Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Art of Living Black

The Art of Living Black Open Studios Week 1
Last Sunday, March 2, I went by Mills College for TAOLB open studios art tour. There I saw Adekunle Kabir Adejare whose textiles and fine line ink drawings were marvelous to behold. Duane Conliffe’s photographs of people, landscapes and fruit were wonderful to see. I recalled visiting his home studio a few years ago one rainy Sunday. This afternoon was sunny and warm and pleasant. There were refreshments for guests and a pleasant ambiance hovering over the gathering. Lorraine Bonner, who’d sent me a card had new work, one was a bust with a maze traveling from the groin to the heart, while on the back of the bust there was a maze starting from the top. The lines were black on one side and white on the other. The color had something to do with embracing all of ourselves, both the light and the lesser understood or scary aspects of ourselves, because all of it is a part of the healing journey home –home, the heart. Her table was covered with clay and stone carvings and sculptures, one was a head face with a picture of Lorraine inside the scull. Her baby photo illuminated by light—

My feet then took me over to Atiba Sylvia Thomas’ table. Well first I saw Sonia Mañjon, the wonderful director of the Center for Art and Public Life, who is leaving us this June for a position elsewhere. I introduced her to Jeanette Madden whose work always leaves the canvas, this time in smaller pieces with jeweled straps almost like purse handles, they were so pretty. Inside each frame was a painting, a simple sketch or a combination— next to Jeanette was Nannette’s Entermusblues Blue People. She has a Tina Turner and a Marvin Gaye, you want to hang in your room and watch them sing. The paintings sing. It’s the loudest and quietest concert you ever heard. But she also had this really cute painting of this little boy on the toilet. It was so cute.

When I walked in, I’d greeted Latisha Baker, whose paintings on wood, her brush fire, I think you’ve probably heard me speak of before. Well she had some of her larger and smaller pieces on display. She also had some more colorful and traditional portraits displayed in her booth. Sister Ajuan Mance, an associate professor at Mills had these really cool folks, some mixed media and others semi-caricatures of black men

Back to Atiba. Okay so I tell my friend, if you want to get me a present you can by me one of her piece and he says, “I don’t have a lot of money, but pick out something.” I was like, wow, right now? He said, “Yes.” So I looked at a few pieces and settled on “God will take care of it.” It’s made from rusted tools and a red cowries. The figure is balancing on one marble, the other is on her head; the arms are a nail and the body is a tool. The red cowry covers the stomach. It is balanced, yet the balance is precarious because one foot is on a marble and the head, if it tips might drop the marble. It is a perfect metaphor— for life and love and happiness. As we left the exhibit, we went by Ebony’s booth where Nelson Mandela and Bob Marley were calling us. King had said just earlier morning that when he was in South Africa he stayed in a hotel Mandela frequented and they put in him the former president’s old room. So, I wasn’t surprised when the artist looked up and said, “Has anyone ever said, you look like Mandela?” Ebony Iman Dallas’ people are from East Africa and is studying at the California College of the Arts, where TaSin, my daughter graduated in 2004. (Yes, I have to give my daughter a plug. Visit her at

This weekend is an opportunity to visit other artists on Week 2 of TAOLB tour, March 8 and 9 in Lafayette, Martinez, Richmond, and San Pablo. I’m going to go by Karen and Malik’s place “The Blue Room,” 1814 Gaynor Avenue, Richmond, (510) 931-8639. I might drive out to Vallejo to Ethnic Notions, 318 Georgia Street, (707) 647-7335, for SaLongo Lee and two other artists, but I’m not sure. I want to go by the Richmond Art Center, 2540 Barrett Ave., Richmond, for the TAOLB show and also for Emory Douglas’ show. If you haven’t seen either, TAOLB closes March 14. Visit and call (510) 620-6772. There are many satellite exhibits throughout town in San Francisco, San Pablo, and Oakland. Many close March 14 or have already closed. The exhibit at the San Francisco African American Art and Culture Complex is through March 31, San Pablo Gallery in San Pablo and Stoneridge Galley in Oakland are through March 30, and the Women’s Cancer Resource Gallery, renamed to honor the late Rae Louise Hayward, is up through March 14, You can also visit


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