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Tales from The b.a.SKET: Black Art Sketches for the Contemporary Art Lover July 31 2022

By D. Amari Jackson

This week, we reach into the b.a.SKET and pull out a storied and compelling era in American sports history…

Despite marginalization and lack of mainstream attention due to race, many extraordinary tales have nonetheless survived from the legendary era of 20th century baseball clubs collectively known as the Negro Leagues. Leading the way is the incomparable Leroy “Satchel” Paige, the greatest pitcher in Negro League history and regarded one of the best pitchers to ever play the game. Paige was known to pitch two or three games a night, commonly shutting out his competition in consecutive contests.

In 1934, Paige formed the Satchel Paige All Stars to “barnstorm,” a way athletes could make additional money offseason by competing against teams outside their league including, in this case, white players from Major League Baseball (MLB). Over a three-year period, Paige’s team won 128 games while barnstorming, 40 against teams with MLB players, losing only 23. In one notable game, Paige pitched against MLB’s top pitcher, Hall of Famer Dizzy Dean, striking out 17 batters in the win. Well aware of Paige’s greatness, Dean later offered, “If me and Satch were together in St. Louis, we would clinch the pennant in July and go fishing until the World Series.”

Then there was the mighty catcher, Josh Gibson, widely considered one of the best power hitters and catchers in baseball history. Though relevant statistics are incomplete, it is believed Gibson hit well over 800 home runs in in his career while sporting one of the highest batting averages in Negro League history.

Gibson’s power was known to be unparalleled. So much so that the white baseball press was known to refer to Gibson as “the Black Babe Ruth,” prompting the Black baseball community to correct them by labeling Ruth “the white Josh Gibson.”

Either way, Gibson’s greatness—unlike his stats—are not in dispute. Still, an oft-repeated tall tale about the slugger’s on-field exploits has made its way into common lore:

In the bottom of the ninth at Pittsburgh, down a run, with a runner on base and two outs, Gibson hits one high and deep, so far into the twilight sky that it disappears, apparently winning the game. The next day, the same two teams are playing again, now in Washington. Just as the teams have positioned themselves on the field, a ball falls out of the sky, and a Washington outfielder grabs it. The umpire yells to Gibson, "You're out! In Pittsburgh, yesterday!"

"Negro League Ball Player"
Negro League Ball Player from BAIA’s Garden Art For The Soul series captures the flavor and majesty of this extraordinary era in American sports history.

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Amari Jackson is a creator, author, TV/web/film producer, and award-winning journalist. He is author of the 2011 novel, The Savion Sequence; creator/writer/coproducer of the 2012-2014 web series The Book Look; writer/coproducer of the 2016 film Edge of the Pier; and current writer/coproducer of Listen Up! on HBCU GO/Roku TV. He is a former Chief of Staff for a NJ State Senator; a former VP of Communications & Development for the Jamestown Project at Harvard University; and a recipient of several writing fellowships including the George Washington Williams Fellowship from the Independent Press Association. An active ghost writer, song writer, martial artist, and journalist, his writings have appeared in a wide variety of national and regional publications.

Would you buy stock in BAIA if you could? Well we invite you to join us in becoming a monthly supporter, starting at just $3 a month YOU become a stakeholder and begin to help us transform lives through art. We are growing the BAIA team and will use your contributions to hire more team members for the purpose of creating more educational and marketing resources for schools and universities about african american artists both past and present. Such art initiatives and educational programming like Blacklite with Steve Prince, Relating to Art with Dr. Kelli Morgan, and BAIA BITS would not be possible without the ongoing support of our Patreon members. Please consider becoming a monthly Patreon member today!

Review our list of rewards for becoming a BAIA Patreon / patron supporter. Your monthly contribution has lasting benefits. — “What will your legacy be” – Dr. Margaret Burroughs


AN ARTIST YOU SHOULD KNOW — Richard Yarde July 31 2022

Richard Yarde: One of the Greatest Watercolorists of the 20th Century

By Yvonne Bynoe
 

When museum acquisition committees meet, their charge is to select works that the museum should purchase for its permanent collection. Generally, the works for consideration are supposed to reflect the aims and mission of the institution. Unfortunately, many people who sit on acquisition committees have scant knowledge about African-American artists. Consequently, it is common that when an acquisition committee member proposes a work by an African-American artist, it's someone "hot" who is being regularly exhibited and discussed in art publications. This selection process is short-sighted because it overlooks lesser known African-American artists whose work is relevant to U.S. history and whose work is foundational to the development of the art canon.

Richard Yarde (1939-2011) is the type of artist more museum acquisition committees should consider. 

Although Yarde is not a household name, he is recognized as one of the greatest watercolorists of the 20th century. His paintings can be found in the collections of the  Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, as well as dozens of other public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Studio Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the U.S. Embassy in Zambia. The most recent exhibit of his work was Richard Yarde: Beyond the Savoy which took place earlier this year at the Baltimore Museum of Art. The exhibition included approximately 28 paintings that reflect Yarde's 40-year career.

Yarde is renowned for his 1982 installation of 3D watercolor paintings of the legendary Savoy Ballroom. The Savoy Ballroom operated on Lenox Avenue in Harlem, New York from 1926-1958. It was revolutionary not only because of its Jazz and Swing musical performances but also for its racially integrated audiences. Yarde’s exhibition of the Savoy series was organized by Mount Holyoke College Art Museum in Massachusetts. The exhibition then traveled to the San Diego Museum of Art, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and then to New York’s Studio Museum in Harlem, which is only a few blocks from the ballroom’s former location.

Saturday Night Midnight (Savoy Series)

 

Why Yarde Isn’t Better Known

One of the reasons Yarde isn’t as well-known as some of his contemporaries is that he lived most of his life in and around Boston and Western Massachusetts. His choice to confine his career to New England limited the reach of his work.

Yarde was born in Boston, MA in 1930 to immigrants from Barbados. He attended Boston University and earned both his BFA and MFA degrees there. He went on to become a professor of fine art at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The galleries in Boston simply could not provide Yarde with the same level of exposure as he may have received through a New York gallery. It's important to note that Yarde's work had received recognition within the New York art world. Watercolor Artist magazine reported that, in the 1970s, Yarde had the opportunity to be included in a Whitney Museum’s Biennial. Yarde, like many other artists, protested the lack of African-American curators at the Whitney and he was subsequently excluded from the exhibition. 

