Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Pensive

Sunday we took in an exhibit at the Gibbes Museum in Charleston.  The museum itself  is an old Charleston mansion and is across the street from the historic Circular Church pictured below.  
The artist, Radcliffe Bailey, is from Atlanta with deep family roots in the South. The title of the exhibit is "Pensive".  I think it's a very good title because I am still feeling pensive and contemplating the meaning of the pieces.  He describes the exhibit as, "exploring the themes of race, ancestors, and memory," in hopes of "inspiring understanding and healing of history." 
The signature piece of the exhibit is called "Storm at Sea. "


Splintered  piano keys holding an African sculpture and charred-looking ship represent the turbulent waves that tossed a slave ship crossing from Africa to America, and the loss of lives of slaves before setting foot in America.





















Entitled "Ebo," the next work depicts the journey of one of Bailey's grandfathers on the Underground Railroad.  Ebo is one pronounciation of Igbo, a tribe of Nigeria, and I guess the masked figure, which seems to be a photograph, is African although it looks Oriental to me.  


The handwoven bag contains raw cotton and a lantern, used to make signals on the Underground Railroad.  I liked the three glass windows.  To me they represent looking into the past, present, and future freedom of Bailey's grandfather.  






The taxidermied alligator on an old canvas tarp was called "On Your Way Up."  The birth and death dates of the artist's grandfathers are embroidered on it in handspun cotton, along with some unknown symbols done in red fiber.  I didn't really "get" this one.  The Writer is writing his comments in a book left there for that purpose.  I should have peeked to see what he said!  
The next piece is the one that most spoke to me and brought tears to my eyes.  On one side a door is painted shiny gold with an elaborate lock and huge, multiple keys, and the other side has peeling old paint and rusty hinges and is hung with shackles made of bottle caps. 





















It's called "Fourth Ward," which was is  an historic area of Houston for African American life in the early half of the 20th century.  I think the door represents another kind of freedom, the break out of segregation.  The Black night clubs of the Fourth Ward with jazz music and dancing drew whites in.  The bottle caps represent the role of the night clubs bringing the races together, a step into the end of segregation.  The door itself came from a house in the "projects" of the Fourth Ward.  

The interpretations of the pieces are solely my own, I'm sharing only what the art says to me.  But then, that is the fun of good art, isn't it! 

16 comments:

  1. This exhibit gives us pause to think.

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  2. How interesting how other people see and show what they think in an exhibition..

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  3. Such interesting pieces of art. I like your interpretations.

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  4. Impressive exhibition, can imagine you were deeply touched by what it represents.

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  5. Wow, those pieces are thought provoking. And anything that tries and succeeds at representing difficult topics does leave one pensive!

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  6. Certainly a very interesting exhibition.
    Charleston is really one US city that should be
    on the itinerary of overseas tourists.
    I loved my stay in Charleston in the 1980s.
    Cheers
    Colin

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    1. I love it, too, but you would never recognize it today. Incredible growth without planning has greatly diminished its history and charms.

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    2. Oh dear you have idiotic town planners in South Carolina also.
      All in the POCKETS of developers - "Trump" creatures maybe??????

      Here in Terrigal it is just traffic chaos in summer and weekends.
      Apartment blocks sprouting up like rotten mushrooms and roads in and out
      completely ignored.

      Please never put up a blog on developers...........could cause me a fatal temper fit - ha ha!
      Colin

      PS; Glad you liked the Kim Yong cartoon - poor Justin - ha ha!

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  7. Ohhhh yes, I love your artistic interpretations - what a wonderful, intriguing exhibition. Plenty to talk about. The old piano keys 'Storm of the Seas' is brilliant. I would have loved this. Thanks for your visit to my blog and encouragement re housing issues! Looking forward to finding my home sweet home for sure!
    Wren x

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  8. Cynthia, in answer to your query on my post about the flowers on the piano and whether it is a hospice? Vantage House is a continuing care retirement community. People move here to live independently with the provision that should we need nursing or assisted living we can move into that part of the facility. Death can come at any stage in that continuum. The friend who inspired the poem was living independently until he was hospitalized and died.

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  9. What an interesting exhibit. At 88 keys per piano, that's still quite a few pianos in his "Storm at Sea" piece. Thank you for sharing your visit to the exhibit.

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    1. Yes, a lot of pianos died for this exhibit! He had two or three other pieces, not as large as Storm at Sea, that also used piano keys. I find it intriguing that an artist can look at old piano keys and think, "oh goody! Perfect for art!"

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  10. wow, some REALLY intriguing, conversation-starting pieces there! Thanks for sharing!

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  11. Dear Cynthia, it's so true--what you have said--that good art/great art brings forth from the deep center of ourselves where Oneness dwells--an interpretation that represents our own experience of life. Good/Great art "speaks" to us and brings us into contact with the stream of life/humanity from the beginning of recorded history to now and into the future.

    Your interpretations make me so want to see this exhibit! thank you Peace.

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  12. Interesting exhibit, thank you for sharing it. Art is so diverse...who really knows what it really means:)

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