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“Abstract Minded” Curator Soiree with OSI AUDU & LAURIE ANN FARRELL at N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art

14 Nov
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Next Saturday, November 18th join us at a special reception for Abstract Minded.
 Abstract Minded Curator Talk 2-full

Abstract Minded Curator Soiree
with Osi Audu, exhibition curator &
Laurie Ann Farrell, 
curator of contemporary art at the DIA 
Date:  Saturday, November 18, 2017
Time: 2:00pm – 5:00pm
Location: Detroit, MI – The N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, 52 E. Forest Ave.

Abstract Minded curator and artist Osi Audu and the Detroit Institute of Arts’ curator and department head of contemporary art, Laurie Ann Farrell discuss the artists, exhibition, and influence of the African Diaspora on contemporary art at this intimate afternoon event.

Refreshments will be served.

Abstract Minded: Works by Six Contemporary African Artists” showcases explorative works by Osi Audu, Nicholas Hlobo, Serge Alain Nitegeka, Odili Donald Odita, Nnenna Okore, and Elias Sime that thematically or conceptually connect to the continent of Africa by pursuing the use of abstraction as a way of engaging the broader conversation about art. The exhibition will be on display through January 6, 2018.

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Osi Audu
Osi Audu is a Nigerian born artist whose work explores the intersections of scientific, cultural and philosophical ideas about the nature of consciousness. His work, which has been shown in numerous international exhibitions including the Kwangju Biennale in Korea, the Africa Africa exhibition in Japan, and the Museum of the Mind exhibition at the British Museum in London; has also been collected by a number of public institutions such as the Newark Museum in New Jersey, The National Museum of African Art in Washington DC, the British Museum, and the Horniman Museum in London. He has presented papers and talks about his work at several international conferences such as the 16th ACASA International Triennial Symposium on African Art at the Brooklyn Museum, New York; The Human Image conference at the British Museum in London, Conversations with a Continent: FIVE AFRICAN ARTISTS at Columbia University in New York; and Next Wave Nigeria: Artists Dialogue at the Newark Museum. His article –Yoruba Concept of the Mind was published in the 2nd edition of The Oxford Companion to The Mind, edited by Richard Gregory. He was a lecturer in Painting and Drawing at the University of Benin for 9 years, and the Head of Art and Design at Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School in the UK for 11 years. He received an MFA degree in Painting and Drawing from the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia.  He lives and works in New York.

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Laurie Ann Farrell
Farrell came to the DIA in 2016 in from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) where she was executive director of exhibitions initiatives. She directed exhibition programming for the SCAD Museum of Art and SCAD FASH, its museum of fashion and film, as well as the university’s galleries in Atlanta, Hong Kong and Lacoste, France. Farrell is currently an art consultant for the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium Art Collection in Atlanta and curator of the first Rolls-Royce art program in North America.
Farrell has curated exhibitions of work by a diverse group of prominent contemporary artists, among them Marina Abramovic, Doug Aitken, Carrie Mae Weems, Yinka Shonibare, Alfredo Jaar, Michael Joo, Sigalit Landau, Stephen Antonakos, Cao Fei, Kader Attia and Yeondoo Jung.
Farrell was curator of contemporary art at the Museum for African Art in New York City from 1998 to 2007, where she curated the exhibitions “Personal Affects: Power and Poetics in Contemporary South African Art” and “Looking Both Ways: Art of the Contemporary African Diaspora.”
In 2006, Farrell organized American participation at Angola’s inaugural Trienal de Luanda with support and funding from the U.S. Department of State. Farrell received the Abraaj Capital Art Prize with artist Kader Attia in 2010, the ArtTable New Leadership award in 2011 and the Southeast Museum Conference 2015 Museum Leadership Award. Farrell is widely published in art journals and has lectured throughout the Americas, Africa and Europe. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in art history from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Master of Fine Arts in art history and theory from the University of Arizona.



