Tag Archives: Amber Robles Gordon

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.

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AMBER ROBLES-GORDON’s art + justice “Talking Sticks” workshop at Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture

7 Oct

Click HERE to sign up for this exciting “Talking Sticks” workshop with AMBER ROBLES-GORDON at the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC).

art + justice with Amber Robles-Gordon

art + justice with Amber Robles-Gordon

When Friday, October 20, 2017, 7:30 – 9:50pm
Details

art + justice is a platform for adults to explore the intersection of tactile art-making, thoughtful reflection, and personal enrichment. Through artist-led guided projects audiences unlock their creative potential within themselves, while also enjoying the opportunity to exchange ideas with community towards social justice. art + justice is a hands-on maker space that stimulates creative agency, while providing the mental and emotional space to work through complicated issues around race, gender, identity, and social cohesion.

Through art + justice the museum provides a rare creative outlet where audiences can interact with professional artists, experience expert techniques in a variety of art practices, and explore motivations for creating art. Art projects are designed to accommodate all skill levels. Audiences can take home their creations.

This program amplifies an important pillar of the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s  mission to explore and share how American values such as resilience, optimism, and agency are reflected in the African American community’s past, present, and future. art + justice embraces the therapeutic power of creativity to improve well-being, increase positive emotions and endorphins, and invigorate restorative energy towards personal and social peace and wellness.

Artist + Art Project:
Washington, DC textile and mixed media artist, Amber Robles-Gordon leads a beginner’s-level art lesson creating “Talking Sticks” – a symbol used in many indigenous cultures to designate the authority to speak within a group setting. This symbolic art-making lesson reflects on the long history of community activism with the African American community and beyond and encourages dialogue while providing space for personal reflection and introspection.


Light refreshments will be served, included in the ticket price of the event.

Event Location Heritage Hall, African American History and Culture
Webcast www.ustream.tv…
Get Tickets www.etix.com…
Accessibility Wheelchair accessible

MFA’s NATE LEWIS and AMBER ROBLES-GORDON at the Pennsylvania College of Art & Design

29 Sep

 

 

The Mosaic Project: Amber Robles Gordon and Nate Lewis

The 9th annual Mosaic Project:

Amber Robles Gordon and Nate Lewis

Made possible in part by a grant from the Richard S. & Ann B, Barshinger Family Foundation

Oct 2ndDec 8th

First Friday receptions October 6, Nov 3 and Dec 1

Amber Robles Gordon

Amber Robles-Gordon, is a mixed media visual artist.  She primarily works and is known for her use of found objects and textile to create assemblages, large-scale sculptures and installations.  Her work is representational of her experiences and the paradoxes within the female experience.

Nate Lewis

Nate Lewis is a self taught artist, drawing inspiration from anatomy, physiology, disease processes and his nursing experience as a care taker of patients and their family members he creates stunning, intricate 2-3d sculptures out of single sheets of paper that visually combines the aesthetics of drawing, sculpture, etching, embroidery, and textiles.

The Mosaic Project: The significance of art in the lives of our youth cannot be underestimated. Yet, just when research is finally emerging that supports this, budget cuts and curricular demands are threatening the foundation of creativity in our public schools. In order to fill that gap as well as enrich the community, Pennsylvania College of Art & Design developed The Mosaic Project, a multicultural exhibition and education program for students and families in Lancaster County.

 


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 pca&d

AMBER ROBLES GORDON and NATE LEWIS at Pennsylvania College of Art & Design

8 Jun

The Mosaic Project: Amber Robles Gordon and Nathaniel Lewis

The 9th annual Mosaic Project:

Amber Robles Gordon and Nathaniel Lewis

Oct 2ndDec 8th

First Friday receptions October 6, Nov 3 and Dec 1

Amber Robles Gordon

“My artwork is a visual representation of my hybridism: a fusion of my gender, ethnicity, cultural, and social experiences. I impose colors, imagery, and materials that evoke femininity and tranquility with the intent of transcending or balancing a specific form. I associate working with light, color, and energy as a positive means to focus on the healing power found in the creative process and within us all. It is my belief that colors have both feminine and masculine energies and each color represents a specific aspect of nature.”

