SU Pan African Studies Grad Student wants Portraits in Exhibit to Create Dialogue, Social Activism

Mar 8, 2019

To paint with human expression and place it on canvas as Spencer Stultz does is truly a unique ability that speaks to her intrinsic talents as an artist. 


She paints with emphasis on facial expression and body language to allow her portraits to speak to others.

“I had an audience full of women who came up to me during the reception telling me how much they felt heard and seen and how they felt such a connection to these images.  Also, the reality is if you go to any museum gallery, it’s very rare that you would see a woman of color in that space.” 

It’s precisely the reactions she hoped for and allowed for attendees to share their interpretations during the opening reception… something she says that most artists wouldn’t allow.  Stultz’ likeness appears in one portrait as a SU College student who is clearly wrestling as a young black woman in deep thought.

“In the image you see a figure (Stultz) who is visibly distraught and stressed with a computer in front of her which alludes to me whenever I see my computer I think of all of the work that I have to do.”

Reporter:  “Would you mind reading the front of the Daily Orange as it’s painted and then the back. 

Stultz: “So, on the left side of the Daily Orange it says Theta Tau claims extreme homophobia, antisemitism, racisim, sexism and aggression towards people with disabilities is satire.  And then the other side says Syracuse Police say Ackerman Assault not racially motivated.  Which I thought was crazy because they said it wasn’t racially motivated but, racial slurs were said throughout the assault.”

Stultz adds that she juxtaposed the two headlines.  News of the recent altercation on Ackerman Avenue last month and the Theta Tau videos last year is something she continues to struggle with.  

“You kind of want to live in a fairytale land where you know that people don’t hate just because you’re Black, Jewish or a woman.  So, this represents the reality that we do not live in that time and this represents the reality that, at any time, I could be harmed even on my university campus just because of... someone feels like it.”

We walk over to another painting.  As she explains, she wanted the painting to show – as she puts it - the weight that women are feeling.

”When you have a President who you know hate a lot of things that make-up you... how do you find joy?  How do you feel ok of free to walk somewhere because he encourages people, he encourages harassment, her encourages violence.  And so, for me, just painting this was a reminder to myself not to let go of my joy and to hold onto my freedom, no matter what happens.  Because what else can you do, you know?  You can’t control anyone else but, you can control how you experience your life.  So, it was kind of like a reclaiming of the good parts of my life in the midst of darkness.”

The exhibit “A Time for Joy and A Time for Sorrow,” runs through March 23rd at the Community Folk Art Center in Syracuse as part of Women’s History Month and as an extension of Black History Month.  Today is National Women’s Day.

Another Spencer Stultz portrait at the Community Folk Art Center.
Credit John Smith/WAER News