Osi Audu’s curatorial abstract: 

“Abstraction is as indigenous to African visual culture as it is to other parts of the world. The exploration of purely formal elements is not only readily evidenced in the rich traditions of textile designs and other decorative practices from the continent, but is also present in the stylizations of much figurative work from Africa. The six artists in this exhibition, all born and, or raised in countries in Africa, produce work thematically or conceptually connected to the continent by pursuing the use of abstraction as a way of engaging in a broader conversation about art. In our increasingly global existence of the 21st century the world is becoming less and less exotic, and is being experienced more as a sphere of commonalities of being, dreams, fears and aspirations.

Cultural ideas once thought as discrete are now being understood as archetypical, having resonances across the wider world. Aesthetic engagement with form is as important a part of the content of these artists’ works as is their symbolic, historical, socio-political, or conceptual significance.

Among the many questions raised by this exhibition, the overarching one must be the dialectical question:

what is contemporary African art?

Abstract Minded: Works by Six Contemporary African Artists is not simply about looking for the African in African art, it is also about taking a look at what some African artists are doing today in order to get a fuller sense of the current ‘state of things’ in contemporary African art.”  –


Don’t miss the Curator Soiree happening next Saturday, beginning at 2:00pm at the N’Namdi Center!


The N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art presents diverse, multi-disciplinary and engaging art experiences. It serves to promote and perpetuate the cultural legacy of African-American and African diasporic art, along with art from diverse cultures. Since its conception in 2010, the N’Namdi Center has contributed to the Detroit arts scene by presenting art exhibitions by nationally and internationally renowned artists as well as local and emerging talent.

The N’Namdi Center’s work is based on two core beliefs: that the arts can play an integral role in the revitalization of Detroit, and that a thriving creative community depends upon the participation of a diverse group of artists, organizations and individuals. The N’Namdi Center builds on these beliefs by acting as a catalyst in the development of Detroit’s creative ecosystem, with a continuing focus on African American art and community engagement through the arts.

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LAUREL HAUSLER’s “No Trace of the Woman”/ FRANCES GLESSNER LEE and “The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death”

18 Oct

As many of you may recall, artist LAUREL HAUSLER created an exciting series of paintings and sculptures of felted wood in her solo exhibition “No Trace of the Woman” inspired by FRANCES GLESSNER LEE’s 1940’s dollhouse rendering of “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death”, composite crime scene models recreated on a one-inch-to-one-foot scale. Inspired by Glessner Lee’s visionary and zealous passion for forensics in a time when women were unable to become detectives, Hausler selects needles and fiber as her medium to honor traditional notions of “women’s art” or “craft”, mirroring Glessner Lee’s own meticulous attention to detail, down to every last hand-crafted clue, of the “Nutshell Studies”.

 

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About LAUREL HAUSLER:
A Washington, DC native, LAUREL HAUSLER‘s love of literature, antiquity, unsolved mysteries and the obscure inspire the stories behind her work.  Working in a subtractive and additive process, she creates the surface of her felt sculpted paintings by layering strands of felted wool. Admired for resisting a self-conscious approach to process, Hausler reveals lines, veils and gestures on her surfaces that demonstrate her decision-making process through the work’s evolution to its finished state.
Please contact Morton Fine Art for acquisition of artwork from “No Trace of the Woman”.
Morton Fine Art, 1781 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009
(202) 628-2787
mortonfineart@gmail.com

 

Opening Friday, October 20, 2017 at the Renwick Gallery      

(Smithsonian American Art Museum)

Murder Is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death

 

October 20, 2017 – January 28, 2018

Renwick Gallery (Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street NW)
Interior detail of red bedroom study

Red Bedroom, Frances Glessner Lee, mixed media

This rare public display explores the unexpected intersection between craft and forensic science.

Murder Is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death explores the surprising intersection between craft and forensic science. It also tells the story of how a woman co-opted traditionally feminine crafts to advance the male-dominated field of police investigation and to establish herself as one of its leading voices.

