Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ebony, Jet, Going the Way of Vibe?

Recently, I posted about an exhibit of Ebony Magazine covers in Portsmouth. This morning while perusing one of my favorite blogs, The Black Snob, I came across this post about how Johnson Publications' Ebony and Jet Magazines are struggling financially. What do you think? The comments are very interesting and present a variety of theories about why the publications are facing financial challenges: lack of support from the African American Community, lack of quality writing, lack of advertising revenue for all magazines. It's something to think about. I would hate to see such mainstays of the African American community go under; but, I have to admit the only time I read either publication is when I'm waiting at the barber shop.
Here's a link to the post on The Black Snob

Chemistry of Color

In 1988, renowned artist Jacob Lawrence visited the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) to give the school’s commencement address. During that trip, he wandered through the extensive American Art collection there, making a comment to then-Board Director Harold A. Sorgenti that would soon change the programming at the museum.
Lawrence pointed out the lack of African-American artists included in the collection. Sorgenti, also the president of ARCO Chemical Company, realized that Lawrence was scathingly correct; he set off to build the ARCO’s art collection to make up for the PAFA oversight.
The company began to collect only work by contemporary African American artists, concentrating on the time after the 1960s civil rights battles. ARCO amassed a treasure trove, but soon the company was swallowed up. Rather than allow the collection to be sold off piecemeal, Sorgenti bought it and donated it to PAFA.
The exhibition currently on view at the Taft Museum of Art, The Chemistry of Color: The Sorgenti Collection of African American Art, highlights some of the key artists in the PAFA collection: Saar, Faith Ringgold, Howerdina Pindell, Sam Gilliam, Beverly Buchanan and Romare Bearden, as well as Lawrence himself.

Richard Mayhew @ MOAD SF

Museum of the African Diaspora: The Art of Richard Mayhew, Oct. 9-Jan. 10, 2010. Deep, lush, brilliant color that will knock your socks off is just one of the many pleasures offered by Mayhew's paintings in a retrospective that includes landscapes and figurative works from the late 1950s through the 1970s. Mayhew, an activist and artist of African and Native American descent swept up in the fervor of the 1960s, was, along with Romare Bearden and Norman Lewis, a founding member of Spiral, a legendary coterie of black artists who addressed issues of racial equality through their art.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sister Gertrude Morgan

Sister Gertrude Morgan (1900-1980) was a preacher, missionary, artist, musician, and poet who worked in New Orleans in the 1960s and '70s, notable primarily for her folk art.
She was born in 1900 in Lafayette, Alabama, and moved to Columbus, Georgia at the age of eighteen. She was married to Will Morgan in 1928, but at the age of 38 heard a voice from God telling her to become a street evangelist. She left her family and husband to move to New Orleans, where she organized an orphanage with two other missionaries.

God told her to begin painting in 1956 and in 1957 heard a voice telling her that she was the Bride of Christ. Hearing this news, she adopted a white habit and moved out of the orphanage to establish "The Everlasting Gospel Mission" in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

Music was one of the tools of her ministry, and in the early 1970s, Let's Make A Record was recorded in order to capture Morgan singing and playing her tambourine.
She painted in order to create visual aids for her preaching, and her paintings use a colorful religious iconography. Some of her favorite subjects are the Book of Revelation and her and Jesus flying in an airplane, this last accompanied by the poem "Jesus is my air Plane." She painted on whatever was at hand, including styrofoam trays, window shades and even toilet paper rolls.
Her art brought her fame and notoriety, and in 1974 she announced that the Lord had ordered her to cease painting in order to concentrate on her preaching and poetry. She died in 1980.
In 2005, the New Orleans Museum of Art presented the first comprehensive collection of her art. Also in 2005, the Ropeadope label released King Britt presents Sister Gertrude Morgan, which took the a cappella/tambourine recordings of Let's Make A Record and added contemporary beat programming and instrumentation. The album received rave reviews and created a new, young audience for Sister Gertrude Morgan. The album artwork featured her paintings.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Gordon Parks Remembers

Parks Collection to SUNY Purchase

In the 1940s, a photographer named Gordon Parks broke into a scene that had previously been dominated by white men. He was the first black photographer to work for magazines like Life and Vogue, and the first to work for the Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information. Born into poverty and the youngest of 15, he had a sensibility about poor living conditions. But as a renowned photographer, he also had access to some of the most famed athletes and celebrities, like Muhammad Ali and Ingrid Bergman.

