And Still We Rise

An Exhibition of Humor

November 1-Decemeber 11, 2021

About the Exhibition

We can take it for granted when someone makes us smile. A smile of recognized comfort; a smile at the in-joke or veiled pun; a smile that sees the transgressive wink at absurdity. Our spirits are raised without acknowledging how hard it can be to lift a heavy heart.  Humor is not just frivolity. It is necessary to survive hard times. We use gallows humor to help cope or whimsy to help set aside the hardships for a little while. Laughter and amusement can bring light into the world, a task as worthy of artistic reflection as work deemed “serious.”



The artists in And Still We Rise use humor in their artwork, each in their own way. Some use it to help talk about important issues by giving the viewer a gentle entry into thinking about the topic. Others use it to point out societal follies, and some just use it to provide a little levity. This exhibition hopes to bring humor into your day. 


Take a 3D look at And Still We Rise by interacting with the virtual tour below. If you're having trouble viewing this, please click here to open the tour in a new tab.

3D Tour of the Exhibit

Photos of the Exhibit


Artist Interviews

R.L. Tillman

Chloe Irla

The Artists 

B.Blair, Subterranean Swimmer, Stoneware Clay, Glass Eyes, Resin Cast Fish Fins, Apoxie Sc

Brad Blair


Susie Brandt


Chloe Irla


Jeremy Jirsa

Donna McCullough


David Showalter


Christine Wolfe Strong


R.L. Tillman

Artist Statements

Brad Blair

The unknown, uncertain and unexplained are the driving forces behind my creative process. Primarily made from clay, my sculptures also include other elements carefully added with great attention to detail. These non-clay parts adorn the works and either blend seamlessly with the ceramic base, or starkly contrast it, adding visual interest. My otherworldly artworks provoke wonder and examination, generating an intangible human experience through curiosity, caution, attraction and fear. While some are symbolic of situations encountered around our world, all of these obscure oddities help convey a message regarding this mysterious life we live, in a universe yet to be fully explored.

Susie Brandt

Always on the lookout for inspiration, I’m constantly mining dreams and thrift stores or rooting through collections of historic objects in house museums, google images, dumpsters. 

My work is mostly conceived through the lens of textiles. It collides selected materials, using and sometimes misusing tools, into forms that may rethink historic objects or discover something ineffable.

Though I mostly work solo, I sometimes collaborate with other artists. In fact, during much of the 90’s, I made large scale installation projects with my artist/sister, Betsy Brandt. During the pandemic I have worked via USPS and Zoom, with people scattered throughout the US to hand stitch quilts to raffle for causes.

Chloe Irla

I maintain an interdisciplinary art and design practice rooted in concepts of space and place. My Snowballtimore project began in the summer of 2016 when I visited and photographed over a dozen local snowball stands in the Baltimore region including Walther Gardens (the oldest snowball stand in the country!), One Sweet Moment, Elizabeth & Ziggy’s, Sensational Snowballs, and Summer Delights. The project continues to expand and includes photographs, posters, a book, and a series of paintings. 

Through photography, I documented the architecture of each snowball stand in the early morning before the stand opened for the day. I then returned to the stand to order what I considered the most unique snowball flavor on the menu and photographed the snowball. Each stand has its pros and cons: for example, Elizabeth & Ziggy’s has the best ice, but Sensational Snowballs has the best marshmallow. I highlight these traits in posters I’ve been designing since that first summer doing research. 

Snowballtimore is a celebration of these independently owned small businesses. My goal with this project is to establish Snowballtimore as an authority and archive for this summer Baltimore tradition and to publicly “certify” city snowball stands as being recognized by this project. I dream of establishing a Snowballtimore Museum in the future.

The news in Baltimore is often bleak, especially in the summer when crime rates rise. I hope to promote the positive, community-engaged practice of going to an independently owned, small business establishment and spending time bonding with community members while cooling off with sugary, shaved ice and gooey marshmallow in a Styrofoam cup.

Jeremy Jirsa

While bringing my Tourette's syndrome to the forefront of my practice I find my work exploring tones of isolation, self-medication, and depression, ultimately offering a perspective of Tourette's through a false façade of perceived reality. My Tourette's manifests itself through throat clearing and the making sounds along with arm/shoulder spasms and head jerking. Living with such an ailment has left me in chronic pain and at times unable to function due to extreme ticking. Leaving one to feel trapped and as if they are a prisoner within their own body. Through the work, my goal is to explore the psychological space and coping mechanisms that are integral to my personal experience of Tourette's itself, within the internal and external environment of one’s being while simultaneously exploring larger themes of self doubt, self depreciation, anxiety, social anxiety and the want to conceal an aspect of self.

