Currently my day job is in a inner city high school. I really love it because the kids are so complex. I enjoy learning all about the new things in which they are interested. It is interesting to see how they strive to be different from one another and how they are so much alike. For example, there is one student who was wearing her hair wild and curly, and clearly, it was out of her control. More recently, she has had it straightened so it appears manageable. Another has short permed hair and a young woman with natural twists. These girls are the exception to the rule, mostly there are the braided hair girls whose hair has been woven into multiple layers of densely braided or loose flowing synthetic and often colorful (blue, deep red, purple, gray) hair. The hairstyles the female students choose reflect the persona they wish to portray as we all do. There are braids, micro and macro, Senegalese twists and dreaded locks. This is a part of the complicated evolving concept of beauty in the African American culture. For humans hair is about identity. In the black community it is the essence of beauty, it signifies lineage, health and denotes wealth.
Young girls love these “weaves” natural or synthetic; it looks like real hair even as it has been sewn into the natural hair. It is an achievement and a visual display to have what my mom called “blow hair”. The idea that with a simple hairstyle change one can give a person a completely new persona, which in itself is intriguing in a desire to record the complexity of this hair phenomenon I began by forging a connection between my interests in fiber and printmaking and considered visually combining the two. I wanted to come up with an ideal fine art concept that described this imagery of black hair.
I needed a method to develop work in the format of printmaking. Therefore, I searched out fellow printer who gave me the first inroad by recommending lithography. In order to learn more about the process I needed additional help. I sought out another printer who shared a video about the process, written documentation and showed me his process. I was clearly on my way. Now by using a lithographic method I am able to develop images of hair with the final plan to print onto the paper for the dresses.
With a concept firmly in hand and a visual and mental understanding of the methodology, maneuvering the process was now merely physical. I quickly purchased my materials. The process required using a plastic plate called a Pronto Plate, the salesperson explained that the process was a difficult one in the onset but immensely rewarding in the outcome, this would prove to help me not give up. True, the initial works were a mess; however, I could see the evidence of a positive outcome. In addition, the final picture was so embedded in my psyche there was no turning back.
Nineteenth century photography has always been intriguing to me and in my work; I have often tried to capture elements of the photographic in the pieces. This work is no different, in the lithographic process there is a contrast embedded in the shadow and highlight of the prints, which I am attempting to enhance because it reflects the timelessness of the historical importance of hair. The initial works were a one-strand abstraction. Finding a lock of hair lying in the street is disturbing but making it into a work of art changes the encounter. My goal was to make them fluid and gestural. I played with the curvilinear shapes leading in and out of the picture plane the next set of images delved into the density of hair.
With my own hair, I was embarking on a natural hair regiment using ancient oils and mixtures. I am wearing my hair in a single protective bun, a plait curled under on the top of my head. This lead me to purchase a single synthetic plait. I recall my daughter at six, when I called her a princess she corrected me with the fact she wasn't a princess because in her words,” Have you ever seen a princess with a single plait in the back of her hair?” This work reminds me of raising girls and dealing with thick dense hair on weekday mornings, or, washes days of curly, nappy tangled hair and the groans, moans, joy and tears accompanying them. Thank God for grown children and an empty nest.
The next works dealt with the cascading hair and the density of layered braids. It was difficult to ink these works and I am still working to make these clean prints. I plan to pay with color and a variety of textures in future pieces. Right now, the pieces are strong and the concept clear. Future works will inevitably encompass the variety of character I intend to display.
In the next post, I will share the research I am doing into the color indigo as a backdrop to the hair works.
My little dark baby,
My little earth-thing,
My little love-one,
What shall I sing
For your lullaby?
A necklace of stars
Winding the night.
My little black baby,
My dark body's baby,
What shall I sing
For your lullaby?
Great diamond moon,
Kissing the night.
Oh, little dark baby,
Night black baby,
For your sleep-song lullaby!
