10 Local artists create murals in response to works in Picasso Landscapes: Out of Bounds
By Jen Sudul Edwards, PhD
Picasso Landscapes: Out of Bounds, organized by the American Federation of the Arts, is a major initiative for The Mint Museum. It not only brings major Picasso paintings to Charlotte from all around the world, but also offers an opportunity for the museum to bring together multiple cultural entities in collaborations and partnerships. One of these projects is a mural series enlisting 10 artists and collectives (some of whom will be familiar to the Mint audience from past projects) to create murals around the city.
The initiative is a partnership with Carla Aaron-Lopez, curator of the Local/Street exhibition series that was on view at The Mint Museum in 2021 and 2022; and Talking Walls, the organization that has been supporting mural installations across the city for the last five years.
Together with Aaron-Lopez and the Mint’s Curatorial Assistant Jamila Brown, a group of local artists were invited to paint a mural in response to Guernica — Picasso’s powerful, mural-size antiwar painting — or any of the landscapes included in the Picasso Landscapes: Out of Bounds. The result is a diverse range of styles and images that will dot Charlotte’s urban landscape and the two Mint museum locations beginning mid-February 2023.
Involving Charlotte contemporary artists was always central to the Picasso Landscapes: Out of Bounds. As Aaron-Lopez and local artist ARKO have pointed out, Picasso continues to be a major influence on contemporary artists both as an inspiration and as a foil. The exhibition allows local artists to study the works up close and in person, to break down the structure, and analyze the compositions and brushstrokes to further their own education and experimentation. This partnership reminds us that one of the museum’s primary goals is to preserve and present art’s history so that the next generation can push it forward.
The Picasso Mural project is generously supported by a grant through the North Carolina Arts Council and Infusion Fund.
Mural artists and locations
ARKO and Dammit Wesley
Mint Museum Uptown
Brand the Moth
Mint Museum Randolph
Mint Museum Uptown
Frankie Zombie and 2Gzandcountin
Jen Sudul-Edwards, PhD, is chief curator and curator of contemporary art at The Mint Museum.
Romanticizing the American Landscape
A conversation with artist Stacy Lynn Waddell about her work Landscape with Rainbow as the Sun Blasts the Sky (for R.S.D.) 1859/2022, part of the Mint’s collection.
In 2021, Art Papers published an article about a new series of works by Durham-based artist Stacy Lynn Waddell in which she examines the history of landscape through the work of 19th-century English American painter Thomas Cole and self-taught Black Pittsburgh-based sculptor Thaddeus Mosley. The Mint’s Chief Curator and Curator of Contemporary Art Jen Sudul Edwards, PhD, took notice. As an extension of the series influenced by Cole and Mosley, Waddell created Landscape with Rainbow as the Sun Blasts the Sky (for R.S.D.) 1859/2022: an homage to American artist Robert S. Duncanson’s 1859 painting Landscape with Rainbow, which is in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and was displayed in the United States Capitol Rotunda in 2021 in honor of the inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden.
Duncanson was one of the most important Black artists of the 19th century. This event brought significant national attention to Duncanson, who remains little known beyond art history circles. The Mint Museum is pleased to have acquired Waddell’s tribute to Duncanson: Landscape with Rainbow as the Sun Blasts the Sky (for R.S.D.) 1859/2022, which will be a part of an upcoming reinstallation of the American galleries at Mint Museum Uptown in 2023. Mint curators Jonathan Stuhlman, PhD, and Jennifer Sudul Edwards, PhD, caught up with Waddell to discuss her inspiration behind the work. Lightly edited for brevity and clarity by Michele Huggins.
Jonathan Stuhlman, PhD: We are doing a rotation in the Mint’s permanent collection galleries next summer, shifting focus from different approaches to portraiture to different approaches in landscape. I am really looking forward to including Landscape with Rainbow as Sun Blasts the Sky (for R.S.D.) 1859/2022 in that. There are earlier works in this series dedicated to Thomas Cole and Thaddeus Mosley. What made you decide to extend it beyond them to Duncanson and to this painting in particular?
Stacy Lynn Waddell: I was given an opportunity to show work in a four-page spread in the publication Art Papers. I thought it was a perfect opportunity to examine the core of the romantic idea of how we have come to be as a country. We know there are holes in all of that — it is moth-eaten— but thinking about Thomas Cole and Thaddeus Mosley was really about access. How do I reconfigure or have people take another look at some of Cole’s most important paintings by inserting Mosley and his works into the scene and drawing parallels between the lives of the two men as naturalists.