Frances Glessner Lee (1878-1962) crafted her extraordinary “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death”—exquisitely detailed miniature crime scenes—to train homicide investigators to “convict the guilty, clear the innocent, and find the truth in a nutshell.” These dollhouse-sized dioramas of true crimes, created in the first half of the 20th century and still used in forensic training today, helped to revolutionize the emerging field of homicide investigation.

Lee, the first female police captain in the U.S., is considered the “mother of forensic science” and helped to found the first-of-its kind Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard University when the field of forensics was in its infancy. At the time, there was very little training for investigators, meaning that they often overlooked or mishandled key evidence, or irrevocably tampered with crime scenes. Few had any medical training that would allow them to determine cause of death. As Lee and her colleagues at Harvard worked to change this, tools were needed to help trainees scientifically approach their search for truth. Lee was a talented artist as well as criminologist, and used the craft of miniature-making that she had learned as a young girl to solve this problem. She constructed the Nutshells beginning in the 1940s to teach investigators to properly canvass a crime scene to effectively uncover and understand evidence. The equivalent to “virtual reality” in their time, her masterfully crafted dioramas feature handmade objects to render scenes with exacting accuracy and meticulous detail.

Every element of the dioramas—from the angle of miniscule bullet holes, the placement of latches on widows, the patterns of blood splatters, and the discoloration of painstakingly painted miniature corpses—challenges trainees’ powers of observation and deduction. The Nutshells are so effective that they are still used in training seminars today at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore.

A photograph of a nutshell study of unexplained death showing a detail of a burned cabin.

Frances Glessner Lee, Burned Cabin (detail), about 1944-48. Collection of the Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, courtesy of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Baltimore, MD

Showcasing the Nutshells at the Renwick allows visitors to appreciate them as works of art and material culture in addition to understanding their importance as forensic tools, and to see Lee’s genius for telling complex stories through the expressive potential of simple materials. While the Nutshells represent composites of real and extremely challenging cases featuring homicides, suicides, and accidental deaths, Lee imagined and designed each setting herself. She was both exacting and highly creative in her pursuit of detail—knitting tiny stocking by hand with straight pins, hand-rolling tiny tobacco-filled cigarettes and burning the ends, writing tiny letters with a single-hair paintbrush, and creating working locks for windows and doors.

The exhibition also highlights the subtly subversive quality of Lee’s work, especially the way her dioramas challenge the association of femininity with domestic bliss and upend the expected uses for miniature making, sewing, an other crafts considered to be “women’s work.” Also evident is her purposeful focus on society’s “invisible victims,” whose cases she championed. Lee was devoted to the search for truth and justice for everyone, and she often featured victims such as women, the poor, and and people living on the fringes of society, whose cases might be overlooked or tainted with prejudice on the part of the investigator. She wanted trainees to recognize and overcome any unconscious biases and to treat each case with rigor, regardless of the victim.

As the Nutshells are still active training tools, the solutions to each remain secret. However, the crime scene “reports” (written by Lee to accompany each case) given to forensic trainees are presented alongside each diorama to encourage visitors to approach the Nutshells the way an investigator would.

Murder Is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death is the first public display of the complete series of nineteen studies still known to exist. For the first time since 1966, 18 pieces on loan to the museum from the Harvard Medical School via the Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, will be reunited with the “lost nutshell,” on loan from the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, courtesy of the Bethlehem Heritage Society. The exhibition is organized by Nora Atkinson, The Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft.

Lee’s hyperreal constructions inspired contemporary artist and scenic designer Rick Araluce, whose immersive, large-scale installation is presented in the adjoining gallery. Rick Aracluce: The Final Stop opens concurrently with Murder Is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death on October 20th.