This poem was written before the Civil Rights Movement. It seems that we (African Americans) by now should be able to offer our children the moon and the stars, and all children should have the ability to go very far in life. Daily in my experience this is not the case, by not teaching our children the basic values we limit them. In an ideal society people talk calmly to one another, they share, they wait patiently and work through situations diplomatically. Respect in the young black community is still today gained by fighting. Many children never sit down to eat unless it is at the mall, kids are not taught to wait for gratification and pleasure in any form is stolen no matter the outcome. The black community who at one time prided themselves in being respected church goers have even abandoned this tradition. If they do attend, little is required of the younger church members, they need not stand during worship, dress respectfully, or learn the academic qualities of bliblical principal. Truthfully, many of these negative attributes our culture finds cute, funny, popular and therefore profitable. We can blame it on lack and make this an economic problem; however, truthfully it is slack. The difference between the two is lack, is not having resource, which has historically been a condition of our culture. On the other hand slack is the depletion of physical involvement.
In this body of work my goal is to visually discuss these issues. So I came up with the dresses. The dresses are derived from the Easter dress, in the past it was one of the points in the year when kids got a new dress and a pair of shoes. I made them paper to discuss the fragility of childhood. I then decided to dye them natural indigo blue having attended an indigo workshop in Ossabawa Island.
Research into the indigo color has led to the various cultural interpretations of blue. Beyond what I knew of the sadness, as depicted in music, especially its African roots as in a book titled, Indigo in Search of the Color that Seduced the World, by Catherine E. McKinley. Also research into the history of hair in African tribal communities and the stripping of that in slavery. I've looked into songs as sung by Nina Simone like Mood Indigo and Little Girl Blue with their sad and bitter tones.
It is interesting that the children I encounter seem to have embraced their cultural differences by wearing braids. However, the length and multitude of the purchased hair bears little reality to their truth. In the work blue represents the history of slavery and Afrocentricity, feeling less than, especially in outward appearance. I am intrigued by the artistry, the intricate labor invested in a weave and the connection to the tradition of passing hand sewing skills from one generation to the next. I give honor to Anne Hamilton who so carefully depicts similar connections in her work.
My goal was to print plaits on the dresses and am learning to use a method of lithography that will enable me to do this. I was also looking to create an environment for the dresses that would define the context of the work.
In an attempt to produce a dress that looked more like brown skin for the fourth dress I use an old fiber favorite of mine, a brown Unryu that I enjoyed working with. The paper had more give because of its wrinkly nature. I have since returned to the white in an attempt to retain my ideology and plan to save the brown for a future project. My next decisions will be to decide upon the arrangement of the dresses using the hair prints as a separate body of work.
November's post will share the work I am doing in printing the hair prints.
Recently I checked a book out from the public library called 100 Paper Objects, the book contained anything from handmade books to large-scale installations. Some of the items in the book were kitschy, others looked clearly like a class project though they were all made extremely well a few things made it into the reference file. Most items were organic in nature, which usually I tend to gravitate toward and a paper dress and bonnet covered in a dirt brown color. These items called up a cacophony of remembrances, such as the paper dress my mom had made for a Spring Festival my sister Lisa was in for school. A conversation about the paper dress a friend wore when she was a child and a trip to buy dresses from the downtown, John Wanamaker department store when I was small.
It‘s thought of as cheating to take an idea from someone else and redo it and I must give a respectful nod to the artist who initiated this project. Still I throw caution to the wind in this case because I was touched so deeply and I hope that the inspiration will inspire others. I later felt justified when I viewed the show at the Pearlman of the printed wearable and saw a dress made for a child with war symbolism printed on it. I begin the Child’s Dress project. First, what do I want this dress to look like? Second, what kind of paper should I use? Third, why am I making a child’s dress?
The child’s dress references Black people’s hopes and dreams. I collect children’s toys, tea sets, cradles, doll chairs, dolls and other small things. These items represent the hopes and dreams of childhood. For some they are the luxuries parents who are busy buying clothes, shoes, medical appointments and food wish they could afford. I decided to create a formal cap sleeved dress, including a bow, with plentiful gathers. I recalled the dresses purchased for my girls and passed to other children needing a graduation dress or fancy Christmas outfit. Much to my chagrin, my kids grew to dislike the style in their preteen years; I lamented the loss of their youth. Children look so well cared for in their Sunday Easter clothes.
Since I decided on the dress with lots of gathers, I knew it would be a challenge to create a paper version made from a pattern. Luckily, I was already researching types of paper for woodcut printing and was reading a book titled the Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop by April Vollmer. I decided that with my limited budget the best choice to be a Japanese paper, one that did not look like it came from Japan since the piece would directly reference the hopes of African descended people. I went toward Gami Unryu, which comes on a roll, thus plentiful, and made with long mulberry fibers so it is strong. Once I got into the store, the Kozo was cheaper and wider so I went with that. Other considerations were a desired luminosity, absorbency and of course archival; it will go through the press then be dyed. This paper had all the needed attributes.