The other thing was to bring forward an interest in landscape. One of the things that I have thought a lot about, especially during 2020, was access. You couldn’t go places. Once we realized that outside was a safe space to convene, then I feel like the doors were blown off in terms of how people thought about being outside.
JS: Suddenly, everyone is an outdoorsman.
SLW: Everybody! So, I was thinking about that, too: how we do not necessarily consider the space
that we have. We do not consider our dependency upon nature and how we have disrespected that
JS: Then you shift from the Cole/Mosley series to Duncanson. Was it because of his importance as the first and best-known Black American landscape painter?
SLW: Yes. When the painting was rededicated, I thought, “yeah, this is the moment.” Think of the biblical significance around a rainbow and the promise just this idea of a promise. Another thing that the pandemic did was push us to keenly focus on political discourse. To have this painting emerge during the inauguration as a kind of promise, it just struck me as something that seemed important.
Also, the fact that here is a Black man (Duncanson) at a time when Black people had no access. This painting was made in 1859, American slavery was still the order of the day, yet Duncanson was able to access and occupy spaces in America and abroad. I found that to be fascinating. It stood as an emblem of possibility for the onlooker and me as a Black woman from the South functioning as an artist.
JS: Duncanson’s painting, and the rainbow’s landing on the cabin in the wilderness, has been interpreted as symbolizing divine blessing on westward expansion, yet we were doing so at the expense of all the people who originally lived on the land. There is an irony there as he was a Black artist painting on the eve of the Civil War. Duncanson soon thereafter just got the heck out and went to England by way of Canada and left the country for several years. So, to me, it is a painting that is loaded with so many tensions and ironies. What led you to pick the tondo (circular) format for these works and the details in the way that you have done — piecing in the panels in the sky with the rounded swirl. To me, it calls to mind the arc of the rainbow, but I’d love to know more about how you landed on the bit of the picture you chose and the way that you put it together.
SLW: I started thinking about how I would intervene upon the original painting. What would make the most sense for me, someone who loves to appropriate. I do a lot of that in my art. I find photographs and other images that I take and insert a different meaning or myself into the work. Tondos are typically formats of paintings that we ascribe to religious works. The circle points to an internal way of connecting to something. My pieces are works on handmade paper made in India that is very irregular with deckled edges, but still round. So, you still fall into that place.
My drawings are created by burning paper. I am burning paper and then I am adding gilded (gold) material. I love surface texture. I thought, “why don’t you just reinterpret paintings in your materials that are all about surface interest?”
The paintings I am referencing in this also call attention to the environment. Gold leaf is tough on the environment. It is metal. It is gold pounded into sheets with a decorative pattern inlaid. All the alchemy and all the gathering of metals happen before I get the material to use it. So, when I’m using this material, I’m thinking about science, the environment, and the optical illusion of seeing a rainbow.
It is interesting to me to overlay a lot of our contemporary concerns onto a painting that was about an ironic look at a promise. What is it that we really stand for as a country? What is it? What direction are we really going in? It is natural for me to take what I do and lay it on top of something else and then hope that someone gathers something from it.
Hopefully, what the viewer can extract from looking at this series is going well beyond looking at a landscape and even beyond the Duncanson references. The materials may lead them back to some of the concerns: the environment, the landscape, their relationship to it, and what, if anything, are they doing to protect these spaces.
Jen Sudul Edwards, PhD: One of the things that I find so interesting about Duncanson is that with romanticism over the last 100 years, we have been much more critical about it as a practice, of it being nostalgic to avoid reality, whitewashing history to erase crimes against humanity that were going on at the time. You mention the irony that is embedded in Duncanson’s treatment of it, but I also find a kernel of a reminder in Duncanson, and in your series, that romanticism was also created because of a need for hope. Was that a consideration of your series, which was started during the pandemic and has the need for a rainbow at the end.
SLW: Artists are romantics, especially the idea of romanticism as a longing or looking at something lovingly or looking back at something and thinking that there is always hope. It is what we do every day in the making of the work. To be an artist, you are pulling things out of thin air with the hope that someone will come along and find interest in it — just to create a relationship with it through the eye and through the gut. But then also, to maybe buy it and show it and talk about it and write about it. I think that at the heart of all of us, we are all romantics.