Amber Robles-Gordon, is a mixed media visual artist.  She primarily works and is known for her use of found objects and textile to create assemblages, large-scale sculptures and installations.  Her work is representational of her experiences and the paradoxes within the female experience.

Robles-Gordon has over fifteen years of exhibiting, art education, and exhibition coordinating experience.  She completed her Masters of Fine Arts from Howard University in November 2011, where she has received annual awards and accolades for her artwork. Since, her exhibitions and artwork has been reviewed and/or featured in the Washington Post, Washington City Paper, Washington Informer, Examiner, WAMU American University Radio, WPFW 89.3, MSNBC the grio, Hyperallergeric, Ebony.com, the Miami Herald, Huffington Post, Bmore Art Magazine, and Callaloo Art & Culture in the African Diaspora.

She has exhibited nationally and in Germany, Italy, Malaysia, London, and Spain. In 2010, Robles-Gordon was granted apprenticeship to create a public art installation with the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, D.C. Creates Public Arts Program. Robles-Gordon was also commissioned to create temporary and permanent public art installations for numerous art fairs and agencies such as the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, DCCAH, Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association (NVFAA), Humanities Council of Washington, D.C., Howard University, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and the Washington Projects for the Arts.

Throughout her career, she serves as an advocate for the Washington, DC area arts community. As of November 2004 through July 2012, Robles-Gordon has been an active member of the Black Artists DC, (BADC) serving as exhibitions coordinator, Vice President and President. Robles-Gordon is also the Co-Founder of Delusions of Grandeur Artist Collective. In 2012, Robles-Gordon was selected to present for the Under the Influence competition as part of the 30 Americans Exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

Additionally, she has been commissioned by the Smithsonian Anacostia Museum, Luther College, WETA Television, Al Jazeera, The Kojo Nnamdi Show, Howard University, David C. Driskell Center, the Phillips Collection, the African American Museum in Philadelphia  and Mc Daniel College  to teach workshops, give commentary, and or present about her artwork. Most recently, Robles-Gordon has been selected for the Centro Cultural Costarricense-Norteamericano, Back the Roots, Teaching Residency in Limon, Costa Rica.

 

Nate Lewis

“As a critical care registered nurse I desired to become emotionally porous. I sought for the impersonal experiences of patients and families to become personal and intimate. This resulted in distilling untested qualities of my character and further illuminating areas of my identity. I aim for this work to show the power of freedom within boundaries, and to question to what lengths are we willing to lay aside our pride, comfort, and fear to make room for empathy, within intimate and larger social contexts.”

Born and raised outside of Pittsburgh in the town of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, Nate Lewis is currently living and working in Washington, DC.

Lewis began his working career as a critical care registered nurse, he received a BS in nursing in 2008 and has since worked in a medical-surgical intensive care unit, a stroke unit, and spent most of his time in a neuroscience-surgical intensive care unit. He has been working as a critical care registered nurse for six years. He began pursuing the arts in 2008, first it was music, violin. He then started pursuing the visual arts in 2010. A self-taught artist, drawing inspiration from anatomy, physiology, disease processes and his nursing experience as a care taker of patients and their family members he creates stunning, intricate 2-3d sculptures out of  single sheets of paper that visually combines the aesthetics of drawing, sculpture, etching,  embroidery, and textiles. His approach to his work is often instinctive and free while at the same time surgically precise. Lewis’s work pushes the idea of freedom within boundaries, and seeks to confront perceptions of vulnerability, tragedy, and time.

He has exhibited his work more than 30 times in the past 5 years, most recently at the  Morton Fine Art, Washington DC, Loyola University, Baltimore, MD, 2016 Biological Tapestries 1st Movement, Morton Fine Art, Washington DC,  Art on the Vine, Marthas Vineyard, MA,  GalleryNine5, New York, NY, Joan Hisoka Gallery, Washington, DC, Cordesa Fine Art, San Francisco, Ca, and Brilliant Champions Gallery, Brooklyn NY. His work has been covered in the Houston Chronicle , Strictly Paper   and Scrub Magazine.  He has been a recipient three times of the DC Commission of the Arts & Humanities Visual Artist Fellowship Grant, Artist in Residence by Pioneer Works, Brooklyn, NY, and Regional Winner of Bombay Sapphire Artisan Series, Washington DC.

