Residents react to Montgomery’s new J. Marion Sims mural

Educators, medical professionals, historians, businessmen and artists waited in a line that exceeded a warning: “You may feel a little pressure.”

They advanced in small groups and disappeared behind a red-streaked white curtain on the patch of land in downtown Montgomery where, at 19e century, J. Marion Sims performed medical experiments on enslaved women. Artist Michelle Browder waited inside the small gallery to reveal it final piece, which focuses on the legacy of The Sims. Photography was not permitted.

Sometimes applause broke out behind the curtain. Most often it was silence.

After emerging, a few visitors said they were left speechless at what they saw. Most who found the words described it as brave, shocking, or inspiring.

“I can see the transformation,” said Dr. Susan Bradshaw, a medical specialist with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health in California. “I see the transformation of art, how you can invert your narrative. Finally, we have an example of how we can bring about positive change in this country. »

Washington, DC, artist Anne Bouie said she came away impressed on two levels: “(by) Ms. Browder’s commitment to bringing this to fruition, and second, to transmuting the pain, the horror and the agony in dignity, respect and honor of ancestry, of the things that women have gone through to get us here.

Space was limited for the Saturday night event at 33 South Perry St. and people had to register in advance. But the line of tens kept growing throughout the night as people talked about what they had seen.

After:Michelle Browder to Unveil ‘Extreme’ Art on The Sims Experiments on Enslaved Women Site

Browder, who created the Park of gynecology mothers at 17 Mildred St., said it plans to hold further limited public screenings inside the mobile gallery over the next month ahead of a wider public reveal and discussion of its expansion plans. A statue of Sims remains on the grounds of the State Capitol a few blocks away, recognizing him as “the father of modern gynecology.” Sims work has since been discredited by scholarsbut the statue is protected from tampering by the state landmarks law.

Michelle Browder discusses the new Mothers of Gynecology mural, partially covered in the background, Sept. 13 in Montgomery.  In the foreground is Browder's dog, Nick.

Musician and president of the Downtown Business Association, Jonathan Avant, said he was equally impressed by the piece as by the artist’s bravery.

“That kind of bravery is what made Montgomery who we are right now,” Avant said. “That’s why people come. That’s why we have a tourism industry. Now you see it nowadays.

Montgomery artist Kevin King, who recently painted a mural at the Equal Justice Initiative’s new Legacy Plaza, called Browder’s piece “provocative and controversial in a way that must be Montgomery.”

“The artist has definitely modernized this particular piece,” King said. “I think everyone who walks into this can see themselves in one way or another. And for us as artists, we have to make things relevant to the culture that we live in. … I know they succeeded. It’s something the whole world needs to see.

Browder plans to advertise future mural screenings on its site, anarchalucybetsey.org.

Brad Harper covers business and local government for the Montgomery Advertiser. Contact him at[email protected]

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