I mean, for me, I grew up in the rural South. I ran through fields and grew up on a farm and have a clear relationship to the out of doors, to the land, to owning land. It is not a foreign idea for me to know that people can own land and own large parts of it. My great grandfather, Zollie Coffey Massenburg, owned hundreds of acres at a time when a Black man in rural North Carolina, did not. When he passed, his 14 children all got large plots of land, one of them being my maternal grandmother. When I pass an open field, immediately, there is something that is pricked in me about remembering, longing, and wanting that to be kept whole. No one’s going to buy this and build on it. If we could just have green spaces. The idea of romanticism is deeply embedded in me.
I think when people stand in front of work, there is a romantic gesture that is happening internally with whatever work they are looking at. You bond with it. You are creating a relationship. Whether you realize it or not, you are siphoning through your personal and psychic experiences. It is a romantic way of engaging with something.
So yes, I come to everything as a romantic, as someone who has a longing. I think my interest in appropriation is a romantic gesture to see something and want to make it not better, but to make conditions better and add my voice to that, to envision a better world. The only way that I know how to do that is just with the materials and things that I love working with.
On the daily: 24 hours in the life of artist Lydia Thompson
By Liz Rothaus Bertrand
For Lydia Thompson, a working artist and professor of ceramics at UNC Charlotte, the past is always present. She is fascinated by “our abodes,” and how we interact with them. Inside these spaces, we carry our own stories, as well as those of former inhabitants and vestiges from our lives elsewhere. Thompson’s recent work focuses on issues such as forced displacement, gentrification, and what gets left behind when a home is abandoned.
“You can see the emotions of a structure when it starts to deteriorate, especially when it’s been abandoned,” Thompson says. “You can see layers and layers of cultures that lived in there.”
As Thompson wraps up a three-year term as UNC Charlotte’s chairperson of the department of art and art history, she’s also looking toward the future. After spending much of her career in leadership positions at universities throughout the United States, she is eager to return to a schedule with more time for teaching, studio work, and leading community workshops.
“I really love working with the community,” she says, “because the artwork just sits in the gallery and I want to bring it alive.”
While her weekdays have been mostly filled with administrative duties she finds time for studio work on the weekend. Take a look at a typical Saturday for the renowned ceramic artist, filled with her sketchbook, the kiln, and some thought provoking documentaries.
Lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
5 AM: I wake up and start my day with some personal reading. The books I’m reading are always centered around projects I’m working on. Books I’ve recently read include Feeding the Ghosts by Fred D’Aguiar, Root Shock by Mindy Thompson Fullilove, and The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson.
6 AM: I check emails, maybe look at Instagram, and have two cups of coffee, followed by a full breakfast of pancakes or eggs. I reserve the yogurt and oatmeal for Monday through Friday. I keep a sketchbook nearby at all times. Because I don’t have a lot of time to work in the studio, I’m always making lists.
7:30 AM: I head down to my basement studio — I am happy to finally have a dedicated studio space — and open the kiln. Even though I know what the result is going to be, I love the anticipation. The excitement of seeing a fired piece never goes away.
Because slabs are heavy, I work on them while I have the most energy of the day. I spend a couple of hours focused rolling out and flipping slabs. I use a template and make a cardboard model before I actually cut anything out to be sure it’s going to work when I put it together.
While working, I usually put on the television show “Columbo” or listen to a podcast. I feel like detective Columbo is the underdog who is misunderstood. I think of myself and my career in terms of being misunderstood sometimes. People see me and never think I’m the director or the person in the leadership role at UNC Charlotte because I’m an African American woman. They’re always surprised when they find out who I am.
I also enjoy listening to podcasts. I love Brené Brown’s “Unlocking Us,” and “Business of HYPE,” with host Jeff Staple.
9:30 AM: If I have slabs set up, I start building the interior structure and putting the walls together. I start busting up things, making rubble so I can dip all of it in glaze and put it in the piece.
11:30 AM: It’s time to glaze. I look at the wooden bases and check the inventory of what needs to be done before setting up. I usually glaze my pieces three or four times.
Noon: I take a lunch break, which is usually leftovers — homemade pizza, maybe a salad or a tuna sandwich — and enjoy time in my backyard with a quick stretch and check on the garden my fiancé planted. We have green beans, tomatoes, cucumber, squash, lettuce, and green peppers.