The Mosaic Project: The significance of art in the lives of our youth cannot be underestimated. Yet, just when research is finally emerging that supports this, budget cuts and curricular demands are threatening the foundation of creativity in our public schools. In order to fill that gap as well as enrich the community, Pennsylvania College of Art & Design developed The Mosaic Project, a multicultural exhibition and education program for students and families in Lancaster County.

 

– See more at: http://pcad.edu/gallery-exhibit/the-mosaic-project-amber-robles-gordon-and-nathaniel-lewis/#sthash.Yzma5SLf.dpuf

Click HERE to view available artwork by AMBER ROBLES GORDON and NATE LEWIS.

AMBER ROBLES GORDON at the Houston Museum of African-American Culture

22 Mar

THE HOUSTON MUSEUM OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN CULTURE PRESENTS  i found god in myself: a celebration of Dr. Ntozake Shange’s, for colored girls
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC FRIDAY, MARCH 10, 2017 THROUGH APRIL 15, 2017  Houston, TX- February 7, 2017— In honor of Women’s History Month, The Houston Museum of African-American Culture (HMAAC) is proud to present, i found god in myself: a celebration of Dr. Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls, curated by Souleo. The exhibit celebrates the genre bending, award-winning choreopoem/play, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, which debuted on Broadway in 1976.
Through 10 commissioned artworks by artists including Houston native Kimberly Mayhorn, Dianne Smith, Margaret Rose Vendryes and Amber Robles-Gordon the exhibition is a tribute to the Broadway play. Each work honors an individual poem and underscores their enduring significance in highlighting issues impacting the lives of women of color such as sexuality, race, sisterhood, violence and self-love depicted in and inspired by Dr. Shange’s work.
 “This exhibition underscores the conversation Dr. Shange started, extending the legacy and impact of her work into the visual arts medium,” explains Souleo, curator of i found god in myself. “The issues surrounding love, sexuality, gender equality, racial identity, and, ultimately, self-love explored by her work remain relevant today,” said Souleo.
 The exhibition will also include archival material that highlights the creation and evolution of the original text from its 1974 California debut to its Broadway run from the Barnard Archives and Special Collections at Barnard College.

 i found god in myself originally debuted in 2014 at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Long Gallery Harlem (formerly The Sol Studio) and La Maison d’Art. It has since traveled to the African American Museum in Philadelphia and is now presented at HMAAC.

Special programming accompanying the exhibition includes:
Friday, March 10, 6:30-8:30 PM: Opening Reception at HMAAC with curator and select exhibiting artists in attendance. Wine and light fare will be provided.

A full listing of related public programs can be found at www.hmaac.org

Exhibiting Artists: 
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.
###ABOUT HOUSTON MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN CULTURE 
The mission of the Houston Museum of African American Culture (HMAAC) is to collect, conserve, explore, interpret, and exhibit the material and intellectual culture of Africans and African Americans in Houston, the state of Texas, the southwest and the African Diaspora for current and future generations. HMAAC explores stories inspired by themes of opportunity, empowerment, creativity, and innovation and cultural interrelationships through the lens of the African American experience.

 About Dr. Ntozake Shange:
Ntozake Shange is an American playwright, and poet. As a self-proclaimed black feminist, she addresses issues relating to race and feminism in much of her work.  Shange is best known for the Obie Award-winning play, For Colored Girls.  She has also written several novels including Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo, Liliane, and Betsey Brown. Among her honors and awards are fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund, and a Pushcart Prize.
 About Peter “Souleo” Wright:
Peter “Souleo” Wright creates and produces entertaining and informative events, exhibitions, cultural programs and media content. Souleo has collaborated with noteworthy institutions and brands including the New York Public Library, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay & Lesbian Art, AARP, Huffington Post, EBONY and more. Souleo’s work has been widely covered outlets including the Associated Press, NY Times, NBC and more.

