Jenna Knapp at the opening of her exhibition at INOVA Gallery, October 9. 2015

Jenna Knapp at the opening of her exhibition at INOVA Gallery, October 9. 2015

Jenna Knapp’s art is both her life and her work. A graduate of the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD), Jenna is also an activist as a white ally working for racial justice in Wisconsin and the nation. INOVA Gallery in Milwaukee is exhibiting her current work as part of their Mary L. Nohl Fellowship for Individual Artists Exhibition.

Knapp uses text, movement and video to “probe the relationship between race and media representation,” as Jessica Lynne observes in her catalogue essay. Her exhibition at INOVA includes several videos, some of them performances for the camera; a large wall drawing; and a neon sign that reads White Media Is Killing Us.

A neon sign and looping video message, part of Knapp's exhibit, at the entrance to the gallery.

A neon sign and looping video message, part of Knapp’s exhibit, at the gallery’s entrance.

Jenna is concerned with the way mainstream and social media perpetuate stereotypes of African Americans. “When another Black body hits the pavement, the media dig up mug shots instead of yearbook photos. These messages leave the majority of Americans believing that dark skin signals thug, criminal, and danger. When Dylann Roof (a white man) kills nine members of the Black congregation, the news uses descriptors like “gunman” or “shooter,” minimizing the hate crime….The media tends to create an “echo chamber,” where we are exposed principally to people who agree with us.”

Knapp’s art challenges us to think more deeply about what we absorb from the media,  raising questions rather than providing answers.

A scene from one of her videos, a performance in which Knapp revisits Milwaukee sites of mass protests of the killing of unarmed black man Dontre Hamilton. This time she is there alone, holding a sign that is a green screen, i.e. a sign on which passersby project their own thoughts and feelings.

A scene from one of her videos, a performance in which Knapp revisits Milwaukee sites of mass protests of the killing of unarmed black man Dontre Hamilton. This time she is there alone, holding a sign that is a green screen, i.e. a sign on which passersby project their own thoughts and feelings.

As part of her activism, Jenna has served ABHM in several capacities as a volunteer. Most recently she chaired the Crowd Funding Committee that successfully raised funds to publish a new illustrated and annotated edition of A Time of Terror: A Survivor’s Story by ABHM Founder, Dr. James Cameron. She also shot and produced videos for the campaign.

Knapp’s exhibit can be experienced here:

INOVA Gallery 

2155 N. Prospect Ave, Milwaukee WI

October 9, 2015 through January 9, 2016 

INOVA showcases emerging forms of multidisciplinary contemporary art— dynamic work that often resides in between and outside of conventional genres. Each project and exhibition includes collaboration with UWM partners and community organizations, providing opportunities for exchange between exhibiting artists, university scholars and scientists, local artists, and the larger community of Milwaukee.

A wall drawing in Knapp's exhibition.

A wall drawing in Knapp’s exhibition.