Today, many of Yarde's paintings are in private collections or in small college and university collections in the region.

Yarde’s Artistic Importance

One of the most important things to know about Yarde is that he innovated watercolor painting. Previously, the medium had been used for small, intimate paintings and Yarde pushed watercolor into the terrain of vibrant large-scale paintings. He created his own unique style by employing large sheets of watercolor paper and, at times, extending his images beyond a single sheet.  

Perhaps influenced by the segmented construction of quilts that his mother made, he painted compositions with a grid-like, fragmented style. Additionally, Yarde repeatedly tilts the images in his works. One explanation for Yarde's use of angles is that he adopted this technique based on his experience in the darkroom developing black and white photographs. Yarde's godfather, Amos Gibson, owned a commercial photo studio and Yarde often worked with him. During the photographic development process, the image that’s emerging isn't straight; it is sort of floating around in the chemical tray. The tilting of the images in his paintings may have been a way Yarde used to approximate that irregular positioning.

Thematically, Yarde's career was largely centered on African-American history, particularly figures and events of the Jazz Age and the Harlem Renaissance. Both eras were before Yarde's time, but some experts have suggested that as the African-American community of Roxbury in Boston began to deteriorate, Yarde was nostalgic for a bygone time. In his work, Yarde often used photographs as his inspiration. His 1978 work, The Sitting references James Van Der Zee’s famous 1924 photograph, Garveyite Family that was taken in Van Der Zee’s studio in Harlem, New York. Among some of Yarde's celebrity subjects are Billie Holiday, Paul Robeson and Malcolm X. Yarde uses Malcolm X’s (then Malcolm Little's) 1944 police mugshot as the reference photograph. 

In the early 1990s, Yarde suffered from kidney disease brought on by the hypertension medicine he had taken for years. His illness is responsible for a marked shift in his subject matter. He moved away from the historical topics that he'd created the prior three decades to meditations on mortality, healing and Afro Diasporic spirituality. Two works that best depict this change are Mojo Hands and his Ring Shout series.

Mojo Hands (1995-1996) references the fundamentalist Christian prayer ritual of the "laying of hands'' and links it to traditional African spiritual practices. Believers contend that the sick can be healed when prayer is administered while their hands are placed on the patient's body. Yarde received solace from the "laying of hands" while he was waiting for a kidney transplant. 

Yarde's Ring Shout series (2000) takes its name from a religious worship ceremony developed by enslaved Blacks that is composed of dance, song, and percussion. During the "Ring Shout," the group of worshipers move counterclockwise around a central space, clapping, chanting, and stomping. Yarde's circular compositions emulate the movements of the "Ring Shout" through a mosaic of irregular rectangles. The works are painted in a range of blues, and the repetition echoes the pulse of a dance.

R. Michelson Galleries represented Yarde throughout the 1990s, and its founder believes Yarde will leave a lasting impression on the art world. He stated at Yarde's memorial service, "I think Richard is one of the premier artists of his generation and a true American voice." Michaelson added, "His Savoy dancers and his later, more personal paintings are destined to only grow in stature, as they become more widely known."

 

Work By Richard Yarde Available For Acquisition Through BAIA

Pageant (1981) 59 1/2 x 40 1/2 inches, watercolor, signed in pencil, 1981, framed

A larger version of Pageant (dated 1983) is part of the collection of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. It was donated to the museum by the Boston law firm, Choate, Hall and Stewart.

Framed: 106.7 × 141 × 5.1 cm (42 × 55 1/2 × 2 in.)

Sheet: 96.5 × 129.5 cm (38 × 51 in.) Watercolor on five joined sheets of paper

Signed in pencil l.r.: "Yarde  (Available Here)

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Yvonne

YVONNE BYNOE is the founder of the curated online platform @shelovesblackart which highlights visual art from the African diaspora to encourage more people of African descent to collect art. She is a cultural critic, author of several popular books on popular culture.

 


Paul Robeson Cultural & Performing Arts Center July 31 2022

One of BAIA Foundation's 2022 initiatives is instituting marketing assistance for African American Museums and Cultural Centers.

Paul Robeson was a prominent performing artist in the early 1900's, most widely known for his role in Shakespeare's Othello, and the remake of The Emperor Jones and Show Boat. He was a well known world activist, often speaking out against racial injustices and matters of politics and sang for soldiers during the Civil War. Robeson's beliefs and relationship with the Soviet Union led to much controversy and resulted in him being outcast by some African American leaders and the local government. Since his passing, various industries have strived to recognize Robeson's legacy after the damage from his misrepresentation. 

The Paul Robeson Cultural & Performing Arts Center in Wilberforce, Ohio, was created in 1978 in honor of the star athlete, scholar, actor, and singer. In front of the center stands a large sculpture of Paul Robeson, himself. The center provides an art and music department, classrooms, and spaces to Central State University in an effort to promote the aesthetic development of the community through music, dance, theatre, and education for those developing a career in the performing arts. The center houses the Paul Robeson auditorium and recital hall which the University makes available for rentals. Both spaces accommodate a variety of event needs including rehearsals, conferences, keynotes, performances, and general sessions. The Paul Robeson Cultural and Performing Arts Center hosts many free concerts in these spaces throughout the year. 

Learn more about the Paul Robeson Cultural & Performing Arts Center.

THE BLACK ART IN AMERICA (BAIA) FOUNDATION is a 501c3 organization that applies what we’ve learned over our 12 years as a multifaceted arts company to facilitate the growth of artists while cultivating the relationships and opportunities that bring Black artists and communities together. 

We invite you to become a monthly supporter of the BAIA Foundation. Starting at just $3 a month, YOU become a stakeholder and begin to help us transform lives through art. We are growing the BAIA team and will use your contributions to hire more team members for the purpose of creating more educational and marketing resources for schools and universities about african american artists both past and present. Such art initiatives and educational programming like Blacklite with Steve Prince, Relating to Art with Dr. Kelli Morgan, and BAIA BITS would not be possible without the ongoing support of our Patreon members. Please consider becoming a monthly Patreon member today!