Parents dream for their children they wish for their children to go beyond their own accomplishments. Our dreams are manifested in the purchases made for the smallest members of our families like, sneakers or phones. In trying to come up with a more universal theme among African descended people I came upon the idea that we all wish for our children to have long thick hair. This ideal is convergent to the European concept of beauty. I recall once calling my young daughter a pretty princess, she responded, “I’m not a princess. Have you ever seen a princess with a braid in the back of their hair?” It is not surprising the current styles in hair are weaves or long hair braided into the natural hair, manifestations of an unrealized dream of beauty. My plan is to print hair onto the dress. We will see…
The artist foremost is a visual communicator. In this fledgling market of art commerce the artist must consider the boundary of self and the purpose of making quality readable imagery. If we learned anything from the Art Nouveau Period it was that art needs to interact beyond the level of kitsch, also that quality is a necessary part of any artistic process..
My latest mission has been to create a community print center in Savannah, Georgia. In spending time developing Cobblestone Print Center and Studio I began to evaluate the purpose of the center and how will it serve artists in the community. Will it be a place for artists to exhibit their work? Will it be a place to exchange ideas? Will it be a shop where tourists come to see and buy art? I initially thought making prints more available to the public would be the ultimate purpose of the center. I now realize that it is far more important to be a place where artists printmakers come to exchange ideas on how to become more skilled in the process of printing and ultimately image making.
As I talked with artists and shared ideas about the desired outcome of Cobblestone, art as commodity versus art as communicator took over the discussion. My desire to serve the artist in his quest to communicate visually makes it important that Cobblestone be a safe place to produce images. I make a clear effort to reference the center as a studio rather than a shop. Hours will be centered around the artists production times, so me may be open later at night.
This week Cobblestone got the press to function, and I was able to pull my first print. I was over joyed at the difference in quality between a brayer burnished print and the press pulled image. Needless to say I was over joyed, I had forgotten the feeling of making good work and producing art. I immediately decided that this is about making not what I already know about the media or process but definitively about what I can still learn in order to share and grow. Truly that is why I studied art to grow and learn, to get better and ultimately to share.
When I was starting the path to becoming an artist and I had my large portfolio in the streets of Philly many people explained that it just wasn't a lucrative career. I was told to try something that would put food on the table then I met artists who were in the throes of making serious work. A ceramic artist named Syd Carpenter, young African American and a rarity in her field took my hand, I was about 16 at the time, she said, “You have to remember, it is really about the work.”
Various Trees by Various Artists
When I was growing up there was a substantial tree in my back yard, its protective covering and stable mass was a place to play, and an emblem of reliability. I spent many a day climbing that tree. After school, I often took a ride on its swing before going inside to drop my book bag. My sisters love to tell the story of how I attempted to float from one of the tree limbs with an umbrella in my hand like the Mary Popping character. I was awed when I moved into my current neighborhood by the amount of trees, and how they the density of the foliage covered the roads enough not to have to carry an umbrella in a light rain.
Recently residents of Savannah had a troubled experience with trees. With the arrival of Matthew, we evacuated only to return to find that enormous trees had fallen on homes in yards, in streets and on vehicles. Established roots embedded in the ground for decades wrenched from their beds of nurturing clay. As I walked my dog around the neighborhood, I stood amazed to see uprooted trunks amassing more than 50 inches in diameter piled high up and down the sidewalks, and still the clean up goes on. Reach: Trees an exhibition of Various Trees by Various Artists, is on display at a time when we may have trepidations about the safety of being in close proximity to the trees.
Trees are a source of memories; on one of my mother’s visits to Savannah, I took her to see our new library on Bull Street. She could not believe the age of the trees here. Just looking through the windows of the library at the massively knarred oaks, leaves one with a sizable impression of their age. My mother, commented on the stories the trees could tell, impressing me with imagery of just the stories those trees could tell, stories of forest and farm, stories of love and family, of welcomes and farewells. Stories laced with historical details of ceremonies and celebrations, of slavery, of lynching and of freedom all secreted inside the rings of the tree.
lose proximity to the trees.