This summer, it was announced that more that 4,000 prints and 20,000 negatives of Parks' work will be moved to Purchase College/State University of New York to be preserved, cataloged and made available for public view and study. The groundbreaking photographer died in 2006, and the Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation acquired his work the following year. The foundation will also be sending photos by Timothy O'Sullivan, Mathew Brady and Ed Clarke along with Parks' collection to be housed by Purchase.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Ebony Cover Exhibit

PORTSMOUTH — For the next two months, a new art exhibit at the Seacoast African American Cultural Center will bring visitors on a visual journey through six decades of African-American history, as chronicled by Ebony magazine.
Local artist Shawn Pelech and SAACC Vice President Kelvin Edwards spent three months collecting covers of the magazines from people throughout the country. Ebony is a monthly magazine for the African-American market that has been published continuously since 1945. Some of the covers were framed and are now part of the 40-image display — the first exhibit at the SAACC since it moved to the Discover Portsmouth Center at the city's former library.

"We borrowed and begged from all around and got them up," Pelech said. "It's the first show in the new space, and I think it looks pretty good."
The exhibit opened last weekend and will remain on display until early October. The covers feature African-Americans who made contributions in all realms of society over the past 60 years, from politics, the arts, religion, sports, science and education.
Pelech said it was a pleasure putting the exhibit together and she learned a lot by doing it. She said she also felt it was important to highlight the publication in a time when so much is material is read online.
"It's printed material, it's visual and we don't want to lose that printed word," she said. "As we were doing it, I was thinking of how magazines are becoming extinct and how special it is to be able to show this at this time."
SAACC President Vernis Jackson said the first exhibit in the new space is fitting because Ebony is the only African-American magazine to have chronicled the lives of African-Americans continuously during a period of enormous changes.
"When I saw the covers it just sort of jolted me back and I remembered all contributions these people have made," Jackson said. "I expect to see African-American culture and history to be displayed here and I think we've accomplished that goal."
Pelech said she'd like to share the exhibit with another cultural group in another city and perhaps bring a different outside exhibit to Portsmouth.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Majora Carter, Speaker in the Hunter Series

Activist and environmental leader, Majora Carter, will be the next speaker in the 2009 George
T. Hunter Lecture Series on September 15, 2009. Ms. Carter is a leader in the environmental
justice and green‐collar job movements. In 2006, Ms. Carter was the recipient of a MacArthur
genius grant for her work in bringing sustainable development and green‐collar jobs to her
South Bronx neighborhood. The George T. Hunter Lecture Series is sponsored by the Benwood
Foundation, in partnership with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the Ochs Center
for Metropolitan Studies, and CreateHere.
Ms. Carter will replace Van Jones in the lineup of George T. Hunter Lecture Series speakers. Mr.
Jones was recently appointed by President Obama as Special Adviser on Green Jobs. “We regret
that Mr. Jones won’t be available for the September lecture, but we understand that his new
position in the Obama Administration will require his full and undivided attention,” said Corinne
Allen, Executive Director of the Benwood Foundation, “However, we couldn’t have found a
better replacement speaker than Majora Carter. Like Mr. Jones, Majora is a young leader in the
green collar job movement and can speak about the importance of creating healthy and
sustainable communities for all residents.”
Born, raised, and continuing to live in the South Bronx, Ms. Carter’s work takes her around the
world in pursuit of resources and ideas to improve the quality of life in environmentally
challenged communities. She founded Sustainable South Bronx in 2001 and since then, she has
been instrumental in creating riverfront parks, building green roofs, working to remove poorly
planned highways in favor of positive economic development, and successfully implementing
the Bronx Environmental Stewardship Training (BEST) program— a pioneering green‐collar job
training and placement system ‐‐ seeding a community with a skilled workforce that has both a
personal & economic stake in their urban environment. Ms. Carter worked with Van Jones to
co‐found Green For All, a national initiative dedicated to creating quality jobs in green
industries by collaborating with government, business, labor, and grassroots communities.
“Given the involvement in the green movement within the UTC community, we are proud to
have Ms. Carter, a dynamic environmental leader, participate in the lecture series,” said UTC
Chancellor Roger Brown. “We know she will be an engaging speaker for our students and
faculty, as well as the broader community.”
Ms. Carter will be the third speaker in the 2009 George T. Hunter Lecture Series. Prior speakers
were author and historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and PBS Education Correspondent, John
Merrow. The lecture will be at 7pm at the Roland Hayes Concert Hall located inside the UTC
Fine Arts Center. All lectures are free and open to the public. For more information, visit

Monday, August 17, 2009

Struggling to survive, and still making art

In 2006, Brian Joiner's life was as wide open as the landscapes he painted. His work hung in the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. His exhibits drew crowds to the Weston Art Gallery. His salary was edging on six figures and his artistic star rising.

