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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

BADC Artists Paint the Town RED for HIV/AIDS Prevention

by Sharon J. Burton

The art charity exhibition, RED was kicked off on World AIDS Day on Saturday, December 1, 2007 at Peace and A Cup of Joe in Baltimore, Maryland. The afternoon was filled with artwork, artists and guests who reflected their commitment for the fight against HIV/AIDS. The exhibition, which is scheduled through January 2008, was curated and co-sponsored by Michelle d. Parrish of ThickArt Collaborative and Sharon J. Burton of Authentic Art Consulting and a member of BADC.
"The Thick Art Collaborative was inspired to produce this exhibit by the work of photographer Antonio Paterniti whose travels to Africa and abroad to work in HIV/AIDS stricken communities compelled us to take a deeper look at what art reveals about our life and times," said Michelle Parrish, CEO of Thick Art.

"HIV/AIDS has affected the Baltimore and DC areas in astounding numbers," said Sharon Burton. "Having an art exhibition at a venue like this enables us to get the message of testing; prevention and education directly to the community, especially people who need this message the most." Chris Sgro of CARE, one of the organizations that will receive funds from artwork sold at the exhibition, was present to provide information about the organization's on-going fight against HIV/AIDS in developing countries. Creative Cause also provided guests an opportunity to express their own thoughts creatively through postcards.

"As we mark World AIDS Day, we must continue to find creative ways to bring awareness and action on HIV/AIDS. That's why we will have people contribute to an ongoing exhibit as part of Plant HOPE, which has many meanings - one is HIV Outreach is a Path to Empowerment," said Tambra Stevenson, founder/director of Creative Cause and a member of BADC.
Among the 50 plus guests that attended included a group of college students from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County campus who attended the event as part of a World AIDS Day week of activities. BADC Artists included in the exhibition include: Prudence Bonds Sharon J. Burton Cynthia Farrell Johnson Elva Lovoz And others.... Special thanks to Peace and A Cup of Joe, CARE, Creative Cause and most importantly, the artists for making this a special and well attended event opening.

All content © 2007 Black Artists of DC all rights reserved. For permission to reproduce contact:

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Reed's Sweet Struggle Confounds

By: Zoma Wallace

Sweet Struggle by Andrea Ellen Reed has finally come to a close at the Torpedo Factory Art Center. For the past six weeks, the photographic series has increasingly angered and confounded me. Her portraits of Black men, women, and children in Blackface beg for an explanation that neither I nor the artist can fully articulate. As gallery intern, most visitors assume that I have created the images and look to me for answers. For those who are not familiar with the Torpedo Factory, it is a highly regarded art center attracting visitors from all over the world. The VAST majority of them are not Black.

Reed paints her subjects in Blackface to capitalize on shock value and enhance her "message to Black people". At surface level, her work appears to challenge false and exaggerated stereotypes about the our community, using the makeup to indicate how the world views us as a people. But from her own mouth, the artist stated that she truly believes her portraits depict tragic conditions plaguing the Black community. In that case, the issues addressed are grossly oversimplified and obviously misunderstood by the artist. She uses the symbolic mask to connect Blacks who currently "misrepresent" themselves to the Black performers of the 19th and early 20th centuries who "misrepresented" themselves and their race on the minstrel stage. She chooses a poor example in Bert Williams to illustrate her point. She apparently is unaware that Bert Williams was a brilliant performer, lauded by people of all races for his wit, exceedingly high intellect, and ability to transcend race with comedy that touched his audience members on the human level. The black makeup he and others wore was simply a prerequisite for Blacks to get onto stage in that era. The invention of Blackface itsellf was an attempt of white performers to express and capitalize on the fascination with the communal rituals of Black Americans. Instantly, her Blackface symbolism breaks down upon examining historical truth. The work becomes a collection of misrepresentations and cliche generalizations that do more to reinforce negative perceptions about our people than to help us recover from them.