Review our list of rewards for becoming a BAIA Patreon / patron supporter. Your monthly contribution has lasting benefits. — “What will your legacy be” – Dr. Margaret Burroughs


Back to the Future with Nyame Brown: A BAIA Virtual Exhibit July 19 2022

By D. Amari Jackson

"The selection of work for the exhibition was curated with a conceptual influence from the W.E.B. Dubois book, The Comet, in which he mentions a device called a "Mega scope." The Mega scope can see across space and time, enabling an African American to see their ancestors and future descendants. Some contemporary African scholars consider him to be an early Afrofuturist. With this notion, I curated portraits and scenes of my works suggestive of the speculative worlds and characters that populate them.

I make painting/drawing immersive installations. Currently, my paintings are on blackboards, playing with different levels of finish in a single composition. My work is inspired by hip hop’s bravado, style, and individual expression. This is the feeling I put into the unique fashion designs adorning my characters and the visual texture when world-building. I am implicit and embedded in the narratives, as a character on an unfolding journey. My storytelling carries culture like the African American tradition and calls for expanding the idiom through improvisation, riffing, and rupturing. 

Entangling my allegory with a real location creates a liminal space between myth and reality - deepening the narrative, like the East Indian Ramayana, the largest epic in world literature, The Aeneid by Virgil, and Dante's Inferno by Dante Alighieri. Amos Tutuola, author of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, created new myths within traditional stories and shaped them into his own fantastic narrative.  I take similar agency to create new myths using the Black Diaspora as a significant resource for my visual allegories."  -- Nyame Brown

"Legendary" by Nyame Brown
2 x 3 feet, oil on blackboard, (2020) -- unframed[/caption]

 

When it comes to Black visual culture, artist Nyame Oulynji Brown references the past and reimagines the present while simultaneously depicting a future unbound by traditional or current narratives of Blackness. Consistently, Brown’s work is at least as representative of black hole physics as it is of contemporary notions of race given the San Francisco-based Afrofuturist is known to create images that collapse time and space, that move beyond past, present, and future to explore an artistic singularity oscillating with rich black matter.  

For Brown, while Black Lives Matter, Black Matter Lives as his art operates within, between, and beyond both spaces, pushing for social transformation while challenging perceived cultural boundaries and existing notions of identity, both individual and communal. Or, as his biography states, “Reimagining contemporary notions of Blackness in visual culture, he challenges traditional representation and subverts it for a richer surreal language found in folklore and African American hyperbole. His depictions provide different ways to access African American culture through an approach that seeks social transformation and community revolution...”

"Invisibleman Coding" by Nyame Brown
6 x 4 feet, watercolor on paper (2021) --

Brown’s use of media is as diverse as his take on the African Diaspora, employing painting, drawing, cut paper, blackboards, augmented reality, gaming, Hip Hop, and fashion. As a visual storyteller, he blends historical narrative and folklore with Afro-surreal aesthetics while pulling from diasporic cultural practices and symbols to create worlds of contemporary Black mythologies.

Black Art In America is honored to present a virtual exhibit featuring Nyame Brown, an award-winning artist, lecturer, teacher, and a recipient of numerous residencies.  The virtual exhibit will run here at BAIA from June 27 through July 18.  Please join us in exploring the inspired, time-warping art of Nyame Brown.


Is Art Recession-Proof? July 19 2022

By Yvonne Bynoe

Around the country gas prices and rents are at record highs, coupled with product shortages in grocery stores and drug stores. Consequently, some financial experts are predicting another recession. Understandably, collectors are looking for ways to weather the storm should it come.

While every collector hopes that the work he or she acquires appreciates in value, increasingly Black Americans are purchasing art as part of their investment portfolios. This means that a collector whose main motivation is acquiring art as a financial asset has to make different decisions than the collector who views the appreciation of their art as an unexpected bonus.

Before providing further insights, it's important to first give some context about what impacts art prices.

Overall, the factor that most influences the rise in art prices is scarcity. Art is one of the few assets where supply decreases over time. After an important artist dies, his/her works are often acquired by museums so there's a limited number of works for sale in the art markets. For example, Jean-Michel Basquiat, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, was known to have been a prolific painter. However, in 2021, only 18 Basquiat paintings sold, totaling $258 million in sales.

In the case of living artists, such as 2021 MacArthur "Genius Award" winner, Jordan Casteel, Amaoko Boafo, Mickalene Thomas or a rising star such as Oklahoma-based artist Robert Peterson, increased interest by institutions or by private collectors can quickly result in higher prices for their available work.

The selling price of a sought after artist, living or dead, goes as high as the market will bear.

The recent sale of Ernie Barnes's (1938-2009) iconic 1976 painting, Sugar Shack is a prime example of the above statement. Based on prior sales of Barnes's work, Christie's had placed their auction estimate at $150,000-200,000. However, a bidding war ensued between African-American hedge fund manager Bill Perkins and another prospective buyer. When the dust settled, the work was sold to Perkins for $15.275 million.

Various studies have shown that the art market doesn't correlate with the stock market. This means that art tends to sell well even when the U.S. economy is doing poorly. In financial circles, art is considered a "currency neutral asset." The art market is roughly divided into quarters between the United States, Western Europe, China and the rest of the world. Subsequently, a market downturn in one art market doesn't necessarily impact the value of a work. If there's a recession in the U.S., a collector could still sell his/her painting in Hong Kong for a great price.

The caveat is that generally during a down market masterpieces still command high prices, while lower priced works lose value. In other words, blue chip art will always do well—even in a recession. (Blue chip art are works priced at $500,000 or more.) Art industry analysts maintain that works that consistently hold their values are by well-known artists that are estimated between $100K and $1M in major art markets such as New York and London.

The standard for valuing art is based on two main criteria: predictability of returns and cultural significance.

Predictability of returns:

This is the sales history of the artist. Wealthier collectors (or their art advisors) use auction sales data to examine the rate of appreciation of an artist's work over the course of his/her career. These collectors are wary of artists without a solid sales track record. They fear that an unseasoned artist may have one or two high selling works followed by a succession of flops that would depreciate their oeuvre.