1:30 PM: Back to the studio. I set up the piece a little more and then do some glazing. This takes time and can be tedious because I put masking tape where I want another color to appear. But it gives me the result I’m after. I glaze for an hour and a half and then let it dry.
2 PM: I get another cup of coffee that I don’t really need.
3 PM: I’m always working on two or three pieces at the same time, so it’s helpful to review where I am with projects. I go back to my sketchbook and then I repeat the cycle I began at the start of the day, except for the slab rolling.
Studio time is so important. It’s dedicated time to work and to review work you’ve done, especially the work that wasn’t successful. Even though you want to throw it in the trash, you’ve got to look at it and say, “Why did this not work?”
6 PM: It’s time to get dinner ready. We try to eat healthy, and I walk every day after dinner and sometimes in the morning, too. I also stretch. It helps to keep your body in tune, especially if you’re doing ceramics.
7:30 PM: My fiancé and I unwind watching movies, but I’m sketching all the time — at night, when I’m in bed or while I’m looking at the TV. I look through the sketches and pull out the ones I think will work.
We like to watch suspense, thriller, love stories, and futuristic movies. I love documentaries. With the Black Lives Matter movement in focus, I’ve been watching documentaries, such as Black Wall Street, Amend, Coded Bias, and I Am Not Your Negro about African American history. They’re tear jerkers for me because this is reality. I think we’ve come really far, but the only way we can change certain mentalities is to start when people are very young. It’s hard to understand unless you actually walk in someone else’s shoes. I just don’t want people’s eyes to roll when we continue to have these conversations because it really has impacted lives. The way you treat a certain group of people still has an impact on their life and where they are in this country. There’s just no way around it.
9:30 PM: I go to bed fairly early. By 9:30 or 10 o’clock, I’m out. I’m done.
Liz Rothaus Bertrand is a writer and editor based in Charlotte who is passionate about the arts.
Three works of art that remind us to revere Native American culture and craft
By Annie Carlano, Senior Curator of Craft, Design & Fashion, and Rebecca Elliot, Assistant Curator of Craft, Design & Fashion
Native American Heritage Day is celebrated the last Friday of November. Designated by President George W. Bush in 2008, it celebrates and recognizes the importance of Native Americans and their cultural heritage to our past, present, and future. Works of art by Native American artists encapsulate tradition, rich artistry, and stories that are passed down through generations. The Mint Museum’s Native Americas collection showcases works from Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Guatemala, from the nineteenth century to today. Objects from the Native Americas collection are on view at Mint Museum Randolph, as well as the Craft+Design galleries at Mint Museum Uptown. Following are three works of art by Native American artists that chronicle their roots, relationships, and environments.
This bowl is part of an ongoing series of ceramics and prints by Diego Romero that chronicles the adventures of the Chongo Brothers, named for a characteristic hairstyle of Navajo and Pueblo people, a bun gathered at the nape of the neck, the chongo. Romero’s ceramics are impeccably hand built with local clays from the hills of Northern New Mexico.
The strong graphic design is a combination of geometric motifs related to ancient Mimbres pottery, pop art and comic-strip aesthetics. Chronicling the societal injustice rampant on and off the reservation, Diego Romero sometimes softens these difficult narratives with his cartoonish style.
Trained at UCLA, his work is included in museums and private collections in the US and Europe. In 2019 Diego Romero received the Native Treasures Living Treasures Award, given to artists who have made outstanding contributions to indigenous arts and culture.
Diego Romero’s bowl is on view at Mint Museum Randolph, in an installation featuring Pueblo ceramics from the Grice Collection. Experience more of Romero’s work through a virtual tour of his current solo exhibition at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, New Mexico, Diego Romero vs. The End of Art
The round shape of Salmon Spawning Run is based on Susan Point’s well-established spindle whorl motif, which represents the Coast Salish, a First Nations tribe. For thousands of years salmon have sustained the Coast Salish people as the primary food source. As such, salmon are highly honored and respected. Symbolizing abundance, prosperity, renewal, and fertility, the fish and their eggs are depicted here in a composition that reminds us of the importance of clean water other sustainable resources to protect our natural environment. cedar from a tree trunk found on communal land, and painted the carved wood with natural pigments.
One of a group of artists responsible for the resurgence of Coast Salish art and culture, her public art projects include works at Vancouver International Airport and the Museum of the American Indian, in Washington, D.C. She has received numerous awards including the Order of Canada, Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and a British Columbia Lifetime Achievement Award.
