Wellesley College to Philadelphia for Black Art Experience

Seven students in my seminar this semester, “From the Bayou to Boston: African American Art and Identity,” are joining me in Philadelphia for the last few days of spring break. I have had a tremendously enriching time exchanging ideas with them about engaging race with visual material, particularly the fine arts. We’re making the rounds in Philadelphia, and I’m hoping that we’ll continue our stimulating conversations during our time in the city. Wellesley students are awesome! Trust.

Faith, Identity, and History: Representations of Christianity in Modern and Contemporary African American Art, A Symposium – http://christianityhistoryart.org/PHL2012.html

This weekend will prove to be an enriching experience for scholars of American Art. I, and my fellow co-chairs, Emily Hage of St. Joseph’s University and James Romaine of Nyack College, began working on this since last spring. There is truly nothing more satisfying than seeing the results of long hours of hard work coming to fruition.

In addition to the symposium on Friday night and all day Saturday, my students and I will receive guided tours of Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the American, Modern and Contemporary Collections at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and a walking architectural tour of Philadelphia.

I’ll post pictures and comments over the next few days. Please read, enjoy and share with a friend!

Follow me on Twitter: @nikkigphd. #AfAmArtPhil #Wellesley #Phil

Art through the eyes of a child

My daughter with Radcliffe Bailey's "Echo"

Sometimes, I wish I could just get on the floor of the Davis or the Met or MOMA and really look at art, especially the stuff that requires a kind of intense, physical interaction (Think, Joseph Beuys, I Like America and America Likes Me)…ok, maybe not that intensely.

Last night, I took my four-year-old to the Davis Museum at Wellesley College. The theme was “Georgia on My Mind” in conjunction with the exhibition, Radcliffe Bailey: Memory as Medicine. Sweet tea in mason jars, okra, pulled pork sandwiches, and peach cobbler were on the menu. I went to support the students, but I also knew it would be yet another great event for my daughter.

Museum educators will tell you it’s a joy to see art through the eyes of a child. I was taken aback by my daughter’s immediate impulse to get on the floor to examine the seashell filled with Georgia red clay that Radcliffe added as part of the installation of Echo (2012). Next time you’re in a museum, perhaps you’ll really look at art. Don’t just stand there!

On April 18, I’m giving a talk, “Radcliffe Bailey’s Soundscapes,” at the Collins Cinema in conjunction with the Davis Museum at Wellesley College at 6 p.m.


Checking out Radcliffe Bailey's "Windward Coast" at the Davis Museum

Can You Paint FAITH?

Moe Brooker does! I’ve interviewed him, and I believe him. I’ve titled my talk, “To the Glory of God (TTGG): Moe Brooker’s Painted Faith” at the upcoming symposium, Faith, Identity, and History: Representations of Christianity in Modern and Contemporary African American Art,” sponsored by the Association for Scholars of Christianity in Art History (ASCHA). Here’s why…

Throughout his more than four-decade-long career in the arts, Philadelphia native Moe Brooker, has created a distinctive artistic language that calls out to viewers to not only look at his works as arrangements of patterns, colors, and shapes on canvas or paper, but also as investigations into the human spirit. His paintings are as multi-layered and complex as the people who have the opportunity to encounter them. Jazz music and his spiritual grounding, along with his general experiences as an African-American artist have contributed to the energetic, abstract mixed-media paintings. The painting process as a daily devotion for him, he asserts, is “almost like a prayer…and what passes through me is not of my own invention. It comes from the higher Being…It’s not church. This is my private worship.” You’ll have to come to the symposium to hear more (including a recorded duet between him and his wife, Cheryl). The Alumni Sales Gallery at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts will also feature Moe’s work. He’s an inspiration for his students at Moore College of Art & Design. See his poignant and engaging 2010 convocation at Moore (click here). Wouldn’t you love to be his student?!

The Symposium: On Friday, March 23 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art & Saturday, March 24, scholars will explain–and challenge–our understanding of how African American artists painted, sculpted, photographed, and plain ‘ol lived their faith through the expression of visual arts from the turn of the 20th century to the present. The symposium will take place in conjunction with the enthralling exhibition, Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spiritcurated by my University of Delaware grad colleague, Anna O. Marley. Early registration for the symposium ends March 14! The exhibition closes April 15. You don’t want to miss this many Tanners in one room! The New York Times agrees. Read the review of the show.

For more on what I’m art historicizing about this spring, see What’s Next…


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