Cultural Significance:

This is a very subjective assessment of how important an artist is to society based on the views of art industry elites. This measurement is chiefly about what recognized art industry people and entities the artist is associated with, including but not limited to: what museums are collecting the artist's work, which galleries the artist has exhibited with, and whether the artist's audience reach is national or international.

What does all of this mean for the "average" affluent collector who will spend $35,000-$40,000 on their collection during their lifetimes? 

The short answer is that there's no surefire way to recession-proof your collection. Although all financial investments carry some level of risk, in the art market, lower priced works tend to experience higher volatility.

Jamaal Barber, "I Heard a Song and the Whole World Changed".

 

There are, however, several recommendations to assist you in mitigating financial loss when you do sell your works:

1. Consider your art acquisitions as long-term investments.

In art, similar to real estate (another limited asset), the appreciation comes from playing the long game. The value of a work increases as the reputation of the artist rises. Expect to hold your work for a minimum of three years before contemplating a sale. Generally, collectors retain works for 10 years or more.

Case in point: In November 2021, Princeton University Professor Imani Perry sold her painting, "Welfare Queen" (2012) by Amy Sherald at a Phillips auction for $3.2 million, beating the $1.2-$1.8 million estimate. Perry, who reportedly bought the work on a payment plan, likely paid under $25,000 for it. Several years later, Sherald gained worldwide acclaim as the portraitist for former First Lady Michelle Obama, resulting in the market value for all of her work increasing exponentially.

It also bears mentioning that more and more artists and galleries are including clauses in their sales agreement to prevent the "flipping" of their artwork. Furthermore, some galleries are softly blackballing collectors who they have found to engage in this practice. These artists and galleries prefer that their work be placed with collectors who consider themselves stewards of the artwork rather than investors seeking to profit by selling it one or two years later.

2. Thoroughly research the art you're buying (or hire an art advisor).

As you would research a stock's historical performance before buying it, you need to conduct the same due diligence for your art acquisitions. You should become very knowledgeable about a few key artists or on a particular category of art (e.g., Harlem Renaissance, Post WWII, Abstract Expressionism, etc.). You do this by studying available auction sales data, visiting museums, and reading books about your favored individual artists or on the major leading artists in your favored art category.

It's common, however, for contemporary artists not to have any auction sales history; only the industry's creme de la creme are sold at a Sotheby's or Christie's auction.

In instances where there's no auction sales, you'll need to use available public information (art publications, magazines, exhibit catalogs, etc.) to determine the market value of an artist's works. You are also trying to ascertain if their work has been acquired by museums, including university museums and/or whether they have any high-profile collectors, such as celebrities, business founders or leading executives. Influential collectors may affect the price for a specific work or the artist's entire body of work.

3. Understand that from a financial perspective, investing in emerging artists is highly risky.

Although there are many sound reasons a collector should acquire works from emerging artists, as a purely financial investment, it's a gamble. The collector is buying relatively inexpensive work early in an artist's career, anticipating a high rate of return that may not be realized. This is comparable to investing in a start-up company; there is no performance information on the venture so the only measurable component is the past performance of the startup's management team. 

Similarly, when it comes to gauging the financial viability of emerging artists, you'll need to assess their professional support apparatus, which includes but is not limited to: past graduates of the artist's MFA program, if applicable; the success of the gallery that represents the artist; the caliber of the group and solo exhibitions the artist has been in (in the U.S. and abroad), any prestigious residency programs that the artist has participated in and the artist's collector base.

Since the new artist doesn't have a track record of his/her own, you're essentially making a buying decision based on how confident you are that the artist's talent, combined with their professional network, will be enough to catapult them to prominence.


Jamaal Barber, "We Made It II"

 

4. Invest in Original Works.

Revisiting the principle of scarcity, original works tend to have much better appreciation rates than limited editions. Original works include an artist's sketches and studies (preparatory drawings for a work). One thing to be mindful of is that original works that best reflect the artist's style are typically valued higher.

If your budget only allows for buying a limited edition, consider those with 25 prints or less. One of the chief drawbacks of limited editions is that if several are being sold at the same time, the prospective buyer can shop around for the lowest price. Also think about spending a bit more more for an Artist's Proof (A/P), if it's available. An A/P is distinguished from the rest of the edition and is therefore more valuable.

One thing that doesn't get stressed enough in articles about art sales, particularly during recessions, is that many wealthy collectors will pull their works from auctions rather than accept less money than they believe the work is worth. Moreover, if they do take a financial loss by selling to a private collector, there's no available record of it. In all candor, the best advice for the majority of collectors buying works in the $2,500-$10,000 range is to make sure that the asset allocation in your investment portfolio is such that you're not relying on proceeds from selling your art to stay financially afloat in a down market.

Related article:

Investing In Art Isn't A Get Rich Scheme

https://www.blackartinamerica.com/index.php/2022/01/26/investing-in-art-isnt-a-get-rich-scheme/


An Ode to Her Stories Untold: The Clothes Story (and Its BAIA-Sponsored Catalog) July 19 2022

By Trelani Michelle

A domestic worker, according to Dorothy Lee Bolden Thompson, is more than a maid and a cook. She’s also “a counselor, a doctor, a nurse.” Domestic workers, however, “have never been recognized as part of the labor force.” Born in 1923 in Atlanta, Georgia, Thompson labored as a domestic worker since the age of nine. Then, in the 1940s, when she was in her 20s, she refused to stay late to wash the dishes for her white employer. To punish her refusal, her employer called the police. Thompson was taken in for a psychiatric evaluation then admitted because after all, you have to be crazy to talk back to a white woman. “This was the way you got locked up,” Bolden said in a 1995 interview, “This was the system.”

Like Harriet Tubman, who we all know, and Fannie Lou Hamer, who some of us know, Dorothy Lee Bolden Thompson, who very few of us know, used her rage and disappointment in the system as a catalyst for change. She organized a union for domestic workers, which according to a Georgia State University article by Traci Hammond, “increased Atlanta wages by 33% over two years and won workers' compensation and Social Security rights for all domestic workers.”

Dorothy Lee Bolden Thompson is not celebrated during Black History Month or Women’s History Month, nor is her name acknowledged in school textbooks. She is, however, honored in The Clothes Story, a Sankofa-themed exhibit that features designs replicating the clothing style of black women throughout history, spanning from 1880 to about 1963.

