If Justice Was a Woman, 2020
The If Justice Was a Woman project reimagines representations of justice in response to murals displayed in the New Haven County Court House, which are currently based on white patriarchal vision. If Justice has often been depicted in female form, how would women working to change the justice system in New Haven choose to represent it? What aspects and ideas would they choose to foreground? Crean created the project with a multi-racial, multi-generational group of non-male identifying activists, educators and legal advocates: Diane Brown, Beatrice Codianni, Sharon Dickey, Kerry Ellington, Debbie Elmore, Barbara Fair, Hanan Hameen, Hope Metcalf, and Vanessa Suárez. It takes the form of large format photographic murals, the first of which was commissioned by Artspace New Haven as part of their Revolution on Trial exhibition in October 2020.
The exhibition teases out different aspects of the legacy of the 1970 trials of the Black Panther Party in New Haven, both in terms of the Panthers’ contribution to American culture and their resistance to the intractable systemic racism in the US and its criminal justice system. Such biases are represented in the murals that flank the hallways of the New Haven Courthouse where the BPP May Day Trials took place. Painted by Thomas Gilbert White in 1913, the murals depict white, biblical figures as the benevolent arbitrators and receivers of justice; which ironically represents a system of justice forcefully and often violently created to benefit white Americans.
Through discussion and embodied exercises, the group of women thought through the motifs, colors, and gestures they would most like to represent. Musing on whether true justice currently exists in the US, the women chose to create 4 images based on themes of Power, Resistance, Struggle and Hope/Healing. The first image, presented in the exhibition, was photographed on the courthouse steps. The women were interlinked with lengths of purple and burgundy fabric, several of which also pulled against the columns of the building. The inter-linked women represent justice as it must be, intersectional, inclusive, and horizontal, rather than white, exclusive, and hierarchical. The large format photograph was installed with poetic, transcripted excerpts from phone interviews with the women, created remotely during Covid lockdown.