by Cesca Janece Waterfield
The 2nd annual Minority Art Exhibition (MAE) presented by Clarke Art Consulting features an expansive collection of contemporary art created by African-American and Latin-American artists. MAE kickoffs Sep. 30 with a group show at Metro Space Gallery, 119 Broad St. A second installation featuring Hamilton “Ham?” Glass opens Oct. 8 at The Whitley Gallery, 29 N. 17th St. MAE will connect viewers with appealing and provocative work as it encourages dialogue. Artist talks and workshops throughout the week offer guidance and information to artists and as well as art enthusiasts. MAE in part benefits ART 180, which creates art-related programs for young people at risk in the Richmond area. Suggested Donation, $5.
Tracy Baylor, Curator
When Tracy Baylor established a second career in art after years in the financial industry, she knew she’d learn while helping clients acquire fine art. But one lesson surprised her: “I found out that a lot of artists go to school and learn art and art history, but no one ever prepares them to be a professional artist – negotiating contracts and things of that nature. It’s [something] they need to have.”
So today, as principal consultant and owner of Clarke Art Consulting, Tracy also coaches artists in the business skills needed by a working artist. Her business background makes a powerful ally to aspiring artists. Last year, she launched the Minority Art Exhibition (MAE) to raise the profile of artists of color. While last year’s inaugural event was a one night show, this year MAE takes place over a week and includes workshops and lectures.
A major goal, of course, is to promote work of artists of color. “Historically, the art market didn’t really value their work,” Tracy says. “That hasn’t come until recent years. From the President to the next generation of art collectors, [people] are appreciating this work from [Native American] artists, from African American artists, Hispanic artists. They are just as skilled and they have just as complex themes and messages in their work as the work by artists of European descent. Why not get people excited about it? Why not highlight artists here?”
Partial proceeds from the show will support Art 180. “Why I’m really happy to work with Art 180 is we share a mutual mission,” Tracy says. “They work with children in challenged locations. They really want children to experience art.”
Merges Movement with Color
The work of Sukenya Best includes printmaking, painting, drawing, dance, design and more. The J. Sargeant Reynolds professor earned her BFA at Virginia Commonwealth University and her MFA from University of Tennessee. But she attributes her fluidity across media to her family.
“My father’s side is very artistic,” Sukenya says. “We have musicians, actors, dancers, craftsmen, craftswomen. I’ve always been around diversity. That was just something natural to me.”
Her performance art piece on MAE’s opening night will feature up to four dancers and combine movement with two dimensional art-making. The dancers will actually create the art work. “After the dance is done,” Sukenya says, “the remnant is still on that flat surface. I put that and transfer it to paper or fabric.”
Known for her use of bold color and forms, Sukenya describes her process of experimenting with colors “sort of like a mad scientist in the lab.” She has performed and exhibited for audiences at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Corcoran School of Arts and more while her artworks are collected in New Delhi, and Gujarat India.
Right now she is working on expanding her movement art-making project. “I really do see this more as a community project,” Sukenya says. “The larger it will become, the more the audience can participate. It’s along the lines of a festival or carnival where the audience is like a procession of people dancing in the middle. I see it being more of an installation not just outdoors, but perhaps indoors. I understand that having the right facilities through a residency would help grow this.”
Sukenya performs at First Friday, Oct. 1, 5:30 pm, Metro Space Gallery, 119 Broad St.
10 Questions for Photographer Jamil Smith
Currently living in Brooklyn, New York, photographer Jamil Smith was born and raised in Henrico County. Although he excelled in sports, he was interested in photography from a young age, inspired by album covers of his father’s music collection as well as the photos in the family’s subscription to National Geographic. While traveling overseas, he got serious about his hobby. Returning home, he felt that images relevant to his life and experiences were rarely represented in media. So he picked up a camera, and hasn’t set it down since.
What three words describe your style?
Introspective. Personal. Universal.
Who or what inspires you as a photographer?