This month’s tree show is a compilation of works by artists: Laura Adams, Stacie Jean Albano, Lyn Bonham, Lennie Ciliento, Nea Hanna, Deborah Llewellyn, Tobia Makover, Scarlett Manning, Rubi McGrory, Laura Neece, Preston Orr, Jennylyn Pawelski, Juliana Peloso, Peter E. Roberts, Daniel E. Smith, Shelly Smith, Bryan Stovall Lisa D. Watson, and Christina Edwards.
The show is homage to the trees and expresses many aspects of the trees. Notable in the show is a work titled, Autumn Light, by Laura Adams the piece shows the high contrast of the trunks of the trees to its golden foliage. In her work she entombs layers within wax in this Adams is able to accomplish depth of surface. By referencing depth of field, we enter the frame high above the landscape as if standing in the midst of a tree’s dense foliage. Repetition in the work brings to mind a musical rustling and because of the tactile substance of the construction of the work, is reminiscent of collecting leaves and of the aroma connected with the autumn season. Since Adams frames the work from a higher vantage point, the ground is out of view, there is the sense of floating, and time becomes irrelevant.
The work of Preston Orr, Grove, displays parts of the grove as a gridded compilation of perspectives. This sense of spatial depth has direct relevance in Orr’s work. In the image, the tactile quality of the surface of the tree is interspersed between the fiery prongs of the leaves. Much like the early work of Mondrian, the limbs of the tree become cursory notes in the poetic quality of the tree’s branches. The dark and assertiveness of the mark pushes these branches forward into the foreground of the flattened composition. This references jettisoned limbs and pushes the trunk into the distance, further; we interpret the grove from a bird’s eye view. The inclusion of Orr adds diversity to the show, it is important to see the grove in context of the exhibition. For Orr takes the concept of trees on as a unit. Orr makes us contemplate the contrasts of depth in Interpreting the infinite possibilities that spatial dept contains.
Juliana Peloso's images are reminiscent of the work by Whitfield Lovell, recently on display at the Jepson. By using the tree itself, Peloso paints remnants of the tree on its trunk. With skillful command, these visually referenced illustrations, together read as a work of installation. By painting on the tree itself the pieces, become homage to the tree, each image bearing witness to the life it once had. Some may recall making crafts with such tree cuttings, sealing pictures in thick shellac to preserve them for the ages. In Peloso’s art, she creates commentary on the desire to hold onto fleeting moments by preserving them in painted form. Painting in the work becomes emblematic of the loss of youth and the passage of time.
the sense of floating, and time becomes irrelevant.
that spatial dept contains.
Savannah landscape painter Daniel Smith creates breathtaking golden vistas of the landscape. Using a palette knife Smith molds and shapes his images to life; these paintings hearken back to the time when only trees and grass abided the landscape. Smith has the ability to see the environment for what it was and looking into a Smith piece is like looking back in time. Upon gazing between the trees in his piece, Family and Friends, one feels the sun touch upon the tree as the early portion of the day besieges man’s awakening.
The exhibition Reach: Trees, was organized by Peter Roberts, who also has work in the show. It is at the Location Gallery, gallery profits from the show will be donated to the Savannah Tree Foundation with a focus on replanting trees at Live Oak Plantation Georgia. Location Gallery is located at 417 Whitaker Street in Savannah, Georgia for more information go to www.locationgallery.net.
Preface, I was forced to learn printmaking at the time I informed my teachers that I enjoyed the outcome, not the process. I was awarded a grade reflective of that announcement. I have long since retracted my initial response to the genre and regret not having involved myself more. Seeing a need to learn the medium in depth I took printmaking, as a graduate student in Rome, Italy and made an edition of prints at the workshop of my friend, Robert Blackburn’s Printmaking Workshop. Printmaking has historically been a method for artists to make multiple copies, an edition, of a drawing. A hand pulled print is an original and archival work of art; as many of you already know; prints usually sell more inexpensively than do other two-dimensional media and replicate the look of the original art.
Recently Mr. Darby and I traveled to Darien, Georgia to visit the Ashantilly Center. Inquires about printmaking led me to this interesting and historic site. Today, I will take you with me to the Ashantilly Center in Darien, Georgia. A letterpress organized and founded by artist and ecologist William G. Hayes, Jr. its’ most recent owner.