 

AMBER ROBLES-GORDON Featured in BmoreArt

24 Jan

An Interview with Amber Robles-Gordon by Cara Ober

One of my favorite images from the most recent BmoreArt Journal of Art + Ideas features Myrtis Bedolla and Alex Hyman sitting in the front window of Galerie Myrtis in Baltimore. They gaze out toward a gorgeous stained-glass bowfront window up at a series of lively, rainbow-hued reedlike sculptures which dangle from the ceiling. There’s something intimate and seamless about this image despite the fact that it depicts an art gallery, which is typically a public space.

Perhaps it was the photo’s striking cohesion that caused an inadvertent omission of the artist’s name from the photo credits? After making a regrettable error in print, I was thrilled to connect with Amber Robles-Gordon, the DC-based sculptor and mixed media artist whose work is featured in the photograph, not only to apologize but to delve much more deeply into her work.

Despite the mistake, Robles-Gordon was gracious and generous. The following conversation has been an opportunity to learn more about her practice – one that is simultaneously emotional and personal, yet formal and structured. Robles-Gordon uses all sorts of materials and symbolic, bold color to explore nuanced perspectives on hybridity, using the physicality of her materials to represent the challenges and celebration inherent in her own existence.

Photo by Steven Spartana for Issue 3 of The BmoreArt Journal of Art + Ideas of Myrtis Bedolla and Alex Hyman in Galerie Myrtis with Amber Robles-Gordon’s “Above All You Must Not Play At God,” a Mixed Media Installation celebrating the life of Henrietta Lacks.

BmoreArt: Before settling in Washington, DC, you lived all over the world. Can you talk about how your family and upbringing has impacted your life as an artist? 

My family is from the Caribbean – primarily from St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Antigua, West Indies. I was born in Puerto Rico, raised in Arlington, Virginia, and have lived in Washington, DC for the last 20 years.

I am the oldest of two: my brother Alanzo Robles-Gordon and I are about seven years apart. By the time I was 12 years old, my parents were divorced. My father actively remained in our lives until I was 16 and my brother was about 4 years old. My brother and I were reluctantly indoctrinated to the cycle of being with our Dad every other weekend. My parents’ separation and then divorce tore away at my perception of bliss, of family, and of joy. Watching my mother, brother, and myself manage the cumbersome and overwhelming load of divorce was traumatic. Especially when you, as a 12 year-old, realize that infidelity was the primary reason.

It is my mother’s will and power that supported and nourished my authentic self. My mother, Carmen Robles-Inman, taught my brother and me that creating, writing, and self-expression were integral parts of one’s self and one’s family existence. She made sure to expose us to various visual art forms and cultural experiences. Additionally, through her love of people and languages, and her professional experiences as a public health specialist and social service practitioner, she made sure to envelop my brother and me in a patchwork of Afro-Latino, Caribbean, Central American, and American friends and loved ones.

Can you talk more about your multicultural roots and growing up outside of DC?

Growing up an Afro-Latina within the Arlington County school system during the 80’s was a challenging experience. I looked African-American, but did not act “black enough.” I talked “white” or spoke “too proper” and did not speak fluent Spanish and further did not look Latina. By nine years old I was already “developed.” I never needed make-up, I naturally looked grown. I was always one of just a few minority students within magnet programs from elementary to high school. The dichotomy of my Arlington county school experience made it hard to be multi-anything. I could not be a black girl and be smart or be a black girl and be pretty. I have countless memories of being challenged by for example white Arlington boys because I was assigned the same reading book as they were or in the same AP class and that just “could not be.”

Photo taken by Dianne Smith, detail of “My Rainbow is Enuf,” mixed media on chicken wire, 2014 as part of I found God in myself exhibition, at African American Museum of Philadelphia.

 

So the art making helped you to create your own identity because it was so hard to be yourself?

From an early age, I found solace, pride, and joy both from the process of creating art and in the artwork I produced. I have known from age 10 that I wanted to be an artist. As a young woman, it was clear to me that creating art was one of my most important personal resources. Having this knowledge at an early age forged a link between my social experiences and my art. My artwork from high school through college focused on drawing, photography, creating collages, and documenting my life experience.

My social constructs of being an Afro-Latina raised by a single mother in Arlington Virginia, has impacted or constructed who I am as individual and therefore impacts the methodology behind my artwork. I believe my Latino, African, and Caribbean heritage is inherent in my artwork. Hence, my artwork is a visual representation of my hybridism: a fusion of my gender, ethnicity, cultural, and social experiences.

