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Charleston native uses artwork to tell stories of social and cultural injustice

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- Charleston native Gabrielle Milton has been making conceptualized artwork since high school. Each piece has a deeper meaning; telling stories of her family’s suffering and her experience growing up in the South.

“My great-grandmother walked in, in her neighborhood, on somebody being lynched in Macon, Georgia. She could not sleep for 3 months because she had nightmares,” says Milton.

Her piece “Early 1900s Nightmare” is a visual representation of her great-grandmother’s sleepless nights. That was just one of the dark stories that Milton’s grandmother told her growing up.

These stories became the driving force behind her Concentration Pieces.

“I wanted to see what emotion this would evoke from people, I wanted it to be a slap in the face. I wanted this to be as loud as possible,” she says.

Her pieces are in chronological order; even using materials that are true to the time period. From her grandmother walking 9 miles to get to a segregated school to her sister being ostracized as the only black girl in her dance class.

She outlines pivotal events that her family has experienced over 4 generations with juxtaposed objects. For example, a broken plate, ballet slipper, torn dress or lock of hair.

“I feel like a lot of black people, a lot of minorities, have gone through some really terrible times that people try and overlook or downplay,” says Milton. “I wanted this to be as loud as possible.”

Her most recent addition is the piece “Hands Up,” based on the police shootings in Baltimore, Ferguson and North Charleston. She believes that the fear she feels today is just like her great-grandmother many years ago.

“I think this is how I feel about modern-day lynchings. We’re constantly seeing another person being shot, killed, stepped on, on the news, everyday. That goes into our stress. Currently being in dental school right now, I haven’t been able to sleep as much,” she says.

“Hands Up”

As a student in dental school, Milton finds her art is a healing outlet during stressful times. Recently, she’s been holding virtual art shows to raise money for various charities that support the Black Lives Matter movement.

Her next piece in the works will highlight black inventors throughout history; in the hopes to inspire younger generations.

To see more of Gabrielle Milton Art, click here.

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