Our journey was to begin between 10:30 and 11 on November 5; the printing demonstration was to begin at 12. However, I dallied along on this sunny Saturday and we did not leave until 11:30. On the way Mr. Darby’s navigation skewed, and we passed confederate flags and Trump signs as we veered off the path for almost an hour. After asking at a gas station in the next town, we reached our destination around 1 o’clock. Luckily, we did not miss the historical talk.
We entered the library of the main house through the kitchen, however historical; we were late and came in through the first open portal. Finally, taking seats on the front row, we listened to a historical talk given by Daniel McDonald Johnson author of, Blood on the Marsh, already in session. We learned all about the history of the county and of Darien itself. Darien thrived because of its functional waterways in close proximity to the ocean. The economy thrived with exports of rice, cotton and post slavery, lumber and slumped when it resources were exhausted. We also learned about the legacy of slavery in the area.
Side Note: Although deeply interested in slavery, and with subject matter focusing on issues of freedom and restraint. I have never directly referenced slavery in my work. Even with knowledge of my family ancestry vast, I steer from slavery as content in my work. Perhaps, it is my belief in the reality of pictorial recreation on canvas. Imagery so viciously dehumanizing. I plan to change this and am delving into relevant readings, such as, Twelve Years a Slave, and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.
Interestingly, in the talk, the speaker discussed the treatment of the slaves in the region and that some owners were kind, others not so, and he showed images of the local slave population, which were fascinating to say the least.
Afterwards we ventured to see the printing demonstration in a separate small facility, Ashantilly Press. The building houses approximately five presses, and a growing collection of type. Mr. Darby took pictures of me working the press, shared below.
Artists as far back and as highly respected as Rembrandt van Rijn and Albrecht Durer were known printmakers. Other famous artists such as Van Gogh, Picasso, and Jasper Johns have been known for their prints. The history of printing in America harkens back to Currier and Ives the company that was the first to mass produce lithographic pictorial prints for domestic display. American could inexpensively consume these popular images. Letterpress on the other hand, was for advertisements, books, and newspapers. Artists today have found creative ways to incorporate words to imagery.
After seeing the presses and demonstration we lingered through the house noting the similarities and differences to the Thomas Jefferson home in Virginia and peeked at the collected trinkets left from the Hayes's. We talked with the members of the center and shared stories, cookies, and lemonade, it was a fine time.
I want to send special thank you to, Nicholas Silberg and Jerushia Graham for telling me about the center.
Final Note: I am looking for printmakers in Savannah, if anyone is interested in getting together and forming a group locally contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, if there are book artists in the Savannah area send me images of your work. I am tentatively organizing an artist book exhibit for February to coincide with the library's adult book festival.
If you'd like more information about the Ashantilly Center:
Assist me in establishing an independent printing center in Savannah:
Today is an off the cuff blog post. Hurricane Matthew unraveled me more that I'd like to admit. As many artists know, obession is the name of the game in an artist's life, and although my home wasn't affected thankfully, I still have two 75 foot trees, and a number of smaller trees down in my yard. The tree workers were diligently cleaning up so I am not complaining, or am I. In order to get the power on they placed large (ginormous) platforms in the yard to stabilize the big trucks to cut the trees in order to get our power back up. From the studio window I see this mess daily. My recent trip to Atlanta reminded me of just how much is going on in the art world. Also, this is application season, and I am trying to make some etchings without access to a press.
Realizing the reality was to focus on the studio work in front of me, my decision was to concentrate. Although it seems I am really focused on art and the artists issues of the Savannah community, which I am, I can also spend hours watching Steve Harvey clips, and African dance and wedding clips, among other Youtube distractions, and reading numerous lengthy texts about art history. I used to read about African American politics, slavery, and other 18th century historical figures, but I've stopped that, somewhat. I obsessively watch American and foreign films too, and lately started writing lengthy reviews about them on Amazon. Currently, I am reading 33 Artists in 33 Acts, by Sarah Thornton which is a good read, so far.