By January 2009, Joiner was three months behind on his mortgage and not only fearing foreclosure but wondering what an artist does with the years of work he's accumulated if he becomes homeless.
He didn't need anybody's quarterly reports to tell him the economy was writhing. For two years, attendance at art shows had been dwindling. Some of his most ardent collectors couldn't buy the work he was selling cut-rate.
Hard times hit artists differently than they hit the rest of us. Harder, for one thing.
A National Endowment for the Arts survey shows the unemployment rate for artists was double that for other professionals for the last quarter of 2008, leaving 129,000 artists out of work. While the labor force grew by 800,000 that year, the artist work force shrank by 74,000.
The loss of a job for an artist isn't just the loss of a paycheck and benefits. An artist's career is built on vision and self-belief. It's seeing a world different from the one everyone else sees and believing not only that he can capture it in paint, but indeed that he must.
Artistic visions are singular things. They can't be outsourced. They can't be handed off to a lower-paid colleague or wrapped into someone else's job descriptions. Each time a talented artist walks away from his calling, there is a hole in the firmament no one else can fill.
Leaving one's art isn't departing a career but is as Joiner puts it, "throwing away an inheritance."
It should surprise no one, then, when Joiner's first reaction to his dire economic straits was to be "balled up in my bed in the middle of the afternoon thinking of a new career path."
He did not, however, stay there.
The reconstitution of this man and the rebirth of his work is art in and of itself. First Brian Joiner painted self-doubt, struggle and overcoming. Then he lived it.
At age 46, he got out of bed, applied everywhere from hospitals to Ikea to do everything from housekeeping to inventory and finally landed a job in a company's mailroom. "Human beings are made for adjustments," he says simply.
The sensitive, slim-fingered painter who used to make rounds greeting supporters at exhibit openings now makes rounds delivering memos and magazines. He does it with gratitude and humility, and a constant eye for scenes that can feed into his art.
Joiner's vision never left him or, more precisely, he never let it go. With a mystic sense of destiny, he heard about the Taft Museum of Art's Robert S. Duncanson Artist-in-Residence competition and began saving vacation days.
He applied and was selected. He will spend two weeks this fall giving gallery talks, presenting school programs and hosting his own lecture at the Taft.
More important, he will create a new exhibit of paintings that echo those of Duncanson, an African-American artist of the mid-19th century, but will incorporate modern social issues and modern art techniques.
Then he will go back to the mailroom - except for nights and weekends, when you can be sure he will be painting.
"For everyone else who has a dream and is going through a difficult time, I'd just say this," Joiner says. "Sometimes our dreams become our reality. But sometimes our reality also becomes our dreams."

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Vogue Evolution

And now a word from our sponsor . . . get real.

I usually try to keep things light over here on BlackVisualArtist, but I have to take a short commercial break today.

Have people lost their minds? I have never seen anything like the foolishness that's going on at these Town hall Meetings. Why are these fools fighting AGAINST healthcare reform? Why are the fools fighting against healthcare reform all on national healthcare, medicare, medicaid, VA benefits themselves. This is an outrage. Let's be real -- this is not about healthcare, because any moron can tell you that we need a system that works for everyone. This is about America having a Black president. This is about America coming into the 21st Century. This is about a bunch of fools who want to take us back to plantations, hoop skirts, and mint juleps for master on the veranda.

I work at a local social service organization and one of our projects helps people find low cost or free healthcare. This project has opened my eyes to the suffering that goes on when people have no healthcare and few options. And, these are not lazy people, they just cannot find a job or have a job with negligible "benefits."

I have seen:

Diabetics without any insulin.

Hypertensives with no medication, blood pressure out of control.

Tons of people who have no clue about their HIV status.

People who can barely see.
People who've done thier own stitches.

And, a young man who had "set" his own broken arm because he could not return to the emergency room and incur any more bills (this one took the cake).

