“Though a trained choreographer and artist, Sharayna Christmas first describes herself as an “activist and a nurturer” who feels compelled to continue a longstanding tradition of nurturing activism here in Baltimore. The exhibitions and initiatives that she collaboratively curates through Muse 360 Arts at the Eubie Blake National Cultural Center are done with the intention of fusing art and experiential learning environments to uplift and inspire the city’s underserved communities.
In her latest exhibit, inspired by the activism of her own mother, the womanist movement, and the mentorship of elders, Christmas continues the work of highlighting the lives and legacies of black women, teaming with Kibibi Ajanku, curator-in-residence at the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Museum, to launch We Choose, now on view in the museum’s Bearman Gallery in Fells Point through September 27.
“A lot of the artists that I work with have never been in an exhibition,” says Christmas. “I understand that I was once given an opportunity [and] I try to offer that same kind of support with my programming and the exhibitions that I curate.” CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW
Inspired by pre-Abrahamic religious traditions from Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean, local multidisciplinary artist Oletha DeVane repurposes found objects to construct monumental spiritual sites. Her new exhibit Traces of Spirit, currently on view in the Spring House at the Baltimore Museum of Art, includes old and newer sculptural assemblages that have been reworked to establish an immersive spirit house—which is loosely inspired by Thai constructions believed to contain the spirits of protective entities.
DeVane’s spirit house serves as a homage to anticolonial liberation efforts, Juneetenth, the legacy of her father, and humanity's tireless existentialism.
"In terms of looking at religion itself, it's about how we as human beings are on this incredible search," DeVane said during a recent studio visit. "It doesn’t mean that any one practice is wrong, it just means that we are all, as a world community, on different paths of searching for that ultimate spiritual essence." CONTINUE READING
“Pennsylvania Avenue, better known as The Avenue to many Baltimoreans, has an illustrious history. Decades before the downtown and the Inner Harbor became nationally recognized tourist destinations, this diagonal stretch of city block fostered both thriving local businesses and nationally renowned arts and entertainment venues. Jazz legends like Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington performed at The Royal Theatre, Bamboo Lounge, Club Casino, and Club Tijuana. Meanwhile, Union Baptist and Bethel AME, African American churches built here in the 18th century, stood as critical community gathering spaces for political and spiritual counsel.
Today, few of these sites have been designated for historic preservation, and most of the institutions have been demolished. But in an effort to preserve what remains of The Avenue, and to revitalize the region at large, local community leaders have teamed up to found the Pennsylvania Avenue Black Arts and Entertainment District Coalition—which includes organizations such as Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, the Arch Social Club, the Arch Social Community Network, Upton Planning Committee, Druid Heights Community Development Corporation, University of Baltimore Community Development Fellows Program, and more.” CONTINUE READING
“For decades, Ernest Shaw’s large-scale murals and mixed media portraits have been integral landmarks in Baltimore City. In 2017, Shaw was awarded the Ruby’s Artist Grant for Visual Art. The artist used those earnings to curate a series of community dialogs that interrogated stereotypes and presumptions about black masculinity.
Those conversations informed two large bodies of work: a series of mixed media works on canvas of historic African American cultural and political figures, and a collection of graphite works on paper that feature portraits of women who have experienced abuse or sexual violence. Selections from both of those series will be on view in the exhibition TESTIFY! A Life’s Time of Emerging Blackness, which debuts July 11 and runs at the Motor House gallery in Station North through September.
Inspired by Carvaggio’s use of light and shadow, as well as Dunbar and DuBois’ theories about the duality of black identity, Shaw immortalizes prominent thought leaders, creatives, and historic figures. Among them are James Baldwin, Nina Simone, Wole Soyinka, Thelonius Monk, George Stinney Jr., and Okwui Enwezor—along with others whose work and walk have indelibly transformed the world.” CONTINUE READING
“David Driskell’s art practice cannot be defined by a singular style or art movement. Informed by myriad methodologies, his art demonstrates vibrant and expressive explorations in color, material, and form that elevate static scenes into distinct narratives about our tumultuous, magical, and mundane world. The work tends to be more conceptual than figurative, and when figures emerge, they are rendered as murky silhouettes, flat outlines, or faint geometric apparitions reminiscent of African masks.