Did I say I was obsessive, well let me share a couple more. I collect water and have 5, 65 gallon tubs in my yard, and two rain collectors. The tubs which we got from the car wash are unofficial (to be discarded, eventually), the rain catchers are official. In a storm, I will set up buckets on the patio, then stand over the rain barrells with a tilted umbrella to try to catch more rain. I had gutters installed that water runs directly to the rain catchers. Now I must empty the rain into the barrels to make more room for new water during a storm. So there are no mosquitos, I have goldfish in the tubs which are now really pets. My adult children think that is just what moms do, since I do it so often.
My father was obsessive, which I inherited, and any time something broke, my dad would put on his jewelers glasses and repair it. My younger sister commented that if he was a superhero he'd be named, The Piddler, since we always know when he has been in a room by his numerous miniscule adjustments. I inherited the knack for jigsawing tiny shards of broken pots together.
Another obsession, collecting broken stuff, fixing it, and locating somewhere to put it in the house. After the storm I came across a 300 pound concrete planter thrown out by the hospital. With some concrete, the patience of Job, and the artistry of puzzling, I plan to make it look new. We are currently working on other pieces of furniture as well.
I blame this next obsession on being from an academic background. This is the number one obsession, learning about other artists, emergent, established, historical, and artists from any continent. I am amazed when other artists don't do this. Yet secretly I do this with artists from other venues like musicians, actors, poets, filmmakers. I learn all about about their process, their theory, and their list of accomplishments. I could open a library with all the gallery cataloges, magazines, and books I've collected. I commit names to memory, study as many pieces I can find. Admittedly I am an art groupie. Truth is, all of this distracts from time spent on work in my own studio.
Being a painter is a full time job. It requires focus so that each idea can grow into the next, and so that mistakes can be corrected. In the studio, I build and prime canvases, mix paint, take images of the work, draw, plan and promote. The obsessions can feed my work, however I am often in the habit of allowing the obsessions to take precedence. I said all this to say that focus in the studio is imperative, out of the studio I am a basket case.
In the next weeks I will be cleaning my my online presence. In the work I am producing currently, it makes sense to place it in a platform that allows for more comprehensive reading. I look forward to getting the etchings done, steering away from nagging little pieces that take me a lot of time but get little attention, and concentrating on larger scale paintings.
For all who struggle with the same obsession I have talked about please read Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon, it gives licence to what I just called crazy.
Thank you all for reading if you want to share comments just email me .
On Wednesday we learned of the evacuations due to hurricane Matthew. Faced with loosing studio work time, proposals in midstream, meetings delayed, and a new blog to upload, I decided to attempt work from my sister’s home in Marietta. I added the Atlanta Print Center to my list of travel destinations, and a visit to the Sandler Hudson Gallery. Finally, I planned to visit the studio of the artist Lillian Blades, an artist who I met years ago during my early years of teaching. Later I developed an admiration for her work while we shared showing at Sandler Hudson. I contacted her, she informed me of her exhibition at the September Gray Gallery where she was also giving a talk moderated by curator, artist, philanthropist, and art connoisseur, Joe Barry Carroll. With my plan set, I now share my visit with you.
In this post, Artist to Artist, I make a correlation between Blades work and connections to assemblage. Specifically, in the Constructive works post World War II, Dada and Surrealism , made by artists Kurt Schwitters, Vladimir Tatlin, and Piet Mondrian. The Dada period introduced freedom from content, thought to lead to war, the short lived Dada period, followed by Surrealism, enabled artists to concentrate purely on formalist concerns. African American artists like Romeare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, and Lois Malou Jones working just after, used assemblage to create with limited reference to the European tradition. As European artists like Pablo Picasso and Jean Arp borrowed visual clues from African imagery, so too did African American artists return to the concept of visual freedoms in art making. The work of Lillian Blades follows in context.
Working in the format of painting, Blades creates assemblages on wood panels. Within the plane she combines fractions of shapes and variations of color to symbolically reference connections to family, time, tradition, and space. She makes psychological connections to each element, the use of PVC pipes for her father, a plumber, buttons refer to her adoptive mother, a seamstress. Other symbolic references include picture frames, shells, angels, paint brushes, picture frames, fragments of wood, molded glass, and mirrors. Although each element has personal connections, they also register with the viewer and the evidence of labored embellishment helps to make these associations while deconstructing her past.