My work has much emphasis on the “smiley face”. This image is repurposed from the “take away” bags available at any fast food restaurant. I view the take away bag as a tragic figure. It is always smiling and telling the world to “have a nice day” even though once its purpose is served it is to be discarded. I see the bag as a metaphor for the facades people wear in their everyday lives. The smile to hide true feeling and the mask to disguise what sits just beneath the surface. The jovially social butterfly until the party ends. The crying clown. The defense mechanism of poking fun at one's insecurities before others have the opportunity. Always covering and holding what is inside while reminding its audience to “Have a Nice Day”.

The pain TS sufferers experience, both emotional and physical, at most times is suppressed and hidden. We can’t necessarily control our tics but at times we can fight to suppress them in order to hide what is truly happening until we physically can no longer suppress our tics and have to release everything that has been boiling underneath the surface. Hiding our physical and psychological distress from the public and dealing with the suppressed fallout on our own, while we present a false composure to the world. The bags and smiley faces become a façade and a stand-in for the body, creating an externalization of one’s psychological space and mental process. The hiding and recognizing, the play between facing aspects of one’s self that may be too hard to deal with, while simultaneously keeping and maintaining outward composure

Donna McCullough

My series titled “The Drill Team” exhibits the dark side of humor. I am depicting the “Drill Baby Drill” attitude. “The Drill Team” - a whimsical take on our oil-driven culture and our passion to be members of a winning team. 

They are constructed of vintage gas and oil cans and resemble cheerleader outfits. The vintage oil cans represent the past and outdated thinking. Humor is a much more approachable way to express opinions. I much prefer a good chuckle and a smile as apposed to dark and depressing messages. 

It is my opinion that dwelling on the negative only feeds the flame of negativity. Through my art, I am bringing positive, subtle points of view that make one think and also smile. As we have all noticed, when we smile at someone, more than likely that person will smile back.

There is always more room for humor and expressing humor in craft is a beautiful way to bring joy and lightness to our daily life.

David Showalter

David Showalter was born in East Canton, Ohio in 1977. In 1996, he was awarded scholarships from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and the National Foundation for Advancements in the Arts, as well as a Distinguished Merit Scholarship from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago to study painting and drawing. David then moved to Baltimore, Maryland in 2002 to work for New Arts Foundry applying patinas on bronze sculptures. Over the years, he’s been involved in a wide variety of public and private projects, ranging from monument restoration to sculpting commissioned portrait reliefs. In addition to working in the bronze casting studio, David has exhibited work throughout the Mid-Atlantic. He is currently focusing on creating new sculptures and paintings to exhibit publicly.

Christine Wolfe Strong

The thin line that divides the Craft and Fine art worlds is the bridge where I find myself as a maker. Each piece is an experiment with colors and numbers, slowly taking shape and surprising me as much as I am controlling its growth.  The repetition of crochet stitches and time taken to create allows for moments to be lost, and the process to become a meditation with an end product. Works present themselves as relating to clothing, textiles, bedding, toys and evoke feelings of nostalgia and dreams.  The materials and process of crochet, sewing and fiber surfaces creating a level of comfort and accessibility to the complex imagery and patterns that materialize from my internal world.

Christine Wolfe Strong is lifelong Maryland Resident and currently lives in Towson, MD.  After earning her undergraduate degree in Art Education she has been a High school teacher for the last 17 years. In 2015 she earned an MFA from Towson University for Interrelated media when her passion for fibers truly took root. With many self taught and experimental techniques she has developed a meditative approach to crochet as the foundation of her studio work.

R. L. Tillman

This installation consists of empty cardboard containers imprinted with a series of weak propositions for self-improvement. These “suggestion boxes” evoke the the equally empty advice that typifies the banal social chatter we use to avoid discussion of larger issues.

R.L. Tillman is an artist, educator, and researcher based in Baltimore, Maryland. In 2010, R.L. joined the full-time faculty at Maryland Institute College of Art, where he teaches courses in the practice and history of printmaking.