The idea of conveying a story through fashion is not a new concept. And certainly there is plenty of room for storytelling through style on the runways, in entertainment platforms, as well as within the pages of fashion magazines. However, there is a story that hasn’t been told quite like the one that Atlanta-based Theatrical and Cultural Art Designer, Kenneth Green envisioned when he produced The Clothes Story.

You won’t find these stories on the red carpet at the Met Gala or during Fashion Week in Paris or New York City, but once you experience the richness of the history behind the women who adorned the garments on display, you’ll be inspired and enlightened. Although you might catch a glimpse of some styles worn by a few notable and well-known figures in African-American history, Green’s main focus is to highlight ordinary women who weren’t quite as prominent but who accomplished some extraordinary things for black history and culture.

These women were your average everyday mothers, grandmothers, aunties, neighbors and friends. They’re women who demonstrated leadership, courage, advocacy, humanity, and overall strength and fortitude during a time period when their taking up space was not encouraged. Other women highlighted in the exhibit are trailblazers setting precedence in a particular field like Dr. Eliza Ann Grier, the first African-American woman to become a licensed medical practitioner in the state of Georgia.

Consequently, Black history as it has been filtered through the lens of American history, has been very limited in its scope. The names that have often been highlighted in traditional history books and teachings barely scratch the surface of the stories that revel in the richness and depth of its historical roots. Green wanted to do something that would not only shine the light on stories often untold but to do so in a way that would be educational, uplifting and memorable. And what better way to do so than through art, fashion?

Green’s background and expertise in creative arts, particularly musical theatre, no doubt had some influence behind the inspiration for this exhibit. The producer has been around many influential entertainers, artists and creators, coordinating major events like the gala to celebrate the unveiling of the MLK Monument in Washington DC and serving as a casting director for Walt Disney. However, this project was more of a personal undertaking and Green’s own sense of appreciation and homage to the black woman, and her fashion sense is what makes the entire exhibit so authentic.

According to Green, “Throughout history, black women have very often paved the pathway and set the tone through their sense of fashion.” However, it is clear that although the fashion will be the first thing people see, the garments are merely the prelude to the actual stories being told, which are purposely intended to be the most captivating component of the exhibit.

“The very first piece that I replicated was from 1881. I went from 1881 to 1950, then we disbanded in 1963. For me, once you get past the ‘60s, you see how we start to repeat ourselves and it's not as interesting,” Green pointed out. “The fashion,” he said, “seems to be what's drawing people in, but then they read the stories of these women who really were just like my mom, and maybe your mom, grandmother and auntie who just did things to keep their family and to keep their community going, they begin to see the bigger picture. They see that these were major efforts. These were not people who have big names, but they ran the car pools;  they were feeding everybody.” They were making the world go ‘round.

The Clothes Story started off with about 8 pieces based on data collected through archives initially pulled from various resources throughout Georgia. Green tapped into some valuable historical data that included images of black women making a fashion statement through the clothing they wore in their particular era. The clothing designs themselves were replicated based on images and recreated using similar patterns and designs. With the collaborative effort of about five designers along with Green’s creative direction, the exhibit has now grown to include approximately 25 pieces with each having its own compelling backstory about the women who wore them.

Although Green’s primary objective for this display has always been to celebrate the unsung heroes, there are certainly a few women who many may recognize, but through The Clothes Story one might hear a piece of their history that isn’t always highlighted. For example, Dr. Coretta Scott King is most widely known as the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Many might not be as familiar with Coretta Scott, the soprano and violinist who had a career in performing arts before she became Mrs. King. One of the dresses on display is a replica of the very one once worn by Scott as a celebrated songstress in her earlier life and music career.

The Clothes Story exhibit has most recently been on display in Columbus, GA at the Columbus Public Library for the community’s Juneteenth Jubilee and Unity week celebration. While it’s no longer on exhibit, it will continue to be accessed and appreciated for generations to come via its upcoming catalog which is being sponsored by the Black Art in America Foundation.

In the world of visual art, a catalog allows the legacy of art to remain even if the exhibit is no longer on display. The Metropolitan Museum of Art for example, has an entire collection of exhibition catalogs dating as far back as the 1800s. Catalogs “provide documentation relating to all the items displayed in a show at a museum or art gallery and they contain new scholarly insight by way of thematic essays from curators and academics” (University of Toronto). Black Art in America (BAIA) looks forward to actualizing this documentation for The Clothes Story, everyone involved in its creation, and, per our mission, for the culture.

Browse and shop for fine art from our growing network of artists, collectors, estates, galleries — specializing in works by Black American artists with great values on premier art.

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Trelani Michelle

Trelani Michelle is a New York Times bestselling author and ghostwriter who specializes in autobiographies, memoirs, and oral histories. Crowned Savannah’s Best Local Author and BAIA's editor in 2021, Trelani graduated from Savannah State University with a Bachelor’s in Political Science then SCAD with an MFA in Writing. After an internship with the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center, she published a catalog of Black Savannah’s biographies called Krak Teet, centering the lives of 19 Gullah Geechee elders over the age of 80. Referring to her work as "Zora Neale Hurstoning," Trelani has presented her work at The Highlander Research and Education Center, Georgia Council for the Arts, SCAD, UNC’s Black Communities Conference, and more. Learn more about her writing services at SoFundamental.com and her Black history lessons at KrakTeet.com. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @KrakTeet.

Would you buy stock in BAIA if you could? Well we invite you to join us in becoming a monthly supporter, starting at just $3 a month YOU become a stakeholder and begin to help us transform lives through art. We are growing the BAIA team and will use your contributions to hire more team members for the purpose of creating more educational and marketing resources for schools and universities about african american artists both past and present. Such art initiatives and educational programming like Blacklite with Steve Prince, Relating to Art with Dr. Kelli Morgan, and BAIA BITS would not be possible without the ongoing support of our Patreon members. Please consider becoming a monthly Patreon member today!


National Underground Railroad Freedom Center July 18 2022

One of BAIA Foundation's 2022 initiatives is instituting marketing assistance for African American Museums and Cultural Centers.