“The Nutshells are essentially about teaching people how to see. … So much of our culture has gone digital, and that’s where craft shines, because it’s three-dimensional. You can’t really understand it from the Internet, or from a flat page; you have to investigate it fully in the round.” – Nora Atkinson

Click HERE for more info on Murder is Her Hobby : Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Diaries of Unexplained Death at the Renwick Gallery

MAYA FREELON ASANTE interviewed by Magic & Musings

17 Oct

M & M

Interview: Maya Freelon Asante on Being an Artist, Family Inspirations, and Working Outdoors

12:00 pm

Past Tense Present, 2015, 8.5”x18″, tissue ink mono/photo print
*All images are courtesy of Morton Fine Art.*

Today’s interview is with the incredibly talented creator Maya Freelon Asante, who creates bright, colourful, and complex artworks, sometimes combining printwork with photography. She dedicates her artwork to her grandmother, which you’ll find out a little more about in our interview, and comes from a family with its roots in the African American Impressionist movement. I love the colourful nature of her art, my favourites being ‘Dark Matter’ and ‘Divided/Whole’. Please read on to find out more about her story. Thank you for Morton Fine Art for providing images of her spectacular work to share with you today!

Magic & Musings:
For any readers who don’t know your background, do you want to tell me a bit about yourself and where you are today?

Maya Freelon Asante:
I’m an artist, a creator, a risk taker, and entrepreneur. I’m a Black woman; I always reiterate those two facts because I’m proud of them.
Magic & Musings:
If you describe your art style in three words, what would they be?
Maya Freelon Asante:
Bright, brilliant, kinetic.
Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into art? What first drew you to the field? Did you study it formally or come across it as a hobby?
Maya Freelon Asante:
I’ve always loved art since I was a little kid. It’s something that brought me peace and I could sit and draw for hours starting at about age five.
In middle school I had a teacher who saw my talent and really encouraged me by offering assignments that were challenging. I attended North Carolina Governor’s School and started painting, drawing, and sculpture in high school. I also discovered the artistic roots of own my family in high school. My great grandfather was a African American Impressionist painter named Allan Freelon and he worked during the Harlem Renaissance. I also apprenticed with a Black female artist, Beverly McIver.

Beasts of the Southern Wild, 2013, 62″x30, tissue ink monoprint & collage
Magic & Musings:
Did you have to find yourself overcoming any hurdles regarding your confidence when you first started displaying your art?
Maya Freelon Asante:
When I first started exhibiting my art I applied to lots of different exhibitions and got lots of rejections. I also got a few acceptances, which always led to other projects. I went straight from undergrad at Lafayette College to graduate school at Tufts School of the Museum of Fine Arts. I had a fast paced, accelerated journey through schooling so by the time I finished and I went straight into teaching at the college level. It was like I never left school. After two years I decided I wanted to try to make art full-time. I found art residencies, art grants, and living in a city that supports the arts are crucial to surviving as an artist. The three places I’ve lived in the last decade are Durham, North Carolina which has a great State Arts Council, Baltimore, Maryland which has MICA, and public art funds, and Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts offer really great opportunities for the emerging artist. I met Deborah Willis at Harvard, through the CCA conference. All of these opportunities helped build my artistic career.
Magic & Musings:
Of all of your work, what are you proudest of and why?
Maya Freelon Asante:
All of my artwork is dedicated to my grandmother, Queen Mother Frances J. Pierce and it’s either about living with her, remembering her as a child, using the tissue paper which I found tucked away in her basement, water damaged. She really had a huge impact in my creative life. And I’m proud of her life and legacy. Her sacrifices allowed me to be the artist I am today.

Handmade, 2013, 36″x37″, tissue ink monoprint
Magic & Musings:
This is a question I like to ask purely because of the variety of answers I get! I’m really interested in how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done, like a milky cup of tea or particular album of music you listen to?
Maya Freelon Asante:
I typically like to work outdoors, or in a place that can accept a lot of water because my creative process can get really wet. I also like to work in studio spaces that are outside of the home, but I recently moved into a place where my studio is in my home and I need a space that’s away from my living areas. I like to listen to Spotify and the station that I’m really feeling is Janelle Monae, Phony People and No Name and The Internet.
Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?
Maya Freelon Asante:
Space to think and being quiet are super important when your are a creative person. That’s when I get my inspiration. If I’m stuck in a rut sometimes I write my journal or I’ll sit and meditate and be quiet and just let the creative process come through.