Resonance: Paintings, 1965–2002, currently exhibited at the DC Moore Gallery in Chelsea, presents a selection of David Driskell’s works that were informed rather than restrained by the events that shaped a turbulent and reformative era: the assassination of major political leaders, the end of the Vietnam War, the evolution of a wounded but perseverant Civil Rights Movement, the liberation of African nations from colonial rule, and the beginning of American wars in the Middle East that persist into the contemporary moment.” CONTINUE READING
“Hair Love, a new children’s book from filmmaker and former Baltimore Raven, Matthew Cherry and acclaimed illustrator Vashti Harrison, is a love poem to black girls and the fathers who help them stay fly.
The story follows Zuri, an imaginative toddler as she prepares for a very special day. Since every special day deserves a special look, Zuri asks her father to help her style her hair. After several endearing failed attempts, her father successfully creates a look Zuri can be proud of, a funky puff bun mohawk. “Daddy combed, parted, oiled, and twisted. He nailed it!” Zuri cheers in a sparkly pink superhero cape in celebration of her new look.
Inspired by a series of viral videos that featured black fathers styling their daughters’ hair, Cherry wanted to create a story that would present a positive narrative about black beauty standards and black fathers.
“Anytime you can, especially with young girls, show them that no matter what you or your hair look like, you are beautiful in your own way,” says Cherry. “Anytime you can normalize us in a way that [isn’t] looked at through a stereotypical lens, [or] you can show that black men are fathers, brothers, and we are friends—it all helps.” “ CONTINUE READING
“There are not enough representations of women just as we are,” said mixed-media artist LaToya Hobbs as we stood in front of her piece “To Stand a Little Taller,” a beautiful oil, acrylic, and collage work exhibited at The Gallery at Baltimore City Hall. I stared up at the portrait of a curly haired woman who smiled back at me with soft eyes. An adinkrahene, a circular Ghanaian adinkra symbol representing greatness and leadership, is replicated in a dense pattern across the canvas and overlays the woman’s black and red dress and the white backdrop behind her. As I looked up at the woman, I thought about how rare it is to see triumphant reflections of Black motherhood.
In her latest exhibition, Salt of the Earth, Hobbs depicts “modern matriarchs,” a series of figurative relief carvings, oil paintings, and lustrous aluminum plates that feature Black mothers in striking and edifying portraits.” CONTINUE READING
“Contemporary artist and supermodel, Corey Wash, creates minimalist sketches that center the mundane dramas of indistinct characters as apocalyptic and cynical scenes; witty and humorous accounts about the obliviousness of our post- internet world. Every doodle draws from the artist’s personal accounts as a bicoastal transplant in Los Angeles and New York, as well her experiences growing up in Baltimore. All of the scenarios Wash portrays offer broad considerations about the dysfunction of contemporary communication.
The earnest portrayals of unapologetic vulgarity; swears, curses, and generally impolite interactions that recur in Wash’s mixed media works, stand as disillusioned proofs that the technological advancements of the 21st century have stunted rather than evolved interpersonal communications. Isn’t it ironic that in the age of globalized interconnectivity and gluttonous data accessibility that most of our communications occur in siloed echo chambers, nihilistic and isolationist social media platforms, where desperately derelict conversations resound? The collective disassociation of our contemporary moment is the framework from which Wash approaches the complexity and nuance of interpersonal relationships.
Wash’s ruminations about the liminal spaces between social autonomy and interdependence are not heady, rather, most frames feel more like comic strips than sociopolitical commentaries. Each canvas stands as a window that peers into a scene that compounds and deconstructs the virtual hyper- sentience of our daily communications. Decontextualized conversations from Willoughby and friends, a recurring cast of non-gendered and racially ambiguous characters, occur within flat neon landscapes. The characters are engaged with monotonous daily activities which they often respond to with curt, nonlinear reactions that mirror the rampant scrolling and cursory commentary of social media discourse. The universality and simplicity of their character designs allows Willoughby and friends to serve as avatars for us all.” CONTINUE READING
“This season marks the 14th year of operation for the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture. During its brief tenure, the museum has been marred with rumors of financial turmoil and organizational chaos that has overshadowed its accomplishments.
“This museum occupies prime real estate in the city and the state,” notes Jackie Copeland, who took up the role of executive director at the start of the year, “It is not just about the Reginald F. Lewis museum, it’s also about many other African-American cultural institutions who are not getting the support that they need to be sustainable. Whether that support comes from the state, city, African-American or majority communities, how you put that puzzle together will make a museum sustainable.”
Copeland, an accomplished art historian who brings more than 30 years of experience working in arts institutions to her new position, remains optimistic about her abilities to transform negative perceptions and reignite community engagement.” CONTINUE READING
Abdu sits down with artist-archivist Angela N. Carroll navigating in the art world as a black body and making space for black art in museums.
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