Salmon Spawning Run is a part of Project Ten Ten Ten and is a site-specific work on view in the Craft & Design galleries at Mint Museum Uptown.
Tara Locklear’s jewelry is inspired by urban environments and includes repurposed elements such as pieces of wooden skateboards. She made this necklace as a tribute to her jewelry professor and mentor, Robert Ebendorf, after his retirement from East Carolina University (ECU). Its materials range from ones she explored as a student there to ones she focuses on in her current practice. Locklear earned a BFA in Small Metals and Jewelry Design from ECU in 2012. She lives and works in Raleigh, North Carolina and is a member of the Lumbee Tribe.
Summer Wheat’s monumental Foragers underscores the Mint’s ongoing commitment to women artists, perspectives historically underrepresented in museums
By Michael J. Solender
Uptown visitors meet with a fresh sensory experience this fall as Mint Museum Uptown reopens its doors following the Covid-mandated lockdown. As guests enter the towering glass-paneled Robert Haywood Morrison Atrium, they’re enveloped in warm jewel-toned light bathing the space of the new 96-panel “stained glass” installation Foragers by contemporary American artist Summer Wheat.
And while the quiet beauty of hand-drawn, collaged and placed colored vinyl panels encourage many to slow their pace and reflect in the grandeur, the imagery of strong, powerful women, taking on traditional male roles of hunters and providers, makes a clear and confident statement—women are represented on their own terms, making vital contributions.
The messaging is not accidental. Wheat’s work is deliberate in pushing back on gender objectification and unidimensional portrayal often depicted in museum collections. “Histories we tell, and the histories told to us are never really true,” Wheat says, her slight Oklahoma drawl elongating her cadence. “They’re only telling one side of the story, and there’s a lot that’s left out.”
Wheat, a mid-career artist whose work has been displayed in museums only within the past few years, is bucking a trend unfavorable to women. Just 11 percent of all acquisitions and 14 percent of exhibitions at 26 prominent American museums over the past decade were of work by female artists, according to a recent study by art market information company Artnet.
Recognizing this historical underrepresentation of women’s voices on public display, the Mint is leading the way to better balance the scales. “We have a strong community partner and advocate in Wells Fargo whose values align so closely with the museum on this important social and cultural issue,” says Todd Herman, Mint Museum President & CEO, “Something we really admire and treasure in the relationship we’ve had with Wells Fargo is they collaborate with us and push us further in ways that make the community better. Their Women Artist Fund and their support of our Foragers installation is a wonderful example of that.”
Charlotte knows Wells Fargo as a significant community partner and stalwart investor in our region’s diversity and success. Their foundation focuses on projects and innovation at the community level such as awareness and social change, increasing housing affordability, and access to capital for businesses. Last year, they contributed more than $14 million in support of projects and programing in the Charlotte region. In addition to programmatic work with quantitative measure, like the number of low-income individuals placed into safe and affordable housing, a component of the foundation’s work focuses on bringing perspectives and understanding to social issues through the arts.
“As company, we’re one of the largest small business lenders to women owned businesses,” says Jay Everette, Wells Fargo’s senior vice president of philanthropy and corporate social responsibility. “With the arts and culture sector of our [philanthropic] work, we realize putting a focus on female artists helps elevate and escalate women’s voices through promoting their artwork. Not only is Foragers a significant work by an important female artist, it’s also public art that anybody can come in and access without having to pay a fee.”
It was the Mint Museum’s 80th anniversary celebration and the 2016 Women of Abstract Expressionism exhibition that served as a catalyst for the formation of the Wells Fargo Foundation Women Artist Fund according to Everette. “We were beginning to formulate some of the strategies on this and through the exhibition discovered there were a group of other women artists leading the way in the movement. But they did not have gallery representation. They were not being picked up by museums after the abstract expressionist movement.”
Inspired, the Wells Fargo Foundation set about to address and help reconcile the imbalance of female representation in museum collections. “The Women Artist Fund was established three years ago, and we’ve been successful in helping to place and acquire seminal pieces of art in permanent museum collections across North Carolina,” says Everette. Other museums benefiting from the program include the Cameron Museum of Art in Wilmington, The Weatherspoon Museum of Art in Greensboro, and The Blowing Rock Art Museum in Blowing Rock.