“Of South and Fire,” Mixed Media on canvas, 2015, (Detail of Awakening the Matrilineal), an installation at American Univeristy, Katzen Art Center

You earned your MFA from Howard University in DC. What was your graduate school experience like and how did it impact your work? Can you talk a little about what your work was like before school and how your work and thinking changed by the end of it? Also – what was the impact of attending a HBC on your awareness of history and culture?

At entry into Howard University’s (HU) Department of Art, my artwork was predominantly two-dimensional, figurative collages and primarily about personal contemplations and explorations of self. During my second year of graduate study, the creation of two separates series, Light and Colored Lights Beads and The Matrix, sparked the identification of the matrix or grid as the underlying framework of my artwork. It provides a visual structure and conceptual framework for my art. The matrix symbolically represents both positive and negative aspects of our society and the background of human existence.

The grids and matrices address gender boundaries which have historically limited the opportunities for women in a patriarchal society. I merge colored, feminine objects and masculine forms — the grids and matrices — in order to visually fuse the various materials and female/male energies. The found objects symbolically articulate the need to recycle energy and power inherent to discarded materials.

Both series, Colored Light Beads and The Matrix, are iterations of the influence of Alma Thomas and Georges-Pierre Seurat’s work. Colored Light Beads are acrylic paintings. Each grid is set in a white square with slender parallel columns of varying tones of colors rising from top to bottom.

The Matrix Series – Quilt Matrix, Ladder Matrix, and Rain Matrix – became templates for a larger series titled Heal Thyself, which consisted of 3 – 31″ x 60″ panels of sewn, collaged, and/or adhered feminine materials and found objects on canvas. Heal Thyself was my first departure into the fold of fiber or textile arts. My objective was to create artwork that incorporated sewing cloth and adhering objects to canvas. I wanted the work to appear as a wall hanging or a scroll. Working with unprimed canvas allowed me to use a sewing machine to add cloth materials. In addition, the canvas would be able to withstand the weight of heavier objects being attached to it. Just as I previously used various paper materials as my source of color, I began using cloth materials and other found objects as my source of color.

As I began to search for other ways to represent matrices within my work, I came across a 110″ x 110″ piece of chicken wire that was bracketed to a wooden frame. My desire was to weave colored materials through the three-dimensional structure. This structure eventually evolved into the piece titled Flight of the Chicken Wire, a 107″ X 107 in” three-dimensional fiber and sculptural form. This work is a three-dimensional, life-size manifestation of the matrix represented throughout my work.

Photo by Dianne Smith, “My Rainbow is Enuf,” as part of I found God in myself exhibition, at Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

 

Regardless of the physical material used to represent the matrix, be it chicken wire, fabric, canvas, paper or acrylic grids, the matrix is the visual foundation of my artwork and it metaphysically represents the fabric — weft and warp — of our society and the imbalanced interactions between masculine and feminine energy. As I work with colored objects and materials, I am engaging the masculine and feminine energies represented in nature, colors, and objects to balance a form. I view this as a symbolic action employed to produce a transcendent positive social message, feelings, and/or critique.

My graduate experience has helped me to refine my artistic voice and has provided me the ability to create comprehensive series and to articulate the ideas and conceptual framework concerning my artwork. During my graduate studies, I was able to explore a number of media including graphic arts, assemblage, mixed media on canvas, and three-dimensional fiber woven structures. Subsequently, I have increased the range of media I employ and expanded the materials in my visual vocabulary.

Most importantly, the requirement of a written thesis, a visual exhibition, and oral defense forced me to examine and reevaluate myself and also manifest a 43 page paper titled “Matrices of Transformation.” After five years of attending this program as a single parent of a young child, working part-time, creating artwork, exhibiting two separate thesis defense committees, and engaging in one heightened exchange with a committee chair member (not to mention my various roles as part of BADC), “Matrices of Transformation” is to date one of the most important documents in my life. I am now cognizant and supported by both intuition and the academic reasoning as to why I utilize specific colors, materials, and concepts within my artwork and I have the ability to place my artwork within a historical and cultural context. Additionally, my experiences at HU broadened and strengthened my ability to write and speak about my artwork confidently.

