Saturday, August 7, 2010

Inspired by an 81 yr old artist

I'm always encouraged and inspired when I meet an artist who in his/her elder years is still making art and influencing viewers by showing work.  I was privileged to be invited by my friend and colleague Kaye, to an opening reception for an artist last weekend.  The event was presented at the International Portfolio Gallery in Orlando, FL and curated by owner Winsome Edwards.

I was also encouraged to know another artist friend and colleague, Prof. Trent Tomengo had written the essay included in the book about the artist, Jacqueline Peters-Cully, from which I will summarize for this posting.  I don't like to single out enthnicity but the amazing story is much stronger knowing Jacqueline is an African-American artist and her journey as an artist began way back in 1947 when she declared her goal was to study fashion design.  Her teacher openly discouraged her stating "There are no Negro fashion designers."

Jacqueline proved her wrong as she pursued her career at the Art Institute of Chicago and excelled in drawing and painting having been awarded full academic scholarship in her 2nd year.  I can't tell you the whole story, but suffice it to say she persevered in the design field and eventually earned the place of a top textile designer in 1966-1970 and went on to launch her own design company in New York.

After marriage, she and her husband traveled to W Africa and she was inspired by the textile designs which eventually influenced her work, using the medium of dyes on silk.  Her work is beautiful!  Of course I have a soft spot in my heart for African designs.

The work that was exhibited at this event and the book that was written, specifically features a new body of work begun in 2004, consisting of 37 pieces which were in some way inspired by an exhibit of Gee's Bend quilts (which I was fortunate to view at the Orlando Museum of Art).  I learned Jacqueline is a "keeper" of processes and all through the years of her silk paintings, she saved the undersheets which left an imprint of the finished silk design.  From 2004-2007, she began assembling bits and pieces of these sheets into quilt-like collages which now make up this exhibition.  Her African-American heritage is proclaimed throughout her work, referencing the pathways of her journey and others of African decent which document such history as the Reconstruction and Railroad system which played a large role in Peters-Cully's life.  The title of the exhibition is in fact, "Journeying: The Colours of Our Pathways.

Another amazing part of this exhibition was the compilation of music by Prof. and musicologist Samuel Gaustad.  After viewing a roomful of her works, he was inspired to research and arrange Negro spirituals and jazz renditions which are counterparts to Ms Peters-Cully's  collaged collection.  We were able to hear and view a "mini" rendition on video of this work complete with images from the collection.  An amazingly inspirational evening! 

Ms Edwards, who is Peter's-Cully's dealer is working on a traveling schedule for this collection to be viewed at various museums and venues around the country.  If you ever read or hear when this will be shown, DON'T MISS IT!  It will likely be titled the same as the book: Journeying: The Colours of Our Pathways.  An Exhibition of Mixed Media Works Chronicling an American Experience.

In conclusion, I'm impressed afresh that one never knows how the LORD will use our history/heritage or previous work.  I think of Jacqueline's foresight to "save" all those papers for "sometime".  I'm a keeper, too, and I thought of all the small "thumbnails" I've kept of most of my artwork from my work beginning in 2000.  Perhaps sometime it will be used as inspiration for someone else to keep making art and exploring the gift God has given them..

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