Get real, these fools protesting are not fighting against healthcare. They will not bear the brunt of the costs. They will benefit from any improvements made to the system. They need to be honest and claim their racism. Stop hiding behind signs of socialism, stop screaming about taxes and how their kids will have to pay in the future, stop crying for politicians to be lynched. Join the Klan and let the rest of us move forward with getting the healthcare that our country and its citizens so need.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

5 Black Homo-Hop Artists You Need to Know About

Last Offence
Origins: 2005 - Los Angeles, California
Albums: 2
Stand-Out Album: Not For Non-Profit: The Mixtape (2009)
Hear This Now: “So Magical”

Though Last Offence has got the aggressive manner and hard beats you’ve come to expect from a hip-hopper like Jay-Z, he’s a million times hotter and gayer than Jigga. Alongside his blunt wise-cracks about pounding guys and making asses bleed, he also raps about the so-called Christians that killed men like Harvey Milk and Matthew Shepard. His albums are perfect for working out some good old-fashioned sexual aggression and even better, he’s giving them all away for free on his MySpace blog. They feature the talents Bry’Nt and Nano Reyes and other homohop artists that didn’t make our list.

Meshell Ndegeocello
Origins: 1993 - Washington, DC
Albums: 8
Stand-Out Album: The Anthropological Mixtape (2002)
Hear This Now: “Leviticus:Faggot”

The first female artist signed to Madonna’s Maverick record label, German-born bisexual Meshell Ndegeocello (pronounced Mee-shell N-deh-gay-o-chel-o) predates Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill by half a decade and has put out more than both women combined. Ndegeocello doesn’t call herself a hip-hop artist; to her, hip-hop’s a watered-down mainstream derivative that’s hardly countercultural anymore. So instead, she works a postmodern mix of jazz, funk, and rock that’s more Marvin Gaye than Missy Elliot; but don’t let that fool you. She’ll sing about fucking your boyfriend with all the swagger of a pimp then turn around and ponder the dual nature of desire in a gentle upper register.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

"I Came from a Family of Dreamers," Benny Andrews

What Can we Learn from the Met about Audience Development?

The Multicultural Audience Development Initiative was founded in 1998 with a meeting of top-level Museum staff and leaders from eight prominent African American civic organizations: 100 Black Men, Inc., Jack and Jill of America, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., The Greater New York Chapter of the Links, Inc., Boys Harbor, Inc., The National Black MBA Association, The National Medical Association, and the New York Coalition of 100 Black Women. The purpose of this gathering was to articulate a strategy for establishing a mutually beneficial alliance with these organizations that would foster interest in the Metropolitan Museum among African Americans. At the same time, the Museum staff and trustees would develop an understanding of the concerns and needs of these organizations. The Museum then established the Multicultural Advisory Committee, which is composed of New York's African American, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, and American Indian cultural leaders and organizations.
Who does the Met's coalition exclude?

The Hansberry Project

Yearning for more consistent and in-depth multi-cultural works in the Seattle theater scene, Kurt Beattie, the artistic director of ACT Theater, found himself one day in 2004 mulling over an unusual proposal with Valerie Curtis-Newton, then a professor in the directing program at the University of Washington.

The idea was simple – to establish a unique theater within a theater that was dedicated to telling stories that represent African-American experiences. However, the logistics would be complex. The most important issue to address was the level of involvement and influence Curtis-Newton would have in making decisions on such critical items as screenplay, cast and set design.

“I spent a lot of time thinking about how something might work because I really wanted to honor our community. And, I didn’t want to just be a hired hand. I wanted to have a stake in the decision making,” says Curtis-Newton, who has served as the past artistic director for Seattle’s Ethnic Cultural Theater and Hartford, Connecticut’s Performing Ensemble. Earning an MFA from the UW, she has performed with numerous local companies, including the Seattle Repertory Theater, the Seattle Children’s Theater and the Northwest Asian American Theater.

Eventually instated as the artistic director, Curtis-Newton, who also currently chairs the UW directing program, decided to honor the rich legacy of black theater by titling the program The Hansberry Project, named after activist-playwright Lorraine Hansberry who was the first African-American woman to see her play “A Raisin in the Sun” performed on Broadway in 1959.

Another major hurdle was that while black theater has held a successful presence in Seattle, it has not been consistent. The Seattle Negro Federal Theater, a short-lived, federally funded company, was established at the University of Washington in 1936 to feature innovative plays that focused on the African-American experience .

Monday, August 3, 2009

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Fire Destroys Collection in DC

It took Peggy Cooper Cafritz more than four decades to amass a collection of work by black artists so impressive it attracted the attention of major dealers and even O Magazine, which featured her home in its current issue.