“The Male, The Architect, The Protector,” mixed media on canvas, 2015

 

You are currently based in Washington, DC and exhibit your work all over the world. You’ve been significantly involved in the arts in DC, building community there since 2004, and an active member (as well as exhibitions coordinator, VP, and Prez!) of the BADC (Black Artists of DC) organization. How would you describe the art community in DC? Can you explain the BADC group – what it is and does? Also why ‘giving back’ to your community is important to you?

I graduated from Trinity University (previously Trinity College) in Washington DC in 2005 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. I pursued a business degree because I planned to manage my own art-based business and needed the knowledge to do so successfully. After graduating from Trinity, I began a search for an art community as well as a graduate program. My 15 year plan included applying to my top five graduate schools to pursue an art degree. However, I was introduced to Black Artists of DC (BADC) and several artists’ educators such as Gina Lewis and Aziza Gibson-Hunter. BADC is an African-centered, multi-generational artist community dedicated to “promote, develop and validate the culture, artistic expressions and aspirations of past and present artists of Black-Afrikan ancestry.”

I joined BADC in 2005 and my initial interactions with BADC convinced me to apply to Howard University’s Fine Art graduate program. In fact, I never actually applied to any of the other four graduate programs of my “top five” list. I consciously choose a Historically Black College/University (HBCU) at which to pursue my graduate degree. I am appreciative of the experiences and opportunities my elementary and high-school education provided however, once given the choice, I could not attend another predominantly white institution. I was determined to find a circumstance that would educate and nourish my spirit. My Masters in Fine Art program was my gift to myself… my authentic artist self.

At BADC, I found an art-family and I jumped in head first: I volunteered, attended meetings and advocated for BADC’s mission and its members. I began to assist with curating BADC’s first exhibits, Hidden Treasures and Found, with lead curator Barbara Blanco. Eventually, I become part of the Elders Council and began to contribute to the process of creating structure and establishing organizational by-laws and a mission statement, among other mechanisms. My work and involvement culminated into becoming the Vice President and then President of BADC.

I have often described dual involvement at BADC while completing my graduate work as “being in a dual master’s program: a Masters in Fine Art at Howard University and a masters in being as Fine Art Artist with BADC.” It was truly an invaluable, expansive and nurturing experience.

My association with BADC has been important to my development as a person and as a professional artist. The experience with BADC was an enriching supplement to my academic endeavors at HU as well as an asset to my understanding of art as an industry. BADC’s African-inspired structure has created an environment that promotes exploration of and awareness of one’s ethnic identity and the relationship to the power of art and community.

“The Female, The Oracle, The Nurturer,” mixed media on canvas, 2015

 

Additionally, the more I worked with BADC, the greater my exposure to the DC art scene. For example, through BADC I became aware of and involved with other important local art organizations, among them the DC Advocates for the Arts (a DC non-profit that “support[s] development of public policy for a creative, healthy, sustainable, and economically viable District of Columbia),” Artomatic (a multi-week, non-juried, multimedia arts event in DC), as well as Millennium Arts Salon (an art collector based organization dedicated to enhancing cultural literacy through arts programing).

In 2010, while I was still BADC president, I began having conversations with friend and artistic peer Jamea Richmond-Edwards. Richmond-Edwards is a collage and portrait artist and was also a BADC member and MFA student at Howard University. Our conversations about personal experiences in the art world, cultural influence, the legacy of Howard University, and the examination of artist groups and movements – Spiral, Black Artists of DC, Africobra, and the Black Arts Movement – lead us to co-found Delusions of Grandeur.

Today, Delusions of Grandeur is a collective of emerging artists brought together by shared interest and commitment to our art and to the mission to build a contemporary art cannon. We recognized a need to provide critique and commentary on social infrastructures within American society and to contribute to the prominence of the collective black voice and presence within contemporary art. Delusions of Grandeur is comprised of artists Shaunté Gates, Jamea Richmond-Edwards, Amber Robles-Gordon, Stan Squirewell, Wesley Clark, and Larry Cook.

In 2012, I stepped down from the role of BADC president. Although I am no longer actively involved in BADC, I see Delusions of Grandeur as part of the Howard Univeristy continuum and and influence of Black Artists of DC.

