September 23rd at 2:00pm: Patric McCoy (Diasporal Rhythms Co-Founder) and Stephen Jones (Major Art Supporter) have an in-depth dialogue about the importance of art in our community and the encouragement of artist and collector relationships. Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago. IL. $10 for Members $15 for Guests
THE PROMISE OF PEACE PROJECT
Sandra McCollum April 2017
The Promise of Peace collaboration between four Chicago South-Side Arts Organizations was a prolific visual arts project. The partners in this initiative, The Beverly Arts Center of Chicago, The Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, The South Side Community Art Center and Diasporal Rhythms eagerly embraced the opportunity to work with young people in the Chicago Community who could give a voice to the causes and solutions of violence through the arts. Conceived and coordinated by Diasporal Rhythms, a Chicago organization of art lovers and collectors, it emerged as a strong artistic response to the concept of peace. Thought provoking and deeply moving images with themes of the earth, transformation, identity, peace, heritage and the indomitable spirit of man were evident in the work of the students and the teaching artists.
This intergenerational display of artistic expression underscores the importance of resolving differences in a manner which grants fairness and justice to all opposing ideologies. An African proverb states, “The ruin of a people begins in its homes.” Could it be that healing begins in the homes as well? It is important to begin having intergenerational conversations to find solutions to differences which intensify into conflicts leading to violent conclusions.
Gun violence has escalated, astounding the community with incomprehensible statistics. In 2016 over 700 shootings took the lives of children and other innocent victims in Chicago. Within the last decade, the City of Chicago has paid ½ billion dollars to settle lawsuits against policemen charged with unjustifiable shootings of minorities, misconduct and brutality. An additional 84.6 million was paid in fees. The absence of Peace is disconcerting.
Through the eyes of the artists involved in the Promise of Peace Project, we clearly see ideas for the remedy. An interesting display of colorful shoes belonging to multiple ethnicities was painted by Vicki Tesmer at the Beverly Arts Center. Her message is obvious. What do we see when we look at the feet, likenesses or differences? A teaching artist, Al Hawkins, created a beautiful expression of his concept of peace. Influenced by the words and music of Bob Dylan, his imagination flowed into the creation of a beautiful Black woman clothed in a copious white three dimensional drape, entitled, “Shelter from the Storm.” One concludes that Peace can mean comfort and love.
Damon Lamar Reed, a teaching artist at The Beverly Art Center, boldly displayed his majestic wall hanging, “I’ve Got Rights.” A Black man holding an American flag demonstrates the disrespect and injustices perpetrated against Minorities. It generates in us an awareness of anger and disenfranchisement, other causes of potential violence. This massive quilt is laden with symbolism. Gold stars border the corners. The man is dressed in the standard white tee shirt and dark pants of the ubiquitous black man, seen as the victim and the perpetrator.
The Logan Center Project participants embarked upon this project by examining the motivation and actions of numerous peacemakers and defenders of human rights. Self-examination as it relates to the perception of peace was also a fulcrum of inspiration. Young artists at the Logan Center created Rain Sticks which had personal meanings for them. Their immersion into the project was evident in the symbolic imagery. The ancient origins of the rain sticks and the innovative discussions of the group elicited poetic spoken words and musical renditions from the participants. The final art projects, functional musical/ meditation Rain Sticks are worthy of many moments of self-reflection.
At The Southside Community Art Center (SSCAC) we see the works of an extremely perceptive young woman who appears to be wise beyond her years. Dionne Victoria painted the face of a young black girl entitled “This Little Light.” This photo-realism rendition of this lovely child gives one pause to see the look of light, hope, joy, and expectancy in the eyes of a symbolic youth who could potentially lose this promise to violence. The light and innocence seen in the subject of this painting are universal expressions of all life should offer to our children.
The quotation, “All art is autobiographical,” was exemplified at the SSCAC within the authenticity of eleven year old Brooklyn Starks’ artwork. Her story is embedded in her creation entitled, “Negative Thoughts.” The sixth grader has experienced bullying since her early elementary school days. The Promise of Peace project at the SSCAC provided a comforting and safe haven for Brooklyn to reveal her story and to heal the wounds her psyche suffered during the years of bullying. “…The pearl is the oyster’s autobiography.” Brooklyn’s autobiography, expressed through art, has opened her to a different and positive perspective of herself.
Also at The Southside Community Art Center, Ruby Simmons displays vibrant color and a mixture of common elements found in the Earth to give meaning to the lone female in her creation, “She Walks.” Ruby’s artistic rendition is part of a series representative of the five stages of grief. We can only imagine that the prominent figure walks alone in strength, and to impart strength to her fellow man as she seeks inner peace.