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is a museum in Cincinnati, Ohio dedicated to promoting social justice for all. Their pursuit for freedom inclusion consists of existing as a conscious beacon of light, providing education and dialogue centered around the principles of the underground railroad. 

Standing just a few feet from the natural barrier of the Ohio River that once separated the slaves of the South from the free states of the North, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center was opened in 2004 after an entire decade since the concept of the center was proposed. Since its opening, the establishment has received two National Endowment for Humanities grants to assist in its efforts to illuminate the true meaning of inclusive freedom, and it has done just that as one visitor has confirmed: "Lots of great information about the underground railroad and slavery. They also have a section with more modern information that touches on types of abuse such as human trafficking. They have a great interactive section for kids that really explained the concept of the underground railroad in a way that was easy to understand."

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center fills the void of cultural heritage in the nation by offering exhibits, a library, learning resources for students and educators, and a docent program for teens. The teen docent program caters to freshmen, sophomores, and juniors, offering an opportunity to improve historical acumen and professional leadership skills by bridging the gap between knowledge surrounding the Underground Railroad era and today's social injustice movements. The deadline for the upcoming program is August 22, 2022. Learn more and apply here.

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center's current events include their permanent exhibitions which highlight and bring awareness to various topics such as modern day slavery and human trafficking, prominent abolitionists and their experiences helping men and women to freedom, and other stories and experiences of the journey from slavery to freedom. The center's current special exhibitions include:

  • Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration (April 22 - August 7, 2022) Highlighting the impact of the US prison system through contemporary visual art.
  • ‘I’m Listening’ Mural (June 15 - September 22, 2022) Cincinnati Police Officers and local teens create a collaborate mural to strengthen the police-community relationships.

Learn more about the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

THE BLACK ART IN AMERICA (BAIA) FOUNDATION is a 501c3 organization that applies what we’ve learned over our 12 years as a multifaceted arts company to facilitate the growth of artists while cultivating the relationships and opportunities that bring Black artists and communities together. 

We invite you to become a monthly supporter of the BAIA Foundation. Starting at just $3 a month, YOU become a stakeholder and begin to help us transform lives through art. We are growing the BAIA team and will use your contributions to hire more team members for the purpose of creating more educational and marketing resources for schools and universities about african american artists both past and present. Such art initiatives and educational programming like Blacklite with Steve Prince, Relating to Art with Dr. Kelli Morgan, and BAIA BITS would not be possible without the ongoing support of our Patreon members. Please consider becoming a monthly Patreon member today!


Why Abstract Art Matters to Black Americans July 18 2022

By Yvonne Bynoe

Is it Black art if there no Black people in it?

It would seem that the answer is obviously YES, insofar that any art created by a Black person, including abstract works, is an expression of who they are, what they believe, and what they have experienced. Nevertheless, this question has been central to the challenge of Black abstract artists in attracting the attention of galleries and Black art lovers.  

The art that has become most associated with African-American art is figuration, where a discernible, realistic subject is rendered in the work. These are works that center Black figures and/or environments and symbols and situations typically identified with Black Americans. Art writers and scholars certainly erased Black abstract artists from the canon. However, one of the chief reasons for the marginalization of Black abstract artists is rooted in the history of Black Americans in the United States.  

While abstract art was gaining traction in Europe in the early 1900s, Blacks were living in the segregated United States where lynchings were rampant, domestic terriorists such as the Klu Klux Klan operated with impunity, and opportunities for education and upward mobility were extremely limited. Moreover, crude caricatures of Black Americans as lazy, sloven, immoral and intellectually inferior were regularly used in White-owned newspapers, magazines, and films to justify maintaining the racial status quo. 

Given the substantial struggles that Black Americans faced, African-American leaders championed art that supported social and political advancement. As early as 1911, Dr. W.E.B DuBois, a co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (N.A.A.C.P) promoted Black writers in its publication, The Crisis. The publication also used the works of Black visual artists to counter the stereotypical depictions of African-Americans. DuBois famously wrote in Criteria of Negro Art (1926):

All art is propaganda, and ever must be, despite the wailing of the purists. I stand in utter shamelessness and say that whatever art I have for writing has been used always for propaganda for gaining the right of black folk to love and enjoy. I do not care a damn for any art that is not propaganda. But I do care when propaganda is confined to one side while the other is stripped and silent.  

Howard University professor, Dr. Alain Locke, often called the Father of the Harlem Renaissance, disagreed with DuBois saying that “Propaganda perpetuates the position of group inferiority.” DuBois, however, had an influential platform and he held sway with White progressives of the day, which included art patrons, so his vision about the function of Black visual art became the standard. 

This is not to say that Black artists in the United States don’t have a long and rich history with abstract art. Norman Lewis (1909-1979), for instance, was an early participant in the Abstract Expressionist movement in the United States. Lewis was born in New York and began his career in the 1930s as a social realist. He employed a figurative style and painted subject matter such as bread lines, evictions, and police brutality to bring attention to injustices experienced by Black Americans.

However, after more than a decade, Lewis abandoned social realism, concluding that painting ​“an illustrative statement that merely mirrors some of the social conditions” was not going to facilitate change. Around 1946, Lewis began exploring abstraction, and, in April of 1950, he participated in the Artists Sessions held at Studio 35 in New York, which established him as the only African-American in the burgeoning Abstract Expressionist movement. 

In the mid-1950s, when the modern Civil Rights movement was forming, African-American artists, as prior generations, were encouraged to make representational work that depicted African-American uplift. With the ascent of the Black Power Movement in the mid-1960s and its associated Black Arts Movement, the mandate became stronger for Black American artists to create art that could be used in the battle for racial and political justice. 

Amiri Baraka was a founding figure of the Black Arts Movement and his poem “Black art” is often called the manifesto for the movement. Although DuBois may not have agreed with Baraka's tart language or the strident tone of “Black Art,” the message of the poem aligns with what he said in Criteria of Negro, namely that the only legitimate function of art by Black artists is to be a tool for group progress. 

Baraka, in his essay "The Black Arts Movement," describes the Black Arts Movement as wantingan art of struggle, an art that is related to the reality of our history, and the real life of the world, particularly of the Afro American people…” Subsequently, the art that was deemed most authentically Black or most politically aware was figuration.  