Admirers of Summer Wheat’s Foragers, on display through September 6, 2022, will be pleased to note that through the generosity of The Wells Fargo Foundation Women Artist Fund, the artist’s work With Side, With Shoulder, a large painting where Wheat’s technique extrudes paint through wire mesh, has been acquired for the Mint’s permanent collection.
Mary Myers Dwelle, one of the Mint’s female founders would undoubtedly be pleased.
Foragers is part of the exhibition In Vivid Color: Pushing the Boundaries of Perception in Contemporary Art that opens Oct. 16 at Mint Museum Uptown.
Michael J. Solender is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, American City Business Journals, Metropolis Magazine, Business North Carolina, the Charlotte Observer, and others. He develops custom content and communications for businesses and organizations.
Tune In puts focus on where we’ve come as a society and where we are going … for better or worse
A larger-than-life outdoor diorama is coming to the plaza at the Levine Center for the Arts just outside Mint Museum Uptown. The 4,000-pound multidimensional diorama titled Tune In, created by local artist Richard Lazes and his studio team of fellow creatives at the Art Factory, is a sculpture of six stacked televisions from the 1960s in an enclosed room with wallpaper, pictures and linoleum that replicate a TV room of the time.
Tune In will be installed on Wells Fargo Plaza outside Mint Museum Uptown in tandem with the grand re-opening of the museum. The installation will be accompanied by food and live music during the Mint’s grand re-opening celebration. (Museums currently are grouped in Phase III opening guidelines. Re-opening dates will be announced when the latest guidelines from North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper are confirmed).
Televisions in the installation display a collage of rolling snippets of media programming from the 1950s and ’60s, including news segments like the launch of Apollo 11, sitcoms and tv dramas, live musical performances by the likes of Little Richard and The Beatles. It’s a reflection of history that is mirrored in society today, as well as a display of media that has—and continues to—heavily influence the way people think and act. He hopes that Tune In stimulates conversations among viewers to consider where we have come from and where we are going as a society.
Lazes wanted to create a piece of art that put the pandemic crisis of 2020 and social unrest in some type of historical perspective. The massive sculpture was created by dissecting vintage television sets found in antique shops, and then assembled into a precarious formation indicative of the dysfunctional state of our society today. Six LED screens replace the old television tubes. In order to create content for the screens, he created a video collage mined from 100 hours of TV shows and news media during the 1960s to create iconic TV shows, great musical performers by the entertainers of that day and news clips of current events during that time period.
“It’s been 60 years since these programs were broadcast on TV and while video programing has become more politically correct it is unclear whether American culture and society has become any more fair and equitable,” he says.
Lazes recognizes that shows like “The Jeffersons,” “The Little Rascals,” Lucille Ball, and “Sanford and Son” were misogynistic, chauvinistic and racist, portraying a very shallow and prejudiced view of women and blacks. “These portrayals of minorities were indicative of that period. While we have moved a long way to a more magnanimous and politically correct viewpoint in our media, I wonder if our society has really changed in the way we treat one another,” he says.
But television programming of that period also brought families together to watch favorite shows.
“With the introduction of the internet, personal computers, and smartphones, we have become isolated and no longer came together with friends and families to take in a shared media experience. Perhaps a silver lining of the pandemic is that it has brought us back together as families to sit in front of the TV set as newscasters and politicians brief us on the status of the pandemic. With all of the discord and alienation in society, we are all in need of some introspection and a positive message so I hope that my sculpture will contribute to the healing process.”
Tune In is scheduled to travel throughout 10 cities, including Charlotte, Washington D.C., Boston, New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles. At each stop of the exhibit, Lazes along with co-director Aaron Atkinson will interview and film local artists to document how they are leveraging their creative talent to bring hope to each city. The documentary “Artists in Quarantine: American Creativity During the 2020 Pandemic” will showcase how creatives took their craft to showcase truth, justice and hope in a time of despair, and is scheduled to stream on Netflix in 2022.
Get a sneak peek of our newest exhibition New Days, New Works
Fiber artist Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi’s passion for educating through art leads her to curate We Are the Story
She thought she’d be settled into retirement by now, but Carolyn Mazloomi’s passion for her art pushes her to keep making, curating and working. Mazloomi, who earned a doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Southern California and worked as a pilot and Federal Aviation Administration crash site investigator, became involved in fiber artists and quilting in the early 1970s, and founded the Women of Color Quilters Network in 1985. She currently is spearheading and curating the exhibition We Are the Story, set to open at various sites throughout Minneapolis later this summer. The exhibition is a response to the death of George Floyd in the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.
