Maureen Cummins, “Newark 1967: A Narrative in Black and White”

Maureen Cummins
Bearsville, New York

Newark 1967: A Narrative in Black and White
Paper, Single-wall corrugated cardboard, thread
10 x 9″ x 1/4”

Artist Statement

Newark 1967: A Narrative in Black and White is based on the five days of civil unrest that occurred in Newark, NJ, where I lived when I was four years old. Haunted by the story that I grew up with, of bullets flying past our window, being trapped in our apartment for days, then part of the “white flight” that followed, I decided to embark on a project to explore the relationship between personal and national history.

The resulting book, Newark 1967: A Narrative in Black and White, examines the reality of “domestic” violence, both on the streets of Newark and in the abusive household that I grew up in. (In one telling image from the book, my mother is shown photographed by my father, against her will, and with the black eye that he gave her). Juxtaposing press photographs taken on the streets of downtown Newark with portraits of family members in the high-rise where we lived, the book troubles the relationships between racism and sexism, as well as the hidden parallels that exist across class.

What began, in the months before Covid-19, as a seemingly historical project, quickly became, in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder and Black Lives Matter protests across the country, an eerie parallel to the racist/sexist violence that exists and flourishes in contemporary America.