“Wired,” Mixed Media on Chicken Wire, 2011, Pleasant Plains Workshop,Washington, D.C.

 

Who are your favorite artists? Who has been most influential on your work?

My artist muse has always been the abstract expressionist painter, Alma Thomas (1891-1978). I was exposed to her artwork around seven or eight. My mother, at that time a student Georgetown University, was taking an African-American Art appreciation class taught by a visiting professor from Howard University. I was the only child at the time, which meant she took me everywhere. A class assignment was given to attend an exhibit featuring Alma Thomas. One of my most vibrant childhood memories is of my first encounter of Alma Thomas’ artwork. I can recall the physiological response of joy and being energized by simply being in front of her artwork. Her use of color and light has always greatly moved me, speaks to my spirit, and raises my energy. Additionally, my exposure to Impressionism, primarily Georges-Pierre Seurat (1859-1891), has also influenced the use of color in my artwork.

Both Thomas and Seurat have inspired my interpretation and use of color in my work. I am fascinated by Thomas’ mastery of color, space, and composition. She is also known for her bold use of primary colors, geometric forms, and her painterly brush strokes. Thomas left small spaces of white canvas in between her brush strokes, creating the appearance of mosaics or stained glasswork. As I began to evaluate the value, purpose, and aesthetic aspects of my art, I noticed similarities regarding the use of color and light, between the works of Alma Thomas, Seurat, and myself. Seurat, was a post-impressionist draftsman and painter who studied color theories, specifically those of Delacroix and the color scientists Herman von Helmholtz and Michael Chervreul. Seurat was interested in the science of painting and the process of optical color mixing. He used white space to enhance the perception of color. He created a technique called pointillism, in which an image is rendered using tiny dots of primary and secondary colors. When the image is viewed from afar, the eye fuses the colors to create intermediate colors.

In my early works, I used torn colored paper to create figurative paper mosaic compositions. Ripping the paper revealed its white fiber pulp, which provided areas of white space between each portion of color. Many of my paper mosaics appear from afar to look like Thomas’ paintings, until you come closer and see the texture of overlapping paper. The manner in which Thomas and Seurat used color and white space has influenced the way I visually perceive color and has informed my placement of colors. While appreciating their paths, I have used their groundbreaking explorations as a point of departure to create a technique or process of my own.

The various fabrics and objects I use provide an extensive color palette. Because I use colored items, I am also working with wavelengths of light absorbed or reflected by the object. I am interested in the energy dispersed, the visual sensation that occurs from viewing colors, and specifically, combined colored materials.

Combining various colored items can increase the visual sensation of the viewer. As a result, I intentionally focus on the distribution of vibrant colors within a composition. Each artwork has a distinctive rhythm, pattern, and sensation because each has a varied arrangement of colored materials.

Glass, Purse, Belt and Bra Traps, Mixed Media on Canvas, 2007

 

You work in a range of materials, but you are best known for mixed media assemblages with fabric and found objects. Please explain what these materials mean to you and how they enable you to think differently… how they expand or enrich your creative thinking process?

I definitely have an interest in materials or materiality yet I’m not sure if its equal to my interest in color. Although both are languages that I communicate with regularly, they effect me differently. Materials intrigue me but colors uplift and excite me.

I use the cloth materials and other found objects for my source of color. My color palette is the visual color spectrum and beyond. The perception of the traditional visual color palette has been expanded due to the range of additional colors and textures that now exist because of technological advancements in photography, the production of fabric, clothing, and other objects.

I use fabric, found objects, and color for their color value and perceived meaning. Each object or fabric has a color and colors are wavelengths of light, a disbursement of energy. Each object is absorbing or reflecting all colors but the color you actually see. I work with this process of perceiving color and refer to it as a color sensation or color energy. I purposefully maximize this process by using an array of colors arranged together in bursts. Color value, refers to two things: 1. The color that has been given to or assigned to the object or fabric, and 2. Any additional qualities of the fabric or object that enhance its characteristics, like the texture, shape, or patterns. Additionally, value can refer to actual meaning assigned to the object or color.