The work thoroughly disappoints me because it does not confront nor address the origins of these racial issues. The work does nothing to challenge the European originators of racism and the true source of the violence, drug abuse, broken family structure, and self hatred on which she blames Black people. Therefore, viewers are allowed to distance themselves from the acknowledgment of racism by declaring "I'm not racist so it's not my problem" or take pity on the Black community as a whole, still absolving themselves of any responsibility for these false perpetuations. The fact that the artist is Black gives more credence to the contrived statements of self-victimization.

Reactions to the work run the gamut from laughter to confusion to disgust. Most people are dumbfounded as they pretend to understand the material, furthermore the Black struggle (which is utterly impossible if you have not lived it). The most descriptive words they can muster before scurrying out of the door are "powerful" or "thought-provoking". Occasionally, I get an appreciative glance or "thank you" for somehow allowing them to discuss race while attempting to assure me that they are not racist. But for me, the wrong discussion is taking place with the wrong audience.

The most difficulty I have had is explaining the work to foreign patrons. Laughter precedes the first question which is usually "Why such red lips and black face paint?" They think the subjects are clowns of some sort. Children have had to translate to their parents concepts of racism and minstrelsy that have no parallel in their own culture. As they dialogue in other languages, I can only imagine what is being said and inevitably misunderstood.

My question for Andrea Ellen Reed is, "What next? Any positive suggestions for the future?" Or will Blackface remain a crutch on which to lean for visual impact?

All content © 2007 Black Artists of DC all rights reserved.
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Art in the Garden, Fall 2007

By Anne Bouie

It takes a cold, cold day early in December to cause on to reflect upon the glorious days of the drifting leaves, gentle winds, warm glow of a golden autumn day in the garden—especially the garden to T.H.Gomillion, artist, organizer, and host with the most. His diverse talents as artist, organizer, and guardian of the groves were on display, and appreciated by artists and those who attended both days.

Artists were graciously placed along meandering walkways and graveled paths. There was Jackie Lee by Gomillion, also Al Burts and John Beckley, all the artists were in place, like flowers displaying their beauty.

The day's beauty provided by Mother Earth, and the artfully tended grounds were the context for a complex, yet complementary collection of artists and their work. Appreciative guests asked questions and dialogued with themselves and with the artists.

Artists shared their insights and processes, support with one another. It is especially important that artists get to know one another, because we keep an eye on one another's progress, growth and evolution. I noticed with pleasure and awe how Sharon Keyser tapestries have increased in refinement, depth and complexity. She shared some of her newest creations: tapestries with fine, sharp finishing and details galore. I was especially struck by her rendition of Africa; a new work in hues of olive was beautifully sewn and constructed.

Virginia Green from Maryland presented an array of work . She shared a painting of a glorious and proud macaw, perched on a branch that looked almost at home in the trees of North East Washington. Her use of colors was clear, simple and direct, and a small rendition of standing stones helped one center and meditate right on the spot. Hampton Olfus rendered the passion, depth and beauty of Bahia as rarely seen, and clearly through eyes which identified with the people, their journey, and their story. He travels to Bahia, and takes reams of photographs from which he then chooses the most powerful and revealing to create canvases of profound beauty, which somehow conceal as much as they reveal.

Clarence Page presented metal pressings of intricate plants captured all of the nuances and textures of graceful woodland flora. Clayton Lang presented a powerful mixed media in black leather on a white background, and his evolution as an artist in the tradition of fine leather craftsmen continues, as does George Smith in his linoleum printing.

Michael Gormley provided music that enhanced a day that stimulated and soothed us all. As we enter that phase of the year that the Taos Pueblo calls, "the Time of Keeping Still", when days are short, nights long, and we retreat inside with warmth and family, it is good to remember, and prepare for the next gathering of artists and art lovers in Gomillion's Art In The Garden.

All content © 2007 Black Artists of DC all rights reserved.
For permission to reproduce contact: