By Gary L. Lemons
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Celebrating Black History
and Herstory in the Spirit of Love
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Through February 28
Dr. Carter G. Woodson
African American Museum
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NEA/Pinellas Recovers Grant Update
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In my art exhibit Touch in the Spirit of Love, presently being shown at the Carter G. Woodson Museum, I showcase my belief that art should inspire all people to connect to the liberating power of communal love.
While all of the artwork I have produced over the course of more than three decades I call MY AFRIKA-ART, in the Woodson Museum exhibition of my current series of paintings, I graphically illustrate the value of love for all humanity. In an imaginary, spiritually enriched context — the Touch in the Spirit of Love series calls all people together who view the paintings to see each other reaching out to one another through the touching of hands.
The hands in this series aim to connect people to express hope for the life-saving power of love committed to community-building. As envisioned by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., hope for a “beloved community” can be realized when people actively join together to show love for social justice.
Overall, the paintings in this series I created, visually challenge people to see the need for loving wholeness in mind, body, heart and spirit. Hands of different colors touching each other in the paintings artistically demonstrate the power of love rooted in freedom for all people who have been historically oppressed.
Conceptually, I believe art should inspire all individuals to connect to the creative gifts the Divine Spirit has given us — whether it be through our voices, our physical movement, our writing or our hands to envision that which lies beyond the limits of rational perception.
I believe art should challenge us to see beyond the material world — opening us up to the place of imaginative realization. It is in this place we begin to see worlds of creative power we have never witnessed before.
I believe liberatory art allows us to be present in a new world where we can live, love freely and lavish joyfully in the creative inspiration of our Divine calling. Through the Divine’s gifts of imaginative power — our mind, body and spirit unite in union to express the inexpressible across all forms of our differences.
As a Black abstract artist, I work creatively to join together the boldness of African colors, shapes and patterns. I challenge viewers of my artwork to take a deeper look into the Spirit of love for humanity that I seek to represent.
MYAFRIKA-ART offers viewers insight into my own personal vision of creative spiritual transformation. My artistic longing has always been to connect to my cultural history rooted in African principles of color, shape, patterns and designs that are as old as the creative Spirit of humankind.
The one element that is the unifying figure in all of my paintings is the power of movement within a context of geometric configurations. Also, I include mirrors and other two-dimensional forms and shapes in many of my paintings to bring the one-dimensional surface of the canvas to life.
In particular, mirrors in my paintings allow the viewer to become a part of the artwork itself. I believe that we all — in the insightfulness of the Divine Spirit — were created to become artistic beings with varying ways to express ourselves. My paintings act to unite all people — across differences of race/ethnicity, gender, class, sexuality, generation, ability – nationally and globally.
In many of my paintings, I include pieces of mirrors that are broken and others that are unbroken — circular or square in shape. I represent these different shapes of mirrors as complex aspects of human experiences. In truth, for many viewers of my paintings, the mirrors (broken and not) relate to geometric African shapes and patterns, and may illustrate moments in their life.
Even in these life-challenging concepts my paintings may represent, I maintain that one’s life can still be imaginatively beautiful. My artwork aims to show that each viewer of it is on a journey toward completeness — as the individual moves through physical and-or psychological pain, emotional heartache or moments of self-doubt.
My vision of MYAFRIKA-ART is to create portraits of creative being rooted in the beauty of all life — from the inside out.
Ultimately in my artistic vision, I aim to challenge viewers of my paintings to find the artist in themselves. Overall, my creative expression challenges people to see in and beyond the material world — opening their eyes to a meta-world of imaginative wholeness in mind, heart and soul.
In my worldview of artistic, visionary expressivity — we begin to witness the creative, liberating power of love for all humanity.
My artwork determines to bring people together to share our creative abilities in our homes, schools, neighborhoods, parks, recreational and spiritually enriched facilities. In these locations, we can create and share expressive ways that encourage us to live, move, love and lavish joyfully the inspiration of community-alliance building rooted in freedom for all people who have been historically oppressed.
Considering the life-challenging, traumatic time in which we are living — nationally and internationally associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, racism, gun violence and war — creative artistry can act as an agent of human healing.
In MYAFRIKA-ART, I maintain that artistic expression for community healing is life-saving — particularly for those of us reclaiming and embracing the legacy of 400 hundred years of survival on this land.
For me, I celebrate the history and herstory of Black art every single day of the year.
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