I draw inspiration from everything that has meaning behind it. There are so many images confronting us daily via the media, yet so little of it has any lasting meaning. They’re just words, catchphrases, sensationalism. To a large degree, these influences are fleeting moments, so I am most inspired by artists, writers, thinkers that aren’t afraid to create something that makes you want to revisit it over and over.
What has been your most memorable photo shoot and why?
Every time I pick up my camera, I try to push myself to create something I’ve yet to do with my camera. Every project that I have the opportunity to work on, I try to out do my previous work. That said, my most memorable project was shooting in Coney Island a few years ago. It was the final day of the summer and I was shooting along the boardwalk. I oftentimes shoot with my iPod on and that day, I happened to walk into a gathering that was quickly transforming into a full blown party. I didn’t hear the music but could sense the energy of the people around me. I saw everything around me, moving, flowing, nothing was stagnant. It was like I tapped into the energy of the crowd. It’s not often that you find yourself in places where everyone is so open to being photographed by a stranger on a beach. The energy of that day was unforgettable and as the moon lit the sky that night and after hours of shooting and partying with everyone, I knew that I had captured something very special. To this day, I don’t think I’ve partied that hard since my college days.
Imagine that could be invisible for one day with your camera…
Honestly, I probably wouldn’t even take many photos differently than I do normally. I try to capture the true spirit of my subjects in the same light as they would appear if they were not in front of a camera. So basically, I try to approach my shoots as if there wasn’t a camera present at all.
What person, living or dead would you like to capture on film and why?
That’s another hard one, there’s rarely one answer I can give for questions like these, but to narrow it down, I’d say Bob Marley. I think he’s one of the greatest performers this world has witnessed and his impact continues to expand over time. I also think he and all of the original Wailers, including his band members, were some cool cats. They had such a unique style which the world had never seen up to that point. I would have liked to capture Bob away from the music, given it was so pivotal to his life, instead focusing on the man that made the music. I would have like to show him with his family, his children. Perhaps eating with his band members, showing the simple pleasures such powerful people partake in. Basically, capturing the other side of the game, the human side. I’ve always sought out the behind-the-scene part of the story of people I am inspired by. To me, the traits most people don’t see in such people are exactly the traits that I seek out. They tend to be very subtle.
What is the hardest part of your job?
Probably shooting with people that have no input into what they would like to create, artistically. It allows you to be creative in one regard, yet you still feel the added pressure of being left in the dark about what the client is seeking in addition to being expected to provide your client with a product that is functional and likable. To that point, I will say that it has helped me to ask the right questions well in advance in order to get clear guidance about what the client is seeking to create.
Who is the first photographer that comes to your mind and why?
Wow, that’s difficult. That constantly changes, but I’d say Tim Hetherington. He’s a photojournalist and documentary photographer which is right along the lines of my style of photography. I really like how he aligns his gifts with documenting the realities of the world we participate in. The more I study and grow as a photographer, I definitely feel myself gravitating towards photojournalism.
If not photography, what career would you have pursued?
It’s interesting you ask, my background is actually finance. I’ve been an entrepreneur since 2006. I’ve owned two businesses over the past few years, too. I wouldn’t have changed my decision to study business in college, but even if I could do it over, I would have minored in history and photography. I don’t actually recall there being a dedicated photography curriculum, but then again, photography wasn’t that prevalent during that stage of my life. During those years, I was absorbing many of the experiences that would enable me to become a more conscious person. Over time, photography has become my pen and pad, my way of engaging the collective consciousness of my environment and expressing my interpretations with my lens.
What advice do you have for beginning photographers?
Whether it’s for hobby or profession, try to do something that holds meaning. Go to art stores and browse the work of published photographers to see how they compose their work. Try to take note of the photographers and even the photographs that strike you the most. Find out if there is a common theme, that might be a signal to you about what your focus should be within photography and in your life’s work. My advice isn’t to learn specific technical skills, but focus on the softer skills of the craft. Also, try to study photographers that you wouldn’t normally gravitate towards and study their published work. There may be something in their photography that you’re missing which explains why their work was published to begin with.
