Saturday, May 15, 2010

Kerry James Marshall


Lena Horne: An Appreciation

Toward the end of her very full life, Lena Horne suggested to a PBS interviewer that, after decades of struggling to define her image as an artist and a black woman, she finally had seized possession of her identity.
"I don't have to be a symbol to anybody," said Horne, who died Sunday night in a New York hospital at the age of 92. "I no longer have to be a 'credit.' "Americans born before 1960 will recognize Horne's fragmented reference to a phrase that, mercifully, has now been confined to history's ash heap: "a credit to her (or his) race."That perhaps somewhat well-intentioned, but deeply patronizing, sobriquet was applied — mostly by white Americans, of course — to a select group of blacks ( Ralph Bunche, Joe Louis, Sammy Davis Jr.) deemed to possess superior talents and/or character traits that might, in time, help "uplift" other African Americans by setting a "good" example.Viewed more sinisterly, it was a term that was plastered onto prominent blacks who were perceived by whites as conforming to white behavioral standards, and therefore didn't threaten America's racist status quo.What Horne passionately insisted on was the right to be regarded not as the designated representative of a group, or the personification of some abstract ideal, but as a one-of-a-kind individual — neither more, nor less. Horne posited herself as the active subject of her own life, not the object of the mainstream white audience's "exotic" fantasies and fears.Her dignified personhood was expressed most obviously through her knockout beauty and multiple talents. Long before the idea of "self-branding" came into vogue, Horne established herself as a multi-dimensional entertainer, making her mark in musical theater, movies, records and later television.Her fierce individualism also took form in the uncensored anger she vented at the racially based indignities she and other African Americans suffered. (She once threw a lamp at a lout who uttered a racist gibe in a Beverly Hills restaurant.)Horne's singularity came through in a vocal style that was notable not for its effortless urbanity, a la Ella Fitzgerald, or booming gospel panache, in the Aretha Franklin mode, but for its elegant pop-jazz versatility and the sense it conveyed of the singer's heartfelt emotional struggles. She movingly dramatized those qualities in her early-'80s hit Broadway show, "Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music," which earned her a special Tony Award.

Updated Website

I took a Saturday to update my art website. Check it out



In the June issue of AmericanStyle magazine, Chattanooga is ranked as the #4 Mid-sized City on the Top 25 Arts Destinations 2010 list. AmericanStyle, a publication of Rosen Media, is an internationally respected magazine that focuses on contemporary art and craft and is geared toward art collectors. The magazine reaches approximately 125,000 readers who purchase art and travel extensively to visit galleries, art events and artist studios. The magazine is distributed through bookstores and galleries worldwide.

The population of the mid-sized city category, in which the readers awarded Chattanooga second place, ranges between 100,000 – 499,000. Other cities included in this category are quite well known for their art venues, including Atlanta, Minneapolis and Miami. This high ranking is determined by the readers and is a testimony to the value the arts add to Chattanooga.

This is amazing coverage for the arts in Chattanooga and the community as a whole. It will bring both art enthusiasts and collectors to our community, which will generate revenue, not only for art galleries and art venues, but also for restaurants, lodging and retail as well.

What: AmericanStyle magazine’s article featuring the Arts in Chattanooga and AmericanStyle’s Top 25 Arts Destination 2010 list ranking Chattanooga as the #4 Mid-sized City.

Where: The magazine will be on sale at Barnes and Noble and online

When: At retailers after May 1, 2010.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Thursday, January 7, 2010

On the Fence

Chattanoogans, check out this new opportunity. The City's Public Art Committee is seeking submissions for its On the Fence project. More information is here

'Place du Tertre' by Lois Mailou Jones

If you're going to risk some extreme connoisseurship -- looking and looking at the tiniest details in art -- you need to follow Rule 1 of the sport: Empty your bladder first, for concentration's sake. It was on my way out of the bathroom on the second floor of the old wing of the Phillips Collection that I noticed a work I'd never registered before. No wonder: The little painting, "Place du Tertre," looked like a retread of any number of impressionist views of Montmartre, deserving to be tucked away. Then I looked at the wall label, and was surprised to see the name of Lois Mailou Jones, a pioneering professor in the art department at Howard University who became famous for the black themes in her paintings. (She died in Washington in 1998, age 92.)

No blackness in this picture, I noted. Too early, I thought. The picture was made in 1938, when the 33-year-old Jones was in Paris learning modern painting, before she'd come of age as a black artist. I looked one last time, closer, to make sure that reading was correct, and did a double take.

Read the rest of the story here.