During this period, White galleries and museums were grudgingly opening their doors to African-American artists and they sought Black artists who were creating figurative works to represent and exhibit. Moreover, the emerging cultural institutions  African Americans founded or that supported African-American artists didn't believe that abstract art was relevant to Black Americans. As a consequence, Black abstract artists—including the aforementioned Norman Lewis, Alma Thomas, Richard Mayhew, Howardina Pindell and a host of others—were largely ignored by both the art world and by Black American audiences.

Since 1990, art patron Pamela Joyner has been working diligently to raise the visibility of Black abstract artists beyond merely acquiring work. She has been a fierce advocate for museum exhibitions and the scholarly interrogation of mid-century Black abstract artists. She stated, “We are endeavoring to put people on walls in a way that not only the art world, but the community, might not naturally think of. It's not immediately obvious that since the 1940s African-Americans have been making transformational abstraction." Among the artists she cites are Ed Clark, who is acknowledged as the first artist in the modern era to work on shaped canvases; Jack Whitten, who was doing squeegee paintings in the 1970s (at least a decade before Gerhard Richter); as well as Sam Gilliam, who created groundbreaking large scaled drape paintings. 

Going back to Dr. Alain Locke's admonition, Black Americans should ask if a liberated people would intentionally constrain their expression in the visual arts? Furthermore, what are Black Americans losing culturally by not engaging with and acquiring abstract works by Blacks?

Abstract work is challenging for many people because it requires that you interpret the work for yourself. It means looking at the shapes, lines, colors and paint application to determine what feelings or thoughts, if any, the work elicits for you. Similar to music, two people can hear the same exact song yet have vastly different responses to it because they are each filtering the lyrics and rhythm through their separate frames of reference. In all candor, the same could be said for many figurative works. Abstract work isn’t more sophisticated than figurative works; it's simply a different artistic vehicle that Black artists can and should use. 

Since Black Americans are not a monolith, it stands to reason that our visual art isn't one either. 

The renowned art historian, curator and artist, David C. Driskell has been quoted as saying that abstract art doesn't portray what we see in the real world but instead is what "one creates from the imagined world." He adds that pure abstraction shows ”the essential quality, the bare bones, the structure underneath what we see every day.” Driskell's body of work as an artist includes abstract as well as figurative works.

The newly launched Black Art in America Gallery in East Point, Georgia has an array of abstract works currently on exhibit. Below is a small sampling that can serve as an entry point into your journey into abstraction.

If you can’t visit the gallery, you can access additional information, including pricing and payment plans, on these works and others by calling (678) 847-8735 or visiting: https://shopbaiaonline.com/collections/black-art-in-america-opening-exhibithttps://shopbaiaonline.com/collections/black-art-in-america-opening-exhibit



David C. Driskell (1931- 2020)
"Purple Door For Vince"
5.5 x 7.25 inches image size, 16 x 20 inches matted size,
pastel, ink and collage on paper -- framed





Kevin Cole "UNTITLED"
18 x 24 x 2 ½  inches, mixed media -- framed









"UNTITLED" Louis Delasarte
36 x 30 inches acrylic on paper -- framed

Delsarte's work is in several institutional collections including the Hammonds House Museum and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA , the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and the National Gallery of Art in Bermuda.

He received his B.F.A from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York and an M.FA. from the University of Arizona. Delsarte has taught painting and drawing at numerous institutions for many years. Currently he teaches arts and humanities at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.





Downs: "By speaking clearly in a non object idiom, the goal is to make art that reflects modern day life. My process consists of layering spontaneous random marks that are sometimes completely obscured. By working and reworking surfaces, I expose the varying depth of color which creates spaces that expand and contract, communicating the work's shifting moods.” 

The current series “Conversations In The Abstract”, arose from a stroke Downs experienced in 2015. Downs’ perception of life as an artist changed. The stroke brought on strange and unusual conversations in his mind, which he can only describe as abstract.

Downs has been painting professionally for over 40 years and has exhibited nationally and internationally. His work has been included in group shows with noted artists such as Andre Miripolsky, Mark Mothersbaugh and Karl Benjamin. Downs' works are included in private collections throughout the world.


Najjar Abdul-Musawwir
"UNTITLED" (Banjo Series #4)
16.5 x 59 inches, various wood assemblage sculpture


Najjar Abdul-Musawwir (b.1958) is Chicago, Illinois based artist who has exhibited throughout the United States, Africa, Asia and Europe. He currently works as an Associate Professor of studio arts and art history in the School of Art and Design and Africana Studies at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

In advocating that more Black American art lovers and collectors explore abstraction, we will briefly return to Norman Lewis to show that abstract artists weren't necessarily apolitical. Though his painting style changed, Lewis remained committed to social injustice throughout his career. In the aftermath of the March on Washington in 1963, Lewis formed the SPIRAL collective with Romare Bearden, Charles Alston, and Hale Woodruff to make a contribution to the Civil Rights Movement. In works such as "America The Beautiful'' and "Bonfire" that depict gatherings of the Klu Klux Klan, Lewis uses abstraction to directly engage with the socio-political issues of the 1960s. 

Note: Criteria of Negro Art was published in The Crisis in October 1926. DuBois initially spoke these words at a celebration for the recipient of the Twelfth Spingarn Medal, Carter Godwin Woodson. The celebration was part of the NAACP's annual conference and was held in June 1926.

Browse and shop for fine art from our growing network of artists, collectors, estates, galleries — specializing in works by Black American artists with great values on premier art.

 

 

START COLLECTING ART

Sign up for our free email course on how to begin your collection.

Yvonne

YVONNE BYNOE is the founder of the curated online platform @shelovesblackart which highlights visual art from the African diaspora to encourage more people of African descent to collect art. She is a cultural critic, author of several popular books on popular culture.

 

Would you buy stock in BAIA if you could? Well we invite you to join us in becoming a monthly supporter, starting at just $3 a month YOU become a stakeholder and begin to help us transform lives through art. We are growing the BAIA team and will use your contributions to hire more team members for the purpose of creating more educational and marketing resources for schools and universities about african american artists both past and present. Such art initiatives and educational programming like Blacklite with Steve Prince, Relating to Art with Dr. Kelli Morgan, and BAIA BITS would not be possible without the ongoing support of our Patreon members. Please consider becoming a monthly Patreon member today!


