Artist Statement: Persons of Privilege


Kristy Higby
Artist Statement: Persons of Privilege

Persons of Privilege is a wall installation containing 40 pieces of concept “jewelry” that compare social and political concerns of the 1950s with those from our current changing culture. It is intended to be a cautionary tale. That era supported white male privilege, which in turn, contributed to environmental pollution, sexism, heterosexism, racism, homophobia, ageism, and other abuses. The stage was set for a great effort to undo it.

During my lifetime, a lot was undone. There has been steady progress in the area of human rights, not leaps and bounds, but persistent and forward. That emphasis on inclusiveness and empathy was my foundation. Watching such hard-earned progress diminished inspired “Persons of Privilege.”

Tony Morrison writes of the brokenness of the world, past and present: ‘this is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write [we make], we do language. That is how civilizations heal. Life failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge – even wisdom. Like art.”

The imagery comes from repurposed copper photo-etching plates from the 1950s. The message is in the cropping, titles, and added found objects. The photos represent a primary source from my lifetime. In my need to understand, it makes sense to start at the beginning. Below the spiral, in the form of an arc references human rights causes impacted since 2016, ending with a Martin Luther King quote. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

The 40 copper pieces function as wearable art. In the center of the metaphorical spiral is the white male. The series serves as body adornment in the form of medals of courage for people outside of the center but within the spiral who experience varying degrees of marginalization. Some pieces also serve as medals of shame to bring attention to the abuse inflicted by persons of privilege in positions of power.




Higby – Bio


As a visual artist, there is no constant in Higby’s choice of medium. She changes her methods and materials to suit her work objective and her curiosity. Whether sculptural artists’ books, documentaries, concept jewelry, or installations, she is often driven to give voice to social and political concerns.


Her artists’ books series, “Uncertain Relations” were vessels for poetry regarding the politics of the personal, mother-daughter relationships, depression, a boy’s propensity for violence, the invasion of technology. “When a particular poem in a printed book makes you stop and not turn the page, it deserves to stand alone. The artist book allows for that and adds a physical and tactile dimension to the poem’s voice.” Several artists’ books were included in the 2007-2010 South Arts (Southern Arts Federation) Traveling Show, American Masterpiece Craft Exhibition, an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts.


Her documentaries explored universal cultural themes of war, racism, ageism, outsider art, and an aging stripper. “My docs are human interest stories about people being true to their convictions. Sometimes those convictions are inspiring, and sometimes they can be tragically misguided.” W.W. Norton chose her short doc, Flag Day, for inclusion in two Sociology textbooks DVD. It also received an Honorable Mention at the 2005 Silverdocs (now AFI Docs) Film Festival.


In Higby’s current series, “Persons of Privilege,” she is fabricating sets of concept ‘jewelry’ that compare social and political conditions from the 1950s with those from our current changing culture, as a cautionary tale. “In my lifetime I saw progress in the area of human rights that was persistent and forward. Emphasis on inclusiveness and empathy was my foundation.” In 2018, this work was juried into Interrupted, the 5th Annual Mint Gallery National Juried Exhibition in Atlanta, Ga., Celebrating American Craft – Southern Style Exhibition, the Sarratt Gallery at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn, The Bank of the Arts Juried Exhibition, Craven Arts Gallery, New Bern, NC, and the 2019 Artfields Art Festival in Lake City, SC.




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