We Are the Story is a series of six quilt exhibitions by the Women of Color Quilters Network, and Textile Center created under the curatorial direction of Mazloomi. The series is organized around the themes of remembering those lost to police brutality, history of civil rights, and racism in America.
“I am an artist quiltmaker, and I like to tell stories,” says Mazloomi. “Most of the work I do deals with issues of race or status of women, and a lot of the work is somewhat controversial, but I hope viewers look at it and learn something and think about things and how things possibly could be.”
As a mother and grandmother, Mazloomi was rocked when she saw the video of George Floyd being pinned to the ground, and heard him cry out for his mother.
“It just shook me to my core. I cried for days because it was sad and tragic how he passed. But hearing him call for his mother personified the role of women in the sphere of the universe,” she says.
Mazloomi is a believer in the dynamic power of females, and has been involved in the economic development of women through the arts for over 30 years. Throughout her career of making textile art, many of her works showcase the women and their strong role in society.
“Young women need to know about the power they wield. As women, we are the first teachers because we give birth. We are the teachers of humanity. It’s a position that influences all of humanity,” she says. “The first word a baby learns is usually mama and it’s so strange that the last thing a human being may talk about when dying is their mother. They call on their mother.”
A self-proclaimed news addict, she listens to news while she works. Her quilts serve as a response to what’s going on in her environment, and the world, and is meant to evoke thought.
“My inspiration always comes from the environment around me. Currently the environment is very toxic, so I’m creating work about human condition — not just here in the United States, but of refugees around the world because women and children form the greater population of refugees,” she says.
When asked what she hopes to see evolve from the protests, pandemic and social struggles of now, she answers with the wisdom, patience and hopeful tone of someone who has weathered years of society’s injustice.
“Let’s deal with the pandemic first,” she says. “Because African Americans are disproportionately affected, they are dying more than anyone else,” she says. “Hopefully out of this pandemic, maybe it will help African Americans. They have health issues brought about due to racism because they don’t have access to good housing and healthcare, which plays into susceptibility to the virus.”
Thirteen people in the Women of Color Quilters Network died due to COVID-19. She and other members of the network collectively made more than 27,000 masks that were given to healthcare workers, nonprofit organizations, funeral homes and other places of need.
“When it comes to protests, I am happy to see protesters aren’t just African Americans, but a diverse group of people around the country,” says Mazloomi. “Anything that can prompt racial equality and justice in America is a good thing. Hopefully something good will come of these demonstrations, and our government and individuals will make efforts to be more civil to one another and see equality for all American citizens.”
Mazloomi was awarded the first Ohio Heritage Fellowship Award in 2003. Ohio Heritage Fellows are among the state’s living cultural treasures. Fellows embody the highest level of artistic achievement in their work, and the highest level of service in the teaching and other work they do in their communities to ensure that their artistic traditions stay strong. In 2014 Dr. Mazloomi was given the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Award, the highest award in the nation for traditional art. She was also inducted into the Quilters Hall of Fame Museum the same year.
Mazloomi’s quilt Gathering of Spirits has been part of The Mint Museum collection since 1999, and is set to be on view in the Schiff-Bresler Family Fiber Art Gallery at Mint Museum Uptown in February 2021.
HB2 Squirrels shake up expectations of social norms, shine spotlight on LGBTQIA+ issues
HB2 Squirrels, a pair of gender-symbol-wielding squirrels covered in multicolored war paint greet visitors in the main entryway of Mint Museum Uptown. The squirrels, part of The Mint Museum collection, pose a striking opposition to expectations of social norms and what one expects to be met with in a museum.
The HB2 Squirrels were inspired by North Carolina’s House Bill 2, commonly referred to as the “bathroom bill.” HB2 required residents to use the bathroom in public facilities that matched the gender on their birth certificate, launching a national outcry over civil liberties. The bill was criticized for impeding the rights of transgender people and other people in the LGBTQIA+ community who do not identify strictly within the gender binary, and was later repealed by N.C. Governor Roy Cooper.
Artist Michelle Erickson, outraged, took to her potter’s wheel. The result: two salt-glazed stoneware squirrels