Tales from The b.a.SKET: Black Art Sketches for the Contemporary Art Lover July 18 2022

By D. Amari Jackson

This week, we reach into the b.a.SKET and pull out a reflective piece and the ongoing quest for meaning and resolution…

I often go silent, for I’ve learned not to question; at least not those of life’s challenges best answered by time, by pain, by Spirit... for The Path is The Path.

And while I sometimes struggle to remind myself of life’s beauty, I try to invoke the beauty of life’s struggle ─ the quest for meaning, the pursuit of Light, the bittersweet signposts along the way…

The Path is often counterintuitive. The challenges that make you wanna holla are the ones best managed by serenity, by silence. And though it’s sometimes hard to process, it is not my place to question Her divine reason, to doubt Her divine purpose, for the answers were forged long ago, the geometry is still sacred, and the Flower of Life spirals onward in cycles of promise, of beauty, of resolution…

Indeed, nature hosts our solace; the mountain is our temple, the trees, our congregation. And just when I doubt its larger meaning, a gentle breeze, a divine, maternal touch warms my face, renews me, and lets me know She is always there guiding me, buoying me, lifting me upon Her ancient Afrikan wings, landing me in a softer place…

For The Path is The Path. And until I can know the answers to questions much older than me, I will wait quietly, patiently, for Time to clarify my journey, for Submission to soothe my pain, and for Silence to show me the way.

--------

With Reflecting by the River, surrealist-abstract painter, Cedric Michael Cox, takes us on a natural journey to find ourselves.

"Reflecting by the River" by Cedric Michael Cox 60 x 48 inches, acrylic painting on canvas -- unframed


Browse and shop for fine art from our growing network of artists, collectors, estates, galleries — specializing in works by Black American artists with great values on premier art.

START COLLECTING ART

Sign up for our free email course on how to begin your collection.

Amari Jackson is a creator, author, TV/web/film producer, and award-winning journalist. He is author of the 2011 novel, The Savion Sequence; creator/writer/coproducer of the 2012-2014 web series The Book Look; writer/coproducer of the 2016 film Edge of the Pier; and current writer/coproducer of Listen Up! on HBCU GO/Roku TV. He is a former Chief of Staff for a NJ State Senator; a former VP of Communications & Development for the Jamestown Project at Harvard University; and a recipient of several writing fellowships including the George Washington Williams Fellowship from the Independent Press Association. An active ghost writer, song writer, martial artist, and journalist, his writings have appeared in a wide variety of national and regional publications.

Would you buy stock in BAIA if you could? Well we invite you to join us in becoming a monthly supporter, starting at just $3 a month YOU become a stakeholder and begin to help us transform lives through art. We are growing the BAIA team and will use your contributions to hire more team members for the purpose of creating more educational and marketing resources for schools and universities about african american artists both past and present. Such art initiatives and educational programming like Blacklite with Steve Prince, Relating to Art with Dr. Kelli Morgan, and BAIA BITS would not be possible without the ongoing support of our Patreon members. Please consider becoming a monthly Patreon member today!


Tales from The b.a.SKET: Black Art Sketches for the Contemporary Art Lover July 18 2022

By D. Amari Jackson

This week, we reach into the b.a.SKET and pull out an abstract homage to the ancestors…

The ancestors are no strangers to smoke. In numerous African and Native cultures and spiritual traditions, the smoke from burning leaves / herbs like cedar and sage prepares the sacred space for spiritual practices through cleansing and the removal of negative influences.

Indigenous peoples commonly promote our human capacity or birthright to communicate with the ancestors on a regular basis. The memory of those no longer in physical form can be used as a basis for making important decisions and for determining which road to take in life.

Ancestral communication often comes through dreams. Small ancestral shrines within the homes of spiritual practitioners are commonly used as a focal point for prayer and meditation. Some cultures place leaves in clay pots or seashells, light them, and fan the flames to produce a steady plume of smoke before dispensing it throughout their residence or space. While doing so, they will commonly say a prayer or affirmation.

 

"Dancing With The Ancestors" by Lawrence Terry
23” x 30” mixed media on paper (2012). Acrylic, burnt and smoked hues, copper mesh, copper foil. Assemblage -- framed

 

Lawrence Terry brings dat smoke… literally. Fascinated by fire and its associated human need to simultaneously control it and employ it technologically and artistically, the St. Louis-born artist views fire “as part of nature, and the universal flow of energy surrounding us” and believes it “is linked through time to ancient tribal ceremonies.”

Consistently, in his ongoing quest to “create art from something alive,” Terry worked with burnt and smoked hues, acrylic, copper mesh, and copper foil to produce Dancing With The Ancestors.

Browse and shop for fine art from our growing network of artists, collectors, estates, galleries — specializing in works by Black American artists with great values on premier art.

START COLLECTING ART
Sign up for our free email course on how to begin your collection.

Amari Jackson is a creator, author, TV/web/film producer, and award-winning journalist. He is author of the 2011 novel, The Savion Sequence; creator/writer/coproducer of the 2012-2014 web series The Book Look; writer/coproducer of the 2016 film Edge of the Pier; and current writer/coproducer of Listen Up! on HBCU GO/Roku TV. He is a former Chief of Staff for a NJ State Senator; a former VP of Communications & Development for the Jamestown Project at Harvard University; and a recipient of several writing fellowships including the George Washington Williams Fellowship from the Independent Press Association. An active ghost writer, song writer, martial artist, and journalist, his writings have appeared in a wide variety of national and regional publications.

Would you buy stock in BAIA if you could? Well we invite you to join us in becoming a monthly supporter, starting at just $3 a month YOU become a stakeholder and begin to help us transform lives through art. We are growing the BAIA team and will use your contributions to hire more team members for the purpose of creating more educational and marketing resources for schools and universities about african american artists both past and present. Such art initiatives and educational programming like Blacklite with Steve Prince, Relating to Art with Dr. Kelli Morgan, and BAIA BITS would not be possible without the ongoing support of our Patreon members. Please consider becoming a monthly Patreon member today!


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