Inception, 2012, 90″x36″, tissue ink monoprint
Magic & Musings:
What are some things you like to do in your spare time when you aren’t working?
Maya Freelon Asante:
I love being outdoors, I love the water I like going on a nature walks and going to the ocean and going to the lake. I also love yoga and to go horseback riding.
Magic & Musings:
Have you ever explored working in another medium?
Maya Freelon Asante:
I started out doing drawing, painting, sculpture, and photography, and now merge all my media together. The two things that I’m still interested in learning are glassblowing and metal work.

Lost, 2015, 26.75”x17″, tissue ink monoprint
Magic & Musings:
What would you say your relationship is like between your business and the internet/social media? Would you say this has helped you greatly in your success, or not?
Maya Freelon Asante:
When I came up in college and graduate school, Facebook was just starting. So social media hadn’t popped off yet. I just started Instagram this year and it’s been interesting the amount of followers I’ve gotten in such a short amount of time.
Divided/Whole, 2015, 25.5”x19”, spinning tissue ink monoprint
Magic & Musings:
If there was one thing you could want to say to the world if you knew everyone was listening, what would it be and why?
Maya Freelon Asante:
The one thing I want to say to the world is there needs to be more love and peace for everybody. Be honest, forgive, and accept everybody for just where they are. I think we would have a much sweeter and loving place for everyone if we could do those things. Also we need to share our resources. There’s an abundance and just a few people are utilizing them. If we shared equally it would be a lot better for everybody.

Dark Matter,  2015, 55”x44”, spinning tissue ink monoprint
Magic & Musings:
What tools do you use to keep yourself organized?
Maya Freelon Asante:
Some may say I’m not organized at all, but I say there’s a method to my madness. What method you say? I’m not sure, I have to find it.
Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in the field?
Maya Freelon Asante:
I wish somebody told me that I could do whatever I want if I just focus on my energy on it. That it’s going to take a lot of hard work and a lot of self-confidence. I started out teaching thinking that I needed to teach in order to be an artist and that’s not necessarily true. If you take your business skills, you take your creative skills, and then you take your entrepreneurial skills, and if you can merge all those three together you will have ability to be great at whatever you do.

Letter to my Great­ Great ­Grandmother, 2015, 8″x21″, tissue ink mono/photo print
Magic & Musings:
Onto a fun question! Can you recommend everyone read a book you have enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song?
Maya Freelon Asante:
The books you should read are The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran and Love, Freedom and Aloneness by Osho. Those are totally personal books that have nothing to do with art. The art books you should read are anything by Deborah Willis, Ways of Seeing by John Berger, and A Natural History of the Senses. A film I would recommend is Beasts of the Southern Wild. An album I would recommend is Lauryn Hill’s Unplugged – I know that album is old, but every single time I listen to it I feel totally renewed in my life purpose.
Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work?
Maya Freelon Asante:
I would say to all Black female artists who are wondering – should they do it? Could they do it? Just go for it! You don’t have to be the best artist, you don’t have to be the most well-known, you just have to speak with the voice that God gave you and let it come out in whatever form. Come share your gifts with the world because we are waiting!

See You Soon, 2015, 42″x30″, spinning tissue ink mono photo print

AMBER ROBLES-GORDON featured in Brick City Live

17 Oct

 

Dr. Ntozake Shange’s seminal work gets a gallery’s worth of consideration in new exhibit

Published October 14, 2017 | Andaiye Taylor


Amber Robles-Gordon, “My Rainbow is Enuf”, Fabric on chicken wire, 2014

Dr. Ntzoke Shange’s choreopoem for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf has bent genres, broken ground, won awards, and inspired legions of people who have seen or read the landmark work, which debuted on Broadway in 1976.

The play touches on themes of sexuality, race, sisterhood, violence and self-love, and in its universality has been taken up and reimagined by people bearing a cross-section of racial and gender identities.