An encounter with the work requires the viewer to visually order linear, rectilinear, and curved forms that fluctuate forward and back, up and down. Often using a white background, parts of the work recede into the gallery wall, in this we are reminded of Mondrian’s use of the white as a spatial device. Objects intertwine under layers arranged with elements systematically adhering them with a mosaic adhesive that replicates the look of water Blades has mastered making movement within the stagnate format. Blades also does this by creating color evolution similar to the way landscapes move from ground to sky, as in the image “Sand and Sky”. Colors are also arranged to move from dark to light, Blades is visually organizing intensely chromatic alongside tinted and achromatic hues to visually dictate the movement of the image.
In Blades' work the use of light is multiplied in meaning and in execution. In the image titled “Otito”, Blades makes reference to the Yoruba word, meaning reflection. For as the viewer looks at the work, they are reflected in the work, thus the viewer becomes part of the piece. Traditionally mirrors were used to reflect and frighten evil spirits, in this work reflection of the viewer welcomes and makes the viewer part of the work. Blades uses rectilinear slivers of mirrors to reflect light and create a shimmering effects. The mirrors also create movement, as the pieces reflect the movement of the audience, the work inevitably moves itself. Mirrors also create a shimmering of light, just as tiny glimmers of light are reflected in water. Just steps away at the King Memorial, one can gaze into a shimmering pool of water, this reflects upon youthful memory of sand and sea. We travel through the works as one walking the beach gathering memories as we go.
Blades created a cacophony of images reminding the viewer not only of the sights imbued in the pieces, but sounds. Viewers are reminded of the vibrations of Soca music, with its underlying currents of cowbells, steel drums, whistles, idiophone and calypso replicate the feeling of Junkanoo and Odundu. There is no mistaking the relationship to the celebration of carnival. When asked about the future, Blades discussed moving toward suspending the pieces and referenced beaded curtains. A desire to combine movement created by densely multiplied patterns, linear and rectilinear interspersion of shape.
Blades is clearly influenced by the African imagery found in Yoruba sculpture. The necessity to create reminiscent to artisans of ancient Africa. However, this work is much like a process found in many artists of color, such as Bette and Allison Saar, Leonardo Drew and Nick Cave who are working to resolve issues of locating and connecting, present to past, place and time.
For more information about the exhibition at September Gray Gallery visit:
For addition information on Lilian Blades work:
Additional information about Lillian Blades exhibit see a great article:
For information on Joe Barry Carroll see:
This became a primary aspect of my work, the limitations of the vessel, and how forcing contents in causes the container to protrude beyond its capacity. In my work, the vessel manifests itself in innumerable ways.
Just prior to heading off to church today, I glanced in the mirror. I usually look at the forward facing view, then turn sideways and consider just how much of a protrusion there is. Countless times growing up I saw my mother do this. She would judge to see if her muscle, skin, tissue, and fat communicated favorably. This became a primary aspect of my work, the limitations of the vessel, and how forcing contents in causes the container to protrude beyond its capacity. In my work, the vessel manifests itself in innumerable ways.
The idea evolved in the work because of pressure experienced working situations. In exploring how to manifest this in a painting, I decided upon the balloon. Balloons are used for joyous occasions they are often colorful and when let go they symbolically represent freedom. In 1956 an arts film from France won the Oscar for a children’s film, The Red Balloon. One of my teachers shared it with my class when I was a child; it was my first introduction to film as art. In the film, the balloon escapes the grasp of a small boy. The balloon did not desire to be a possession; the boy chases it through the neighborhood. The balloon comes to life and experiences a life of its own. Humans breathe into the balloon giving it shape and substance, however, too much and it bursts. If twisted, squeezed, or wrung, without sufficient leeway, bursting also happens. A balloon will also pop if it is pierced, or pressured.
The balloons reference the figure, sitting, reclining, standing, and the figure occupies the totality of the space. Each idea begins with a sketch, I begin with a scribble. The unlimited curvilinear quality of the scribble drawings is available to me as a source of freedom in the work. I begin with a loose contour then harden the edges to form the body of the shape. These shapes are feminine; their roundness pushes past flesh, and there is no predetermined outcome for any form.
Finally, the forms in both my paintings and in many of my drawings have navels; the navel the point where independence once began. It is often our first scar and is scar tissue that has healed after it is severed, emancipated life. In visually referencing artists like Fernando Botero, Kenny Scharf, and Philip Guston my goal is to reference playful imagery in reflecting on a much more complex idea.