Past & Present are Woven together in Exciting New Art Show @ the Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia
Visit the Painted Bride Art Center at 230 Vine Street and see Freedom, Fire & Promiscuous Meetings from now until May 18th, 2013. Artists in the exhibit include Toni Nash, Lamont B. Steptoe, Sarah Bond, Sonia Sanchez, Leon MacDuffie, Nadine Patterson and Theodore Harris. Exhibit is designed by Gary Smalls. Freedom, Fire & Promiscuous Meetings is part of the Place Philadelphia Project produced by the Painted Bride Art Center with support from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.
Gallery Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 12noon to 6pm; and before showtimes of all evening and weekend programming at the Painted Bride until May 18th. Admission is free. Download gallery guide here.
Video produced by Bob Finkelstein for PHILLY CAM:
First Floor Gallery: Photographs by Lamont B. Steptoe and Nadine Patterson; 3-D Media by Toni Nash; Quilts by Sarah Bond; Peace Haiku Benches by Sonia Sanchez and Leon McDuffie.
Mr. Steptoe’s work features seven illuminating photographs of contemporary Timbuctou, Mali. This ancient desert city in western Africa, flourished as a part of the Mali Empire between 1235 and 1468. These photographs were taken in 2008, at the start of the encroachment of Islamist militants. Mali was a country where Islamic and indigenous religious and cultural traditions lived side by side for hundreds of years. The photos show the bustle of city life and the traditional dome dwellings of the Toureg people in the desert.
Pictured above, Sonia Sanchez’s Peace is a Haiku Song Project in the upper and lower galleries. Two of the three benches decorated by artist Leon McDuffie, are in view. The poem/thoughts are the following: “Let me wear the day well, so when it reaches you, you will enjoy it”. — Sonia Sanchez; “The fire red sun quickly reflected on the glass shining vivid thoughts.”—Amir Casey; “You can’t separate peace from freedom, because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” – Malcolm X
Suspended in the rear of the gallery on the fist floor is Toni Nash’s healing piece Modern Medicine Woman. The three dimensional mixed media work is a combination of old and new found objects. Within the context of this exhibit it represents the confluence of Native American (Indian) culture and African culture.
Ms. Patterson’s series of nine archival images and artifacts is entitled Freedom Suite. It is inspired by her research for the play, If She Stood, by playwright Ain Gordon. Artifacts in standard photographs are courtesy of the Lest We Forget Black Holocaust Museum of Slavery in Philadelphia.
The images in the photos are of implements of captivity. The silver brush, comb, mirror and whip set is a ‘coming of age gift’ typically presented to a young white lady of the slave owning class on her 14th birthday.
Images used to create the Lenticular prints, are from the antebellum period in Philadelphia in the 1830’s and 40’s. The images in lenticular prints are provided courtesy of the Library Company of Philadelphia. Middle class Black Philadelphia documented their friendships was a “token of friendship” from Ms. Sarah Mapps Douglass to the younger Ms. Amy Casey. The red cover image is from another friendship album owned by the Dickerson family. in journals that were passed between friends and family near and far. The black butterfly drawn by Ms. Douglass, a member of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society.
The largest lenticular print is a dual image of Pennsylvania Hall during the days of its grand opening (May 13th to 17th, 1838) and the night May 17th when it was destroyed by a mob who set it on fire while people were still inside the building. The Mayor of Philadelphia and the fire department let the building burn. The mob outside was outraged at “promiscuous meetings” happening in the building, meetings where women could stand before an audience and lecture to men. One of the women who lectured there was Angelina Grimke, younger sister to Sarah Grimke. Equally or even more offensive to some, people of African descent and people of European descent mingled freely inside.
The magnificent quilts of Sarah Bond hang on the lower and upper level of the gallery. The “runaway” quilt on the bottom level is a re-creation of signs supposedly sewn into quilts that served as guideposts on the Underground Railroad. See the African Underground Rail Road quilt below for a better view.