It took only a few hours Wednesday night and Thursday morning for all that to be destroyed, when a fire swept through the house on Chain Bridge Road, the damage exacerbated when the 150 firefighters who responded struggled with low water pressure.

The house was unoccupied at the time and neighbors were able to move pets to safety. The two-alarm blaze was finally extinguished by noon Thursday.

But the significance of the loss of Mrs. Cafritz's collection is "tremendous," said Georgetown art dealer Norman Parish, who runs a gallery specializing in African art. "You can't replace what took her years to collect."

See a Tour of Mrs. Cafritz's home and collection here.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

Collecting African American Art

If you are obsessed about African American art, then you probably have a collection of your own. I am far from rich, but when I get a chance, I purchase the pieces I want. This is one of the best articles on the web about collecting African American art at any pricepoint. I have illustrated the article with two pieces from my own collection, Faces by A. B. Jackson and Ghana, by Chester Higgins, Jr.

Thinking about art collecting should be like fact-finding between courtship and engagement. If the ensuing marriage is going to work, then you have to know what you're getting into long beforehand.
That is why experienced collectors, curators, gallery owners and art dealers--no matter their length of years in the business or the range of their artistic interest--concur on this one basic tenet of collecting art: Keep your wallet closed until you've opened a book, then another and then another. In addition, throw in some art magazines and gallery catalogs. Attend exhibits and cultivate learning relationships with contemporary artists, curators and collectors. Plan a vacation around an exhibit in another city. Whose work speaks to you? Whose leaves you cold?

Then, and only then, should you take the plunge. Like any lasting marriage, the effort put in before making a commitment will lead to a satisfying, enduring union--with artists whose work touches your heart.
Aspiring collectors looking to plow into the rich and fertile fields of work by African-American artists may have to search a little more diligently for the history books and the exhibits that will give them the information they need to make a start, especially if they do not live in a major urban center. But the historical texts do exist, and aspiring collectors will find the history of black artists in this country alternately maddening and inspiring.
A growing, committed and amiable network of collectors and reputable art dealers stands ready and eager to cultivate new peers and clients, and its members are as close as the telephone. Among them are the following people who, through their expertise and experience, have much to share.
Thurlow Tibbs is a dealer in and a historian of African-American art. "Dealer" becomes a rather skimpy description when Tibbs' other talents come into play. In addition to guiding private collectors as they assemble a body of work, he helps museums fill the gaps in their collections with African-American art, researches out-of-print publications for libraries, and conducts art appraisals. His gallery in Washington, D.C., houses a 19,000-item library that is open for academic research.

"With a new client, I will suggest a series of books," Tibbs says. Among the most comprehensive are American Negro Art, by Cedric Dover; Two Centuries of Black American Art, a catalog, by David C. Driskell, of a 1976 exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and Modern Negro Art, by James Porter.
Like many other experienced dealers, Tibbs sees art collecting as not solely the domain of the affluent, but rather as a worthwhile pursuit for anyone who recognizes the inherent value of having art enhance his or her life. His counsel? "Decide on an annual budget. If you want to spend $5,000, it would be stupid for me to show you something for $40,000. If you are open to contemporary art, you can do things for $500."
Contemporary art readily opens the field of African-American art to a wider range of enthusiasts. Works by the respected masters--the vibrant collages of Romare Bearden or lush landscapes of 19th-century painter Edward Bannister, for example--likely exceed by tens of thousands of dollars the average collector's ability to buy.
However, how about an Elizabeth Catlett lithograph or a limited-edition Jacob Lawrence print? Tibbs likes to recommend the lithographs of Grafton Tyler Brown, a 19th-century landscape artist who lived in California for most of his life.


I have been travelling a lot lately, hence the few posts to the blog. Last week I was in Philadelphia at an education workshop and this week I've been in Chicago at the National Urban League Conference.

My Uncle Robert M. passed away last night, and when I got the news I was completely saddened by it. Every person has people in their families who accept you unconditionally and love you just the way you are -- no matter what. My Uncle was one of those people for me. Over the last few years, I've lost so many of my cheerleaders, the friends and family who tell you how proud they are of you and who remind you that your ancestors would be so proud of your accomplishments and the way that you lead your life. These people bring clarity to what family really is all about and shine a spotlight on the petty, materialistic, self centered members of your family. Just by being themselves. I will miss my Uncle.