Reality Check; “Our Weight” by Anna U Davis
“Our Weight” by Anna U Davis

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Reality Check

You’re in a large group of people, and someone says something distasteful. You decide to stay quiet, figuring someone else will speak up. This common, sociopsychological phenomenon, known as diffusion of responsibility, is the inspiration for Swedish-born Anna U Davis’s latest exhibit, Reality Check at Hillyer Gallery. Throughout the exhibit’s paintings, Davis evokes diffusion of responsibility in the context of social dilemmas, particularly gender inequality, racial discrimination, and climate change. Like her other work, Reality Check features Davis’ signature abstract gray-toned figures, which she calls “Frocasians.” With a name that combines “Afro” and “Caucasian,” these figures are intentionally colorless and meant to represent people in a way that transcends race. In her latest work, she renders these figures in a diverse array of materials—including paper, acrylic paint, and fabric—to create mixed-media pieces that convey the ways in which humans often fail to intervene when something is wrong. Reality Check is meant to inspire audiences to check themselves and reflect on how they may be standing in the way of equity and justice. “Everybody can be part of the diffusion of responsibility,” Davis says. “I wanted to evoke the thought process [so that] people are going to think about, ‘How can we recognize when that’s happening, and what can we do about it?’” To Davis, this process of looking inward is important for tangible societal change. “We have to start with ourselves to start to correct,” she said. “I want people to question themselves as an individual, what they can do, and how they can take accountability. If we all do that as a group, we can change. But it starts with one.” Reality Check is on display through Feb. 27 at IA&A at Hillyer, 9 Hillyer Ct. NW. Free–$8. Proof of vax and masks required.