Stairway to Second Floor Gallery: “Word Mirror” by Theodore A. Harris
On the stairway to the second floor gallery is Theodore A. Harris’ Word Mirror piece. The text in German “100 Millionen Schwarze wurden aus Afrika geholt” translates to “100 million Black people were taken from Africa”. The intent is to connect the horrors of the Nazi regime, through language and type font, as a continuum of the colonial slave trade system. Mr. Harris cites Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o: “What is so often forgotten is that the Nazi regime was simply one step on the ladder of the European colonial system. There is nothing that Hitler did which had not been done to Africans by European nations since the Renaissance.”
Second Level: Films, participatory art project, short stories by students from William Penn Charter
Center right and continuing on the right side wall, students from the William Penn Charter School have created stories about events from 1830’s Philadelphia with inspiration from historians Phillip Seitz and Denise Valentine. Playwright Ain Gordon and visual artist Nadine Patterson visited the History and English classes of Lee Payton and Cheryl Irving to encourage the student work. Copies of the play and stories are available for reading in the gallery along with artwork that visually represents issues in their stories.
The female bodice is Toni Nash’s second Medicine Woman piece which is a
participatory art creation made by audience members as they come
through the exhibit. Feel free to add your own adornment to ‘her’.
The three video monitors will run a series of films called BEING…IN PHILADELPHIA. It is a response to the Philadelphia Magazine cover story of “Being White in Philly”. Films curated by Boone Nguyen and Nadine Patterson.
BEING…IN PHILADELPHIA Film Schedule
Films will run from 12noon to 6pm Tuesday through Saturday, unless otherwise noted and before the performances of If She Stood.
Week #1 Friday April 5th to Thursday April 11th
Scribe Video Center’s 2011 Documentary History Project for Youth: City of Sound
“Fire Riots” – Stephen Skeel
“MOVE” – Mei Mei McDowell
“Tides of Change” – Michelle Saul-Yamasaki
Week #2 Friday April 12th to Thursday April 18th
“Lest We Forget: The Black Holocaust” J. Justin Ragsdale and Gwen Ragsdale
Week #3 Friday April 19th to Thursday April 25th
7 Affirmations of North Philadelphia, Nadine Patterson, films include the following:
“Thirty Eight Twenty”
“Anna Russell Jones: Praisesong for a Pioneering Spirit”
“Art, Art and More Art: Sam Brown”
“I Used to Teach English”
“Moving with the Dreaming”
Week #4 Friday April 26th to Thursday May 2nd
“Lest We Forget: The Black Holocaust” J. Justin Ragsdale and Gwen Ragsdale (encore)“
Week #5 Friday May 3rd to Thursday May 9th
Joined by Divisions”, Ted Passon
Week # 6 Friday May 10th to Saturday May 18th
Scribe Video Center’s Precious Places
Curatorial Statement from Nadine Patterson:“God gave Noah the rainbow sign, no more water, the fire next time.” These words from an old Negro spiritual, used most famously by the writer James Baldwin, are the key to the exhibit Freedom, Fire and Promiscuous Meetings. The holocaust known as American chattel slavery is said to have killed 5 to 50 million people. The number is supposedly unknown. Research the ship manifests of European ships and look at the numbers of “human cargo” that left the coast of Africa and compare that number to the number of “human cargo” that was unloaded once the shores of the New World were reached. You can get a rough calculation. It is estimated that 25% to 50% of the enslaved Africans died on the voyage over. Sometimes whole ships of Africans perished or were thrown overboard. The Atlantic Ocean is a watery tomb for millions of African people, a horrendous test of mental, spiritual and physical endurance. It was at once a sin against humanity and an act of purification. And the horror did not end with the voyage over. For nearly 400 years it continued and bred a nation that is literally one big family, but remains divided by the constructs of race, class, and geography. Slavery in the Americas lead to the creation of new nations and a new people unlike anything the world has ever seen. The artists featured in this exhibit blend the many strands of their personal heritage, African, European, and Native American (Indian), into a fusion of work that is political, restorative, communal, and affirming.
Thanks to Rick De Coyte at Silicon Gallery & Fine Prints for fabricating the lenticular and photographic prints: http://www.siliconfineartprints.com. Thanks to SIGNARAMA for the Chrome Metallic lettering for Word Mirrors: http://www.signarama.com/.
Photo credit for gallery images: Nadine Patterson