| For Do Savannah
According to their mission statement, “the Friends of African American Arts [FAAA for short] shall…create public awareness and encourage the appreciation of and advancement of the art of African Americans.”
With their current show at Savannah State University’s Kennedy Fine Arts Center Gallery, the latest in their continued exhibition partnership and which features works by 20 of their 83 members, it’s safe to proclaim mission accomplished.
“A couple years ago, (Nicholas Silberg, Department Chairperson of Fine Arts, Humanities and Wellness) invited FAAA to exhibit annually in conjunction with Black History Month,” said Calvin Woodum, who not only has work in the show, but also helped coordinate the project with SSU.
“The show is always well presented in a beautiful gallery. They truly make us feel like family.”
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Other than adherence to the organization’s core principles, there isn’t really a theme to the exhibition. Consequently, the artwork showcased represents a wide range of styles and approaches to art-making.
Self-taught watercolorist Kat Robertson often creates her work as a “backdrop to the multi-media visual poetry” she creates. But in the case of “A Mou Sea,” the piece she’s exhibiting in this show, she instead chose to look to an artist working in another medium entirely as her muse.
“It was named after the photographer who captured this image on film, which inspired the painting,” she explained. “When my friend posted his photograph, the subject, a spectacular sky, and moving sea, cried out to me.”
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Robertson took that initial compositional starting point and expanded on it to come up with something entirely her own.
“Duplicating the majesty in nature or creating an exact replica of a photograph is never my intention… I always want the image to speak to me as it defines itself.”
Multidisciplinary artist Akeem R. A. McMichael went in an entirely different direction with his piece. Utilizing the cardstock paint samples you find at hardware stores as his primary material, he worked to create a three-dimensional feel on a two-dimensional plane for his piece, “Galaxy 1.”
“The piece is of Africa in the night sky with other stars making a galaxy,” McMichael described. “A strong force with gravitational pull. With all the resources Africa has to offer, and has offered, I wanted to celebrate it.”
Membership in FAAA has helped the young creator get back to art making after a post-college hiatus, and McMichael appreciates how the organization has empowered him to be true to himself and his heritage.
“(The group) has made it comfortable to talk with fellow arts with similar backgrounds and experiences and exchange ideas,” he said. “It is important and valuable because it supports and showcases blackness and the Black experience.”
Although focused on the African American experience, the exhibition displays diversity not only in the work shown, but also in the artists represented.
FAAA member Lisa Rosenmeier, who is white, believes strongly in supporting the cause of black artists in the community.
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“Still Life,” the stark and powerful painting she contributed to the show, depicts, “The day the world stopped and retreated inside,” the artist explained.
“There were no storm clouds on the horizon, no angry mobs in the streets and no war was taking place. Yet we closed ourselves into our homes and took shelter.”
Although Rosenmeier describes herself as somewhat of an “outsider” within the group, someone who is involved more to support the Black community, she feels a certain kinship with the other FAAA members due to the circumstances of her upbringing.
“I was adopted as an infant and never knew any of my blood family,” she detailed. “When I met my birth-mother and then other family members I realized there was a hole in my identity.”
On Friday from 1-2pm, Robertson, McMichael, and Rosenmeier will all be gathering together for a Virtual Panel Discussion, to be conducted by Christen Higgins Clougherty, Ph.D., the Galleries Director for the Department of Fine Arts, Humanities, and Wellness at SSU. Fellow exhibition artists Vanessa Withun and Ruth Cohen will join them to answer student-submitted questions about their artistic philosophies and their work. Attendees to the free Facebook Live event will also be given the opportunity to ask questions of the artists, time permitting.
Robertson believes that both the exhibition and the panel discussion, with their diversity of styles and viewpoints, will offer those who attend an opportunity to broaden their understanding of the black experience.
“As an African American, our skin color makes us family, connecting us with shared and familiar experiences,” she noted. “Yet even though family members are related, our voices are inimitably independent and individual. We each have our own rhythms and express our visions differently. Our eyes focus on diverse subjects and the sounds, smells, and textures of life affect us in unique ways.”
FAAA2021 at Savannah State University runs through March 31st. Visit https://www.savannahstate.edu/class/departments/fine-arts/events-calendar.shtml for more information.
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