The James A. Michener Art Museum is presenting “Walé Oyéjidé: Flight of the Dreamer,” on view through April 23, 2023.
Pairing original writings published by previous Bucks County prison inmates with selections from renowned Nigerian/American artist Walé Oyéjidé’s existing body of work, “Flight of the Dreamer” offers a compelling social justice-centered vision in response to the Michener’s history as a former prison.
The massive stone walls and warden’s house that make up the core of the museum today began as the Bucks County prison in 1884. After a century of use, the prison was closed due to overcrowding and inhumane conditions. The buildings were renovated and repurposed for their current use as an art institution, opening to the public in 1988.
“Flight of the Dreamer” features lush garments and regal portraits of inspiring individuals to transform the gallery space into an empowering, imagined escape from the difficulties of imprisonment.
“Each of us is a prisoner of some kind. Most of us are in prisons of our own making. Each of us is a dreamer. Each of us pines for flight,” said Oyéjidé.
“The beauty of Walé’s work draws you into the gallery, where the poetry makes you think about the people who suffered in the exact spot where you stand, and the imagery reminds you that there are people in Philadelphia and across the world grappling with their own hardships. Essentially, it’s about resilience and empowerment,” said exhibition curator and Michener’s assistant curator Tara Kaufman.
Oyéjidé is a designer, writer, filmmaker, photographer, musician and lawyer, combating bias with creative storytelling. As the founder of Ikiré Jones, he employs fashion design as a vehicle to celebrate the perspectives of marginalized populations. His apparel design can be seen in the films Black Panther and Coming 2 America.