Specifically, when viewing my large scale fabric installations people usually initially respond to the arrangements of color. If the installation or mixed media work includes objects, then the viewer focuses on the objects or fabrics themselves. Viewers, tend to see the color arrangement first, then examine the actual materials and objects.

Additionally, energy is inherent in each piece of fabric and object I utilize. Each object has a history, the energy that remains from discarded cloth or objects.

“My Rainbow is Enuf,” Mixed Media on Chicken Wire, 2014 at Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Can you talk about the issues that really inspire your practice and interest and/or enrage you?

My artwork is a reflection of my experience being a woman of Caribbean, Puerto Rican, and African decent yet raised in Arlington, Virginia. It speaks to the various plains and roles of existence a woman must navigate in order to take on the societal constructs imposed or imprinted upon them within this patriarchal society. However, selfishly, I use abstraction, color, found objects, and mixed media as my methods of communications and not figuration. Primarily because these languages and tools are familiar and rewarding.

Using figuration, specifically the female form to question or challenge sexist societal and cultural notions of inequality, just (at this point) doesn’t quench my artistic sensibilities. I would rather present my queries and commentary using a framework grounded in universally systematic concepts such as grids, matrixes, color, and energy that should fundamentally be valued equally because they pertain to the human experience, regardless of being presented in gender based visual discourse.

The three central concepts in my artwork are: my love of color, womanhood, and recycling of objects memories and energy. I desire my artwork to embody my spiritual connection to color and project a sense of energy to positively affect others. In my evaluation, because “color begins with and is derived from light, either natural or artificial,” and since colors represent specific aspects of nature and the human experience, this in turn connects me to nature, my art, and to the viewer.

My creations symbolically express and explore my concerns of how contradictory dynamics placed on women effect women’s perceived value, how they are treated, and ultimately influences how they perceive themselves. From what I have observed in my own and in other women’s behavior, it appears that we have been socialized to internalize numerous beliefs, customs, and notions about how we are supposed to act, look, and live our lives. Subsequently, I aim to visually convey these specific social dynamics by symbolically weaving them into the art through colored materials and objects that are used by women.

I choose materials that for me exemplify femininity as well as question my perception of self, other women, and our consumer behaviors and materialistic values. I juxtapose colorful feminine objects and materials with fences and grids, which are symbolically masculine. I interpret these items as masculine forms because they are made of metal and are traditionally used to delineate boundaries. This is done as an attempt to visually transcend the implied social boundaries that the fences and grids represent. Overall, my intention is to create works that attempt to visually parallel the social and gender inequalities that are manifested in our world due to the imbalances of feminine and masculine energies.

I attempt to preserve and recycle memories and time by creating art that incorporates items that once had specific meaning for others and myself. Many of the items are materials I found at thrift stores or have used myself. I am fascinated by what people initially become attached to and how these same “things” are later discarded when deemed useless or unnecessary. I use these pieces to focus on the healing power within myself and to draw attention to the act of creating as a process of recycling, regenerating, and rebuilding.

The Male and Female installation:
The Male, The Architect, The Protector, is the outer circle. The inner circle is The Male: The Universe.
The outer circular, The Female, The Oracle, The Nurturer, and the inner circle is The One, The Source Within. Mixed Media on Canvas, 2015, Honfleur Gallery, Washington, D.C.

*****

Author Cara Ober is the Founding Editor at BmoreArt.

Photo Credit: Top Image by Dianne Smith of artist Amber Robles-Gordon standing in front of the her work, “My Rainbow is Enuf,” as part of  I found God in Myself exhibition, at African American Museum of Philadelphia.

 

MAYA FREELON ASANTE featured in Callaloo Art & Culture in the African Diaspora

14 Jun
We are proud to announce that artist MAYA FREELON ASANTE has been prominently featured in the journal – Callaloo Art & Culture in the African Diaspora – published by  The Johns Hopkins University Press. Founded in 1976 by Editor Charles Henry Rowell, this renowned journal celebrates 40 years in print.
MAYA FREELON ASANTE’s feature can be found in Volume 38, Number 4, Pages 801-804 and 896-898. Some of you may recognize your acquisitions featured!
Contact Morton Fine Art for the full pdf version. 
Morton Fine Art
1781 Florida Ave NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 628-2787
mortonfineart@gmail.com

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