Upcoming Exhibitions

This Ain't No Cakewalk

Thom Heyer's Class Dismissed
Thom Heyer, Class Dismissed, 2019

From March 29 to April 13, in a special presentation of collage, costume, dance, and music, the UAG will host the interdisciplinary project This Ain’t No Cakewalk, created by visual artist Thom Heyer and musicologist Dr. César Leal. The exhibition and its associated events will consider appropriation and the cakewalk tradition. Originating in the Antebellum South and first performed by enslaved persons, cakewalks became broadly fashionable. The dance was translated to late 19th century Paris, and later resonated in the Harlem drag balls of the 1980s. Wherever and whenever they were performed, cakewalks were charged with questions about race, identity and power, explored through performance and artifice.

Thom Heyer’s collages and costumes, layered with allusions and references to performances past and present, will fill the UAG. Juxtaposing sheet music and representations of performers, New York’s drag balls and turn of the century cakewalks, the artwork prompts us to consider the assertion of identity and community in dance and music, but also the appropriation and commodification of those performances, and of the bodies of the performers.

On March 29 at 5 p.m. in Convocation Hall, This Ain’t No Cakewalk will open with short talks and a performance. Tanner Potts (C’15, Research Associate, Project on Slavery, Race, and Reconciliation) will speak about cakewalk in Sewanee in the early 20th century. Dr. César Leal will follow the tradition to fin-de-siècle Paris, and describe the genesis of his collaborative project with artist Thom Heyer. Performing as Master of Ceremonies, Heyer will guide audience members into the UAG for a dance performance choreographed by Courtney World (Assistant Professor of Dance) and her students. 

On April 2, at 5 p.m. in Convocation, Courtney World, Dr. Courtney Thompson (Assistant Professor of American Studies), and Curtis Johnson (C’14, Assistant Director of Admission) will respond to This Ain’t No Cakewalk, considering the questions the project raises about appropriation and the representation of the body. Q & A to follow. 


University Art Gallery