This year at Open Doors, curator Peter “Souleo” Wright will bring a traveling exhibit commemorating for colored girls to City Without Walls (cWOW) gallery, which is located in Newark’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. i found god in myself: a celebration of Dr. Ntozake Shange’s, for colored girls opens Saturday, October 14th and runs through November 18th. (RSVP for the opening.)

The exhibit consists of 10 commissioned artworks, each of which illustrates, comments on or is inspired by one of the poems that constitute for colored girls. The artists whose work will be featured in the exhibit are Amber Robles-Gordon, Beau McCall, Dianne Smith, Kathleen Granados, Kimberly Mayhorn, Margaret Rose Vendryes, Melissa Calderón, Michael Paul Britto, Pamela Council and Uday K. Dhar. Dr. Shange will appear in person at the October 14th opening. (She will also be a panelist at A Conversation With…, another Open Doors event, at Gateway Project Spaces on Sunday, October 15th.)

Dr. Ntozake Shange will attend the October 14th opening reception for i found god in myself.

“This exhibition underscores the conversation Dr. Shange started, extending the legacy and impact of her work into the visual arts medium,” explained Souleo, according to a statement about the exhibit, which debuted in 2014 at the Schomburg Center and La Maison d’art in New York, and has since traveled to Philadelphia and Houston.

i found god in myself will also include material from the Barnard Archives that highlights the creation and evolution of the original text, from its 1974 debut in Berkeley, California at a bar named Bacchanal to its Broadway run, for which featured actress Trazana Beverley won a Tony Award. Dr. Shange and cast also won an Obie Award for the Off-Broadway incarnation of the play.

“It is not only gratifying, but joyous to share for colored girls with the Newark community,” Dr. Shange said.

While Dr. Shange’s work focuses on black women, the artists Souleo called on to contribute to the exhibit are women and men across cultures and generations–a nod to the work’s transcendent impact, and also “to demonstrate that the banner of feminism can and must be carried and waved by every ally who shares its tenets of social justice,” according to a curatorial statement about the exhibit.

That statement explained further that the exhibit is meant to “respect the origins of Dr. Shange’s work while bringing it forward into today’s expanded conversation on human rights.”

cWOW is the state’s oldest alternative art space. Executive director fayemi shakur said it is an “honor to share Dr. Shange’s work” at the gallery.

 

Click HERE to read the article in full.

 

Click HERE to view available artwork by AMBER ROBLES-GORDON.

MARIO ANDRES ROBINSON’s exhibition at Pratt Institute in NYC

13 Oct
MARIO ANDRES ROBINSON, Peach Tree and Pine, 18″x24″, watercolor on paper

 

Tuesday, Sep 12, 2017 -Friday, Oct 06, 2017
Location
School of Continuing and Professional Studies Gallery, Pratt Manhattan Center, 2nd floor, 144 West 14th Street, New York, NY
Restoration. A solo exhibition of work by Pratt alumnus, Mario Andres Robinson
You are cordially invited to view an exhibition of recent work by Mario Andres Robinson at the School of Continuing and Professional Studies Gallery, Pratt Manhattan Center, New York City.
The exhibition showcases recent work never exhibited in New York before, bringing together portraits, and landscapes focused on architecture.
Robinson’s work fits squarely within the tradition of American painting. His finished works bear a close affinity to the masters of the realist tradition, Andrew Wyeth and Thomas Eakins.
Containing few references to modern life, Robinson’s work has a timeless and universal quality, and exhibits a distinct turn-of-the-century stylistic aesthetic. The images he chooses, which refer to a bygone era where solitude and reflection were abundant, also provoke frequent allusions to the paintings of Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper.
Join Mario Andres Robinson’s course with SCPS this fall:
Painting the Figure in Watercolor
XFA-458

MARIO ANDRES ROBINSON, Transition, 22″x16″, watercolor on paper

 

KATHERINE TZU-LAN MANN featured in House Beautiful Magazine

12 Oct

Living Room
“Lush and not prissy,” says Gridley about the living room’s facing sofas, which are covered in an Old World Weavers blue linen velvet. The vintage coffee table is by Tomasso Barbi. An artwork by Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann hangs over an Outpost Original hide bench that “is pulled into action,” Gridley says, for extra seating during parties. – Maura McEvoy

An architect, three artists and a professor: the Freelon family by Maryam Mohamed

11 Oct

The Freelon family has roots in the Triangle, but their talents have taken them to everywhere from an art installation in Madagascar to a mayoral campaign in Durham.