The Promise of Peace embraced a variety of ways in which peace can be achieved. The lack of violence is peace. Walking away from a potentially violent conflict could be the first step toward peace. Seeking inner peace and treating our fellow man justly are other avenues toward achieving peace. Confronting injustices through conversation and art is a pathway to establishing the desired harmony we seek in our society. The young people participating in this project have provided us all with inspiration and hope.
May 26, 2016
Paul Branton is definitely a Griot of urban Chicago life with dazzling stories to tell on a colorful canvas. He is so influenced by the spirit of the city; we see his images of the past, present and future in his work as if he is graced by primordial energies only he can feel. His paintings chronicle tales of the community in a non-linear fashion recording time as a cyclical phenomenon, transmitting and preserving our cultural memories. His paintings are imbued with multiple tones and shades of primary colors reflective of his early training. One art instructor challenged him not to use blacks and whites to create chiaroscuro effects of shadows of light and darkness. He incorporated this practice as his signature style. We find this palette in his abstracts, his more literal themes of portraits, and in his imaginative paintings of fantasies.
Collaboration as a guiding principle is obvious in several portraits he and Chicago artist, Brian Golden worked on simultaneously. In these seamless depictions of James Baldwin, Jimmy Hendrix, Nelson Mandela, and Bob Marley, one can almost sense Paul’s euphoric feeling he describes as being in another zone. The primary colors of these portraits leap out at the viewer, captivated by the planes and definitive lines in these works.
Collaboration is also a source of inspiration for Mr. Branton. He stated the adage, “Iron sharpens iron,” to describe his continuous penchant for seeking creative stimulation from other artists. Believing that art should inspire and resonate with the viewer, he seeks the critique of other artists to hone his craft, as well as the partnership implicit in collaboration. In addition to promoting culture and the arts in communal venues, he has also worked closely with other Chicago artists, David Geary, Darno Demby and Brian Golden. The fruits of their artistic synergy were seen in several art shows.
He characterizes his style as urban with the subject matter representative of his influences and reflections of the present and the past. Always socially conscious, Branton incorporates these themes in his paintings of love and family. He likes to take liberties with what the eye sees and expand his imagination on the subject and on the style of the art piece.
One provocative image in his human body series is of a nude female polishing her toenails. She is seated in a red chair surrounded by shades of primary and secondary colors shown in the interior surroundings. Her body is contorted in the peculiar shape only women who paint their own toenails understand. It is a realistic depiction of a woman preparing for an important evening, hair neatly combed and her body only needing the finishing touches of beauty on her toes.
In a particularly expressive painting of the role of fatherhood, he has captured in the foreground the images of a father and three children standing under the protection of a golden colored umbrella. Symbolically, he is shielding each from the forces of oppression one sees in the background. Words commonly used to define the condition of oppressed people are written in the background. Noosed bodies are hanging from trees while gleeful crowds gather underneath them looking and pointing to their dead images. Other icons of danger and subjection surround the family. Cotton grows near-by a huge linked chain, reminders of the enslavement of black people. The painting itself is depicted in bold primary and secondary colors. This work of art is entitled “The Role of Being Colored.” In another painting, the embodiment of Black women going through storms, Mr. Branton, uses the color blue to depict mood. The image of a woman’s face, obscured behind vague clouds symbolic of misery, appear as an unfinished concept. Her chin lifts forward as if to say, I am keeping my chin up.
Artist Paul Branton is an embodiment of the Humanities. His life expresses The Arts in his creations of film making, painting, commercial art, fine art, and in poetry. He is involved in teaching and collaborative productions in theatre, art, and music, or in a combined presentation of these disciplines. His influences are so numerous; we see script incorporated onto his socially conscious visuals, as a reminder, a written message too important to leave to the viewer’s imagination. An artist who loves jazz, he listens to his favorites as a muse of inspiration while he paints.
Sandra McCollum April 30, 2016
George Crump is an artist whose oeuvre expresses his social and political views in a visual chronicle of the collective experiences of African American people. Oddly, these statements are often so profound that initially one becomes immersed in the personal narrative of George Crump’s political expressions, and does not focus on the earth tone colors and the stylized shapes commonly found on his canvasses.
According to the artist, each painting begins with a statement. It is only after the idea is crystalized that he infuses color into the message. Each work of art invites the viewer to share in the story, to find the intended message, and to expand upon it. It is through stimulating dialogue of the artist’s intent and the viewer’s interpretation that true significance of the artwork can be appreciated.
While visiting with Mr. Crump, we viewed and discussed numerous works of art. The following descriptions are Hallmarks of George Crump’s artistry.
