Archive for the ‘Visual Arts’ Category

Day 4: Photographer Michael Cunningham



Three Things:

  • From his official bio: “Cunningham chooses to work in black and white; this allows him to express what is in his soul.  Black and white photography is very personal, he says and reaches deep inside the viewer, making them study the photograph for what it represents outside of pretty colors.”
  • The book Crowns inspired a theatrical stage production, Crowns the Gospel Musical.
  • Cunningham has published four books: Crowns, Jewels, Queens, and Spirit of Harlem.

Where to learn more:


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This mixed media, collage, assemblage and installation artist’s work often includes images of stereotyped African-American figures from folk culture and advertising, like Aunt Jemima, Uncle Tom, Little Black Sambo, African ritual and tribal objects, African American folk traditions and/or family memorabilia.

Survival of the Spirit

Survival of the Spirit

Ancestral Spirit Chair

Ancestral Spirit Chair

Beteye Saar

Betye Saar

Three things:

  1. Her signature piece (one of her better-known and controversial pieces) is entitled “The Liberation of Aunt Jemima.” It was her first protest piece. It is owned by the University of California, Berkeley.
  2. Saar’s work is among the collections of The Whitney Museum of American Art, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institute, Museum of Fine Arts, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and many more.
  3. A native Californian, octogenarian Betye Saar was born and raised in the Los Angeles area. She grew up in Pasadena during the Great Depression, regularly visited her grandmother in Watts, took art classes at Pasadena City College, earned a BA from the University of California at Los Angeles, and pursued graduate studies at California State University at Long Beach, the University of Southern California, and California State University at Northridge. The region serves as a consistent thread through her life and her work.

Where to learn more about Betye Saar:

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Day 2: Mark Dukes

The paintings of iconographer Deacon Mark Duke of St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church live at the intersection of jazz, visual art, and spirituality.

Saint John The Divine Sound Baptist

Mark Duke’s first Icon Painting of John Coltrane.

Mark Dukes

Mark Dukes

Prints of Duke’s iconography are available for sale online in the St John Coltrane Church gallery.

Three things:

  1. Mark Dukes is an ordained deacon and the official icon painter of the St. John Coltrane Church. He read the Bible for the first time in his early 20s.
  2. Dukes other works include: “Dancing Saints Icon” in the rotunda of St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco, and “Ain’t Jah Momma and Saint Sambo.”
  3. A Love Supreme, a 4-part musical suite generally considered to be among jazz saxophonist John Coltrane’s greatest works, is an emotional and spiritual journey written and performed as an offering to God. The four parts to the suite are “Acknowledgement,” “Resolution,” “Pursuance,” and “Psalm.”

Where to find more information on:

Mark Dukes:

John Coltrane

A documentary short on The Saint John Coltrane Church in San Francisco is available online.

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40 Days of Black Art: My Lenten journey through images and individuals at the intersection of faith and creativity.

Day 1: Allan Rohan Crite


Allan Crite

Three things:

  1. Known as the grandaddy of the Boston art scene, Crite’s work centered around three main themes: Negro spirituals, religious themes that emphasize non-European aspects of the Bible, and every day African American life
  2. A devout Episcopalian, he classified much of his work as liturgical art
  3. His work is counted in notable collections such as the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Boston Athenaeum.

Where to learn more about Crite:

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Cognitive dissonance: discomfort at simultaneously holding two contradictory beliefs.

The Elephant in the Room: Ivory vs Art History

UK’s Daily Mail reports “Prince William has vowed to destroy all 1,200 ivory artefacts in Buckingham Palace to ‘send a message’ to illegal elephant poachers.” Read more…

The circle of life is one thing, poaching animals is another. I’m all for ending barbaric practices that kill herds of animals with little to no regard for their species survival, and with no respect for their lives (nothing and no one should ever be discarded on the road). I can’t imagine dying solely for my tooth.

I am also for strong leadership and putting your money where your mouth is and am impressed by Prince William’s bold stance, especially as a representative of a superpower nation.

AND I am a lover of history, art, museums, education, culture, art as history documentation, art history, craftsmanship, artistic expression….

Thousands of elephants dead for trinkets that mostly remain locked up storage facilities away from human eyesight. Centuries of ivory art and craft pulverized into dust.

Is that the Clark Sisters I hear in the background?

“Is my living in vain?

… No, of course not.”

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust will give way to the collective wailing of animal rights activists, humanitarians, historians, curators, conservationists, and librarians alike. Is the world ready for this level of mourning?

But ivory carving is a relic of the past. Buckingham Palace, as regal as it is, is a long ways from the nobility of the elephant graveyard.

My head hurts.

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“In life you cannot always choose what you do, but you can always choose who you are.”

Peace, cultural and gender identity, nation building, community, trade, economics, genealogy and family through the vehicle of fashion.

Read Adweek’s article “Ad of the Day: Congo’s Sapeurs Star in the Best-Dressed Guinness Commercial Ever: Central African elegance By David Griner.”

We need more stories like this about the continent of Africa. (Swagger not sympathy.)

A toast to Guinness for widening the lenses of collective memory and collective views of  Republic of the Congo, and to Adweek for recognizing the paradigm shift.

Edit 2/14/2014:

I’ve added the Sapeurs documentary below, because it is too good to overlook. It adds layers to my respect for both the Sapeurs and Guiness for recognizing them in such an elegant way. I love good storytelling.

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Artworks Disappear Overnight As 5 Pointz Graffiti Haven Is Painted White

New York, the greatest suburb on earth.

From the HuffPost article:
“Despite the efforts of many to save Long Island City’s 5 Pointz from demolition, the renowned graffiti haven has finally met its end. The massive warehouse that served as Queen’s biggest street art canvas was whitewashed overnight, erasing nearly 30 years of New York art history.”

5 Pointz before

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