‘Presence’ exhibition showcases beauty of Black women

”Presence” presented in 480i. Photo by Devin Myers

On Feb. 28, The Plant on Gaines St. was home to a celebration, as students from throughout the community came in droves to support “Presence,” a photography exhibition presented by Miles Feacher, Ashley Mar and L’Jai Brown, which served to highlight the beauty and cultural importance of black women.

The event saw the small space packed to the brim with enthusiastic guests, who not only honored the art being showcased but also socialized, danced, laughed and everything in between, all while many in attendance seemed to put their most fashionable foot forward. 

Hannah Mwaniki went into the showcase not knowing what to expect and came out moved by how powerful the night turned out to be.

“It was a showcase of our community’s range, and the beauty in the different ways black femininity can be presented,” Mwaniki explained. “I felt validated in a space where everyone appreciated the importance of difference, and I walked out with a deepened sense of love for myself and my community.”

During the event, Briana Smith found herself having what she described as a “transcendental moment,” being surrounded by so many like-minded people.

“It was so new, fresh and youthful,” Smith said. “I saw myself in everybody.” 

Feacher, who hosted Friday’s gathering, frequently stopped to ask questions regarding several different matters concerning black women’s cultural influence and societal treatment, urging the crowd to ponder and share their answers with their peers.  

“You can come to look at this art and engage with it, but I really want you to also ask yourself questions about how you’re supporting black women in your life,” said Feacher.

Having grown up in Jacksonville, Fla., Feacher cited the city’s thriving art scene as an inspiration for bringing his artistic vision to Tallahassee.

“I think that there is so much potential for the art scene here, and it is important that black and brown people are at the forefront of that,” he added.

A feeling of black excellence was exuded by not only those in attendance but the work on the display itself. Each photograph and video clip shown radiated a sense of joy and pride that spread throughout the room.

Feacher described his creative process in his photography as capturing the essence of the people he photographs and aims to use that to make the viewer feel impacted.

“When you connect with someone’s humanity, you are able to fully empathize with them, and that is what makes transformative art that has the power of telling a story,” he explained.

A varied cast of models from within the community was featured in solo portraits as well as being captured together as a united group, and all were able to exhibit their own unique style and flavor. 

Noella Williams, one of the models featured in the exhibition, knew she had to be a part of Feacher’s vision from the moment he described it to her.

“I need more spaces like this in Tallahassee that is welcoming towards black creatives,” Williams said.

She explained that while she likes other local community-oriented spaces, they often lack diversity and exclude the presence of black voices. Her experience with “Presence,” both as a model and attendee of the event, was a refreshing departure from the usual homogeneity of Tallahassee’s artistic scene. 

“Presence” marked Feacher’s first venture into showcasing his art, but he doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon. He aims to continue providing a platform to queer black voices and hopes to inspire others to present their own “Presence” in the future.