FORTY ACRES REVISITED
This is a painting of a rocking horse with an unpainted hand attached to the saddle. There is a square object with a hole in the center distanced so far away from the rocking horse it almost appears to tell its own story. This art work is symbolic of the broken promise of 40 acres and a mule conceived as a form of reparation to be issued to all freed slaves. The hole within the acre is indicative of the flawed pledge. The image of a rocking horse is a toy, a representation of an item only useful or comforting to the puerile. The unpainted hand will become animated with color when the promise is kept. The artist’s intent is clearly noted as the beholder of the artwork becomes involved in the dialogue of broken promises. The viewer is at once captivated by the imagery and the metaphor of being cast aside when one’s usefulness is spent like an old rocking horse. Are we the descendants, arrested in that space of innocence and expectancy, still lamenting the unfulfilled promises of acceptance and equality?
The title of this painting evokes troubled memories of the destructive Hurricane Katrina. In contrast, the scene displayed on the canvas is calm and peaceful. The even tone of the blue water has only a small ripple throughout its expansive space to give any indication of the turmoil of the actual event. The artist achieved this consistency with a brush, although it appears to be the work of a palette knife. The three anthropomorphic figures painted in the brown tones of African Americans are identical with the exception of female breast affixed on the central figure. Each is nude from the waist up. One figure is reclining on a mattress, reminiscent of many desperate Katrina victims who unwittingly floated on vulnerable mattresses, until they were overturned or sunken by its water logged weight. Although the female is the middle figure in the painting, she is guiding a male who is in front, and she is pulling the mattress with the reclining male figure. She is central to the theme both figuratively and in the reality of her placement on the canvas.
This painting features several of the familiar stylized human figures riding a bus sitting next to one another on a long seat. Each is engaged in various activities which precludes conversation with one another. What is the artist’s statement? Have we as a society become so jaded in our attempts to conform, we are afraid to engage in human interaction? Are we comfortable in our own isolation?
This painting deviates from the more literal figures of many of Mr. Crump’s paintings and creates a metaphor within a metaphor. The title, manumission is a term meaning the act of a slave holder freeing his or her slaves. We, the viewers, become transfixed looking at a transparent rectangular box containing a tree which cannot bear leaves because of its confinement. There are seams along the edges of the box where some of the branches of the tree have managed to emerge from its imprisoned state. Once free the lifeless tree sprouts leaves allowing it to luxuriate in all that freedom promises.
Mr. Crump’s works of art are not without humor. The artist has a friend named Sydney who has a lot of children. He can never find the solitude he desires unless he goes into the bathroom. This colorful painting finds his friend Sydney perched upon his royal throne, the only place where he reigns supreme. He is seated on a closed toilet seat using it as a stool as he peacefully reads a book in a beautiful light green bathroom. Sydney is dressed in shocking red pajamas which contrast quite nicely with the soft tones of the green bathroom. A red Cardinal is perched in the room staring a Sydney. He and Sydney are both in the same vivid red. Even in his peaceful place he is disturbed by this beautiful cardinal, a universal symbol of love and relationships, intruding into his inner space.
For those of you who missed this artist studio visit and a wonderful experience, it is hoped that this synopsis whets your imagination and encourages you to attend next time.
Sandra McCollum April 24, 2016
Diasporal Rhythms hosted a most informative Art Smart presentation entitled “What’s On Your Walls?” at The Hyde Park Art Center on April 23, 2016. One of our members, Patricia Wells, was the presenter. Patricia is an avid Art Collector whose love of art and years of experience in documenting her own collection gave credence to the importance of protecting your beautiful and valuable assets. She was joined by Isadore Howard, a skilled photographer of artwork included in numerous publications. He is also a photographer of choice requested frequently by individual collectors to create visual records of their personal collections. Their combined knowledge and expertise held the attention of the audience of art collectors as they guided us through the thought provoking process.
Have you taken any steps to protect the value of your collection from the unexpected havoc of fires, theft or flood? How would you prepare for restoration of damaged pieces of art? Have you documented your assets for the purpose of insurance or probate? Have you ever considered sharing your personal collection as a museum loan or a donation?
In case you missed the presentation, here are some ideas presented that you should think about in your documentation:
Create Images for each piece of art work in your collection.
Who is the artist?
What is the title, the subject and the date it was created?
What medium was used to create this piece?
Do you have the measurements?
Be sure to document your purchase, keep your receipts and invoices, provide a condition report, and appraisals.
What is the provenance of your art work?
Finally, our expert presenters suggested a soft wear program which will provide a professional management option for the documentation of your collection;
15% discount on any of 3 programs purchased between April 23rd and June 23rd. Use the promotional code: Diasporal
Be certain to Save the Date, Saturday, May 21 2016 for our next Art Smart presentation with printmaker Tom Lucas at Chicago State University at 11: A.M. Watch for email notification.