“This world is too small for less than brotherhood – too dangerous for less than truth.”
In celebration of National Black History Month, a joint exhibition at the Steffen Thomas Museum of Art in Buckhead and the Morgan County African-American Museum in Madison features works by five of Georgia’s most vibrant and exciting contemporary artists.
“Celebrating Black History Month: 5 PERSPECTIVES” is on display at the Steffen Thomas Museum of Art through March 17. In wide-ranging works and in numerous artistic styles, the paintings, sculptures, photographs and textiles boldly embrace universal themes while exploring specific aspects of the human journey – the search for identity, the longing for home, the power of spirituality, and the importance of family connections.
When recently speaking of her father’s work, his vision, and his legacy, Lisa Conner referenced a recurring theme in his art – that of depicting humanity as a family of universal commonalities, an idea that all people despite differences in their religion, gender, nationality, and citizenship were in fact a brotherhood. That philosophy seems to be as relevant now as when Steffen Thomas arrived on the American art scene in 1929. It is this spirit of inclusiveness which marks this upcoming collaboration between STMA and the Morgan County African-American Museum.
A roundtable discussion and Q&A session will be held with the five artists along with exhibit curator, Judy Barber, from 3-5 p.m. on March 3 at the Steffen Thomas Museum. The community is invited to join the artists for a discussion about their works, influences, and artistic processes. The free event will include a Q&A following the presentation.
This current body of work explores the tensions found within systemic codes in which the black body – hunted, sexualized, feared, imprisoned – is also seen as a symbol of grandeur. Welding deeply political statements and integrating imagery from the black body into paintings, toile schema, found objects, and media addresses the use of the black body and the control of that body for decorative purposes.
Cole’s colorful and expressive abstractions, often bridging painting and sculpture, are infused with political and social content informed by the struggles of African Americans. He often incorporates patterns and textures from traditional African cloths to speak to human conditions and behaviors.
This body of work is a visual exploration of how African Diasporal societies in the South are fighting social, economic, educational, and psychological wars from within and without to survive. The honest and false narratives of history embodied in this series are primarily personified in patinated colossuses that commemorate the people, culture, and battles that the populations they tower over have fought and continue to fight. We are at war on two fronts.
Utilizing text, primary source documents that include images from public and private archives, my work seeks to provide an avenue for exploration of race and culture especially as it pertains to the South and its myriad of contradictions. Textiles and quilting are important vehicles especially since cotton and milling were once staples of the southern economy and the transatlantic slave trade.
My work emerges through the layering and remixing of the visual, literary, and sonic production of the African Diaspora. It is important to me that I up-end the limited box of signifiers that often come to be called black culture. By freely using symbols and signs from various world spiritual traditions, I pay simultaneous homage to the African roots of my heritage and the impact of the world on that heritage.