A perfect example, a year ago, I was given a book of photography by a friend of mine whom I’d photographed. The book was a collection of some of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s most well known images. At first glance, I wasn’t impressed by anything in the book except for one image. I came back to that one image about a week later to see what stood out about it and then I sat down with the book and flipped through it once more with a totally new outlook. I began to see how Cartier-Bresson composed his images, his usage of open space, how he told stories of the day that would become timeless. Then I did some research on him and learned that he was one of the founding members of Magnum Photos, the world’s most prestige photography agency. It made rethink the next time I pass by someone’s work without giving it that second glance. You just might miss something special.
If someone asked, ‘How can I be the next Jamil Smith?’ what would you say?
I would say, “my parents covered that idea already.” [laughter] I’d ask them why would they ever want to be something that already exists. It’s been done already. I’d be honored by such a gesture, but I hope my creations, my contributions, my efforts in life would inspire them to go beyond that question. Hopefully, they’d begin their own search for their unique gifts and visions for their lives. Then maybe they would begin to ask how they can contribute to something greater than themselves, for the greater, common good.
Who is Ham? He Gets Richmond Talking
Hamilton “Ham?” Glass brings an architect’s precision to the pulse of the street and creates striking murals and images on canvas. His MAE solo show will open Oct. 8 at the Whitley Gallery in Shockoe Bottom. The Whitley provides art materials and instruction to inmates and showcases their work. Hamilton’s installation piece will take him 20 hours or more to complete, and is a response to inmate artist Kevin Greene, whose work Hamilton first saw on the recommendation of Amelia Lanwehr, the Gallery’s Curator and Manager.
Chances are, you’ve seen Hamilton’s arresting and thought provoking images. Among two of his area murals are two newsmaker pieces he completed near VCU. When the first image – a visceral depiction of economic recession – unnerved one resident, Hamilton was asked to change it. He seized the opportunity to express his disappointment in what he saw as resistance to community dialogue. Convinced more than ever of the need for open discussion, Hamilton says, “I took my own money after being out of work, and paid for that mural myself.”
“I’m from Philadelphia, the mural capital of the world,” Hamilton says. “You can’t go a block without seeing mural art. And that’s why you don’t have a lot of vandalism in Philadelphia – because there’s a lot of positive imagery all over the place, and they’re not just traditional murals. Things would be so much better if you stopped painting over things with blank walls.”
It may surprise some that the professionally trained architect and painter advocates graffiti as an art form. “I’m talking about graffiti, I’m not talking about vandalism,” he makes clear, “Thought provoking, guerilla type of work. I don’t think people think of graffiti as thought provoking.” Seeing Hamilton’s work at the Whitley, which is being created with spray paint, may inspire them to reconsider. www.whosham.com
Hamilton’s MAE solo show will open Oct. 8 at the Whitley Gallery in Shockoe Bottom, 6– 9 pm.
James Clarke III
As part of MAE, there will be a retrospective of the work of James Clarke III.
At the age of 17, Jose Lorenzo fled his native Cuba, swam to the U.S., and was eventually granted citizenship as an asylum seeker. He brought with him vivid memories of his Caribbean homeland, which is reflected in his art. He paints bold, colorful exotic images, along with symbolic folkloric themes that depict everyday
William H. Clarke
Born in Nottoway County, William H. Clarke is a noted Folk artist whose works narrate his rural African American heritage. He paints poignant scenes of tobacco farming, riverside baptisms, funerals and daily life, and his honest depictions have earned him a strong national following. Clarke’s work is collected in numerous private collections as well as museums throughout the U.S.
Keith M. Ramsey grew up in Williamsburg. The son of an artist, he developed an affinity for the works of Edward Hopper. Since receiving his Degree in Fine Arts from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1998, he has been working toward his artistic vision of images on canvas, wood panel and paper. He is known for creating politically-charged work such as his noted series “Diluted Loss”, dedicated to mistreatment and successes of black soldiers during WWII.