Philip Freelon is an architect responsible for designing historical centers across the country, such as the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, Ga.

Philip has received countless awards for his work, and was appointed by former President Barack Obama to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts. He is currently working on the expansion of the Motown Museum in Detroit, Mich.

He said he went into architecture because it combined elements of mathematics and physics with craft and design.

Philip is married to jazz vocalist and six-time Grammy nominee, Nnenna Freelon. Their son, Pierce Freelon, is a Durham native who ran for mayor.

Pierce said his passion for Durham is what compelled him to run for office.

He said while Durham is quickly changing, he wants to make sure this change reflects equity and sustainability.

“I felt a strong sense of urgency and obligation, almost like a calling, to step up for my city and community to be that change,” Pierce said.

Like his mother, Pierce has a background in music. He specializes in hip-hop and rap music production. His family has always been supportive of his decision to pursue music.

“My parents always said do what you love and success will come, because success has nothing to do with money, but everything to do with being happy,” he said.

Pierce co-founded Beat Making Lab and taught a class at UNC where he showed students how to create beats and write songs. He traveled to countries such as Congo, Fiji, Senegal, Panama and Ethiopia to teach kids how to write beats and shoot music videos.

“I’ve always been very connected to community and Beat Making Lab is no different,” he said. “I wanted to make sure this resource was not only available to Carolina students but to kids in East Durham and around the world.”

He said he was inspired by the opportunities he was provided with in college and wanted to use his privilege to give back to those less fortunate.

“A lot of the countries we visited didn’t have access to these types of resources and privileged spaces,” Pierce said. “I was honored to be a cultural ambassador and teacher.”

Deen Freelon, Pierce’s brother, is an associate professor in the UNC School of Media and Journalism.

“I wanted a chance to work with some of the excellent students here at the Media and Journalism school,” Deen said. “It feels great to be able to teach in such an excellent academic unit.”

Deen’s professional work primarily focuses on political expression online. In 2011, he worked on a study that dealt with the influence of social media on the Arab Spring.

Deen said he admires Pierce for his relentlessly positive attitude and ability to immediately connect with others.

“We’re very different in our personalities but we always have fun when we get together,” he said. “He’s one of the most positive people I know.”

Deen said a standout memory he has of him and his family is them arguing over a plate.

“We had this yellow plastic plate that had everyone in the family’s name on it,” he said. “It was called the family plate, and every night we used to fight over who gets to eat on the family plate.”

Maya Freelon Asante — Pierce and Deen’s sister — is an award-winning artist who has showcased work in places like Paris, Jamaica, Italy and the US Embassy in Madagascar.

Asante uses a special kind of tissue called bleeding tissue paper that blends with other colors around it when it comes in contact with water. She developed a technique called tissue ink monoprint and utilizes this process to create artwork.

“I blend the improvisational side from my mom and the creative design side from my dad,” Asante said.

Asante said her artistic inspiration comes from her grandmother, who passed away in 2011. She said her artwork is about building community, and she feels a tremendous sense of joy when she sees her artistry on display.

“I also feel like I’m honoring my grandmother and all of our ancestors that came before us,” she said. “Because of their sacrifices, I’m able to be an artist.”

Philip and Nnenna said they are proud of the work their children are doing individually.

“I love my kids and am so proud that we’ve helped to raise good people,” Nnenna said. “It’s the gift you give to yourself and the world.”

city@dailytarheel.com

 

Click HERE to view available artwork by MAYA FREELON ASANTE.

Click HERE to read the article in full.