A REVIEW

Current art exhibits give validity to 'a picture is worth a thousand words'

BY JANE COLLINS
Special to The Sumter Item
Posted 5/3/18

Special to The Sumter ItemMost people are familiar with the adages "art for art's sake" and "a picture is worth a thousand words." The two current Sumter Gallery of Art exhibits reflect the validity of those suggestions. Although it is possible to …

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A REVIEW

Current art exhibits give validity to 'a picture is worth a thousand words'

Posted

Special to The Sumter Item

Most people are familiar with the adages "art for art's sake" and "a picture is worth a thousand words." The two current Sumter Gallery of Art exhibits reflect the validity of those suggestions. Although it is possible to view the shows without previous information, reading the artistic statements will add layers of understanding and possible responses.

The impact of Shanequa Gay's black-and-gold wall with women's faces interconnected with laurel-like wreaths signifying dignity and power reveal her unconscious decision to "give black women centrality and power in her artwork." The four suspended female shapes with animal and bird heads underscore her interest in mythology and its tendency to connect animal and god like forms.

Titled "i come as us," her exhibit assumes even more personal expression with "La Pieta," reminiscent of Michelangelo's "Pieta "in both form, expression and content. Covered with a delicate pink shawl, the mother tenderly holds an inert bloodied body of her son. Gay, fearful for her 18-year-old son under the growing violence against black males, began a series of pieces using fleeing deer as images of hunted males. Some of the pieces in the show are from a special undertaking called Fair Game Project that uses her art "as a platform to advocate for issues she is most passionate about." "Observation Over Intercession" is a Disney-esque rendering of "Bambi" - the tiny black baby huddled near the dead doe. In the background Bugs Bunny emerges from a hole to see what is happening. However, to Gay this is no Disney film but a reality too often revealed in the news. Her play on words in "Mythical Kneegrow: Village Ghettoland" and "Mourning Woman, Wounded Deer, Beasts and Such Things" continue to use the symbolism of the deer, combinations of morphing mythological figures, reality and mistreatment as well as the significance of females.

She dedicates "Street Mythologies" as an ode to Kathryn Johnson, not the African-American mathematician whose work helped with the space program, but to a 92-year-old woman from Atlanta, who was shot and killed in a botched drug raid on her apartment. One of the officers even went back and planted drugs in her home to try to cover up for the three officers who were guilty of the murder but later convicted. She retains her use of golden yellow backdrops, spaces of white, and blue-and-black deer as symbols of her concern for safety in a world filled with growing brutality. "Dual Citizen" with its divided male figure, deer horns and bared, vulnerable but strong male torso zeroes in on the humanity of victims. In the background, the music highlights "My Country 'T'is of Thee" while the script in the foreground refers to the Bill of Rights and various phrases like "one love," "one race," "one kind of land."

Lorna Ruth Galloway's "Halftone Half-lives" uses photographs to explore landscapes that at first may seem "banal." Influenced by Ed Ruscha, an American artist photographer often associated with pop art and his focus on gas stations and his desire to "highlight the universal ordinary to new levels of cultural context, "Galloway's technique of misting the charcoal screen prints with black serves as a method of inviting the viewer to investigate the picture closely and then experiencing it on two levels. First it appears as a reminder of earlier history, but the encounter leads to a recognition of its historical reality. Her photographs lead through a variety of states like Florida, Virginia, California and South Carolina, often capturing scenes along major roads. Her two vast swamp photographs gain intensity through the lack of color, allowing twisting vines and trunks to exert a sense of power and untamed naturalness. Galloway's large picture of the cotton field gains definition through its simplistic openness. Her "Dream Lake, Larimer County" gains emphasis again from the strength of the black and white, much like Ansel Adams' photographs, allowing the environment to stand out. Several of her smaller colored but untitled pictures show her ability to capture reflections and multiple layers of composition.

Both artists use art as a statement of history and involvement, encouraging the viewer to reflect and respond. The two exhibits are at the Sumter Gallery of Art, 200 Hasell St. in the Sumter Cultural Center. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call the gallery (803) 775-0543.