Self Expressed

Familiar Faces Are the Art and Soul of the Lore Degenstein Gallery

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“My picture is displayed in my office,” says Karen Gilmer, assistant professor of theatre who also designs costumes for student productions. “So when you come in my door, there I am, my ‘inner Rockette’ with chapeau noir.”More difficult to accept was her image on public display, making a statement. “With my generation, our definition of beauty had to be massaged into our heads,” she explains. “The white woman was the image of beauty we looked up to. So we did all kinds of things—straightened our hair, lightened our skin—to emulate it. In my teens, we started to think differently— that’s when I wore a ’fro. The younger generation, they have more options; they see it differently. But for me, there was additional meaning [in these photographs]. To me, it said, ‘Yes, you have your beauty. Accept it.’”

“Women have a certain beauty and strength,” says Taliaferro, who, after photographing more than 200 women for “Tribe,” ought to know. “They make you see what is beautiful. It’s not just what hits the eye, it’s also what hits your heart, what inspires you. If you widen your definition of what beauty is, maybe you see more beauty around you.”

“This was an incredibly affirming experience, and an opportunity to create community while celebrating and embracing the strength and beauty of the black woman,” says Armenta Hinton, assistant director and coordinator of multicultural leadership for Susquehanna’s Center for Diversity and Social Justice, who not only helped organize the local subjects but posed herself, with daughter Jennifer.

Creating community by bathing it in admiring light seems to be the Lore Degenstein Gallery’s most artful work. Alicia Jackson knows that light. “I felt honored to be among women who are so gorgeously beautiful in many ways,” she says. “I felt like I was part of a tribe.”

Karen M. Jones is assistant director of media relations and a contributing writer to Susquehanna Currents. Photography by Jerry Taliaferro.

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