Conduct Becoming: A Survey of Distinction

December 13 through February 17, 2019

Robert D. and C. Corcoran Tuttle Gallery

Conduct Becoming: A Survey of Distinction is an ongoing photo essay project that captures and preserves the stories of United States military veterans. These powerful photographs depict former service men and women in their personal settings, contrasting the uniformity of the military with the myriad details of self-expression.

Conduct Becoming is the creation of professional photographer CJ Breil. His images take the viewer into the homes and personal surroundings of U.S. military veterans, offering a look at the personal and private, the complex individual in contrast to the uniformity of the soldier. When effective military service and performance requires self to be set aside in favor of discipline and conformity, what is lost and what is gained? And what happens to the individual when they return to the civilian world? Breil doesn’t provide the answers, instead allowing the subject’s life to reveal itself through the unveiling of visual cues brought about by observation and empathy.

In Breil’s photographs, veterans sit or stand within their own spaces, surrounded by the everyday objects of their lives. Typically, either in their hands or nearby, a photograph of the subject in service uniform rests. Separated by time and circumstance, the service image reveals a person that no longer exists, yet whose memories and experiences continue to impact the life of the contemporary sitter. As the project grew, it also began to encompass issues of sexual and gender identity, revealing the experiences of gay and transgender troops before, during, and after the era of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Breil’s striking and compelling images of Conduct Becoming both serve and celebrate the men and women of the United States Armed Forces, and ask the viewer to not only remember their sacrifices, but invite them to witness and understand their personal narratives.

 C.J. Breil has been a fine art, editorial, and news photographer for over 19 years, a career that has taken him around the world. Breil graduated from the College of Creative Studies in Detroit with a B.F.A. in 1995, and lived in Korea, Turkey, and Greece before settling in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His award winning photography has appeared in books, magazines, newspapers, and in galleries and museums both locally and internationally.

Gallery Talk with Artist C.J. Breil
Thursday, January 10, 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm
Meet C.J. Breil, the artist behind Conduct Becoming, for a gallery talk around his photography exhibition. FREE and open to the public.

Sons: Seeing the Modern African American Male

December 13 through March 10, 2019

Sons: Seeing the Modern African American Male features images of Black men from the Muskegon community as photographed by artist Jerry Taliaferro.

In the artist’s words:
“[The exhibition] is both timely and relevant. Recent events point to the urgent need for conversations about the contemporary Black American male. Any effort, however humble, to foster an understanding of this largely misunderstood and often marginalized segment of the American population is of utmost importance.”

The 94 portraits in the exhibition explore how the Black American male perceives himself and how he is perceived by others. The men pictured in the exhibition were nominated from the Greater Muskegon area by a committee of their peers. The goal was to portray a wide range of ages, backgrounds, occupations, and interests to best represent the Black men of our community and to mirror the day-to-day experiences of their fellow Americans.

The men pictured are artists, musicians, barbers, doctors, lawyers, health care workers, engineers, entrepreneurs, businessmen, teachers, athletes, retired servicemen, clergy, poets, factory workers, laborers, security guards, school administrators, and coaches. They are also husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, co-workers, teammates, friends, and neighbors.

Sons: Seeing the Modern African American Male is an invitation to share the experiences of the Black men in our city, to see them as individuals, hear their stories, and better understand how their lives have been impacted by a legacy of racial and social injustices. In bringing this exhibition to Muskegon, it is the hope of the Sons Committee and the staff and Board of Trustees of the Muskegon Museum of Art that we can foster an open and welcoming dialogue that leads to greater understanding, empathy, and community.



The exhibition project includes special programming, including the premier of the documentary Black Man, created by Jon Covington, in partnership with the Muskegon Museum of Art. December 17 Film Premiere  at Frauenthal Center




About the Artist Jerry Taliaferro

Jerry Taliaferro was born in the small southern town of Brownsville, Tennessee. After graduating high school in May 1972, he joined the Army. He entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1973 and graduated as a member of the Class of 1977. Taliaferro’s interest in photography began when he was posted to Fort Bragg, North Carolina for Special Forces training in 1981. While serving in Germany, his interest in photography continued, and in 1985 he was published for the first time when a Munich magazine purchased the rights to one of his images. After returning to the United States in the summer of 1985, Jerry began doing assignments for advertising and design firms. In July 1988, he left the military and began his pursuit of a career in commercial photography. Over the ensuing years, his interest turned more to fine art photography. This change in direction has resulted in several projects and published pieces. Women of a New Tribe, a photographic study of the spiritual and physical beauty of black women, is one of his latest projects. Jerry Taliaferro currently resides in Charlotte, NC.

Sons Committee

Special thanks to the members of our Sons Committee, without which this exhibition would not have been possible: Andrew Sims, Arthur Garner, Bernard Loudermill, Chris Dean, Dr. Dale Nesbary, Ed Garner, George Walker, J. Arthur Sanders, James Waters, Jon Covington, Justin Jennings, Kelly Richards, Marvin Nash, Rodney Walker, TJ Chappel, William Muhammad, and Jonathan Wilson.


SONS: Seeing the Modern African American Male is underwritten by Fifth Third Bank, and co-sponsored by Arconic – Whitehall Operations and Warner Norcross + Judd LLP. Program support is provided by the Michigan Humanities Council and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Media Partner is WGVU Public Media.