obama, John Lewis, Sheila Abdus-Salaam and Kamala Harris.

Obama was the first person of color to be elected president of the United States. John Lewis, who marched with Martin Luther King, was an important leader in the civil rights movement in the 1960’s and went on to serve in the House of Representatives, representing Georgia’s 5th congressional district for 17 terms. Sheila Abdus-Salaam was a lawyer and judge who served on the New York Supreme Court and the New York Court of Appeals rom 1993 until 2017. She was the first African American female judge to serve on the New York Court of Appeals. Kamala Harris is currently serving as the Vice President of the United States. She is the first female vice president and the highest-ranking female official in U.S. history, as well as the first African American and first Asian American to serve in that role.

Each of the four portraits also contains one of the words that make up the title of the piece. The positive message of Unite Together For Change is used to link together the names of 22 individuals whose lives were taken at the hands of police between 2013 and 2021. Sadly, this is only a partial list of the lives that were taken during that period, and the list continues to grow. When asked about his intentions for the work Jairam wrote:

I created this portrait series to bring light to police brutality that’s been happening to all races around the world, and how we need to be better informed about the laws, people, and training that goes on today and ways we can fix it and better protect each other and our families. 

This exhibition is part of the Artists Up Front Project, a series of exhibition opportunities that serves as a platform for the creative producers to make bold statements and speak directly to the community in a way that is not trapped within gallery walls. We are turning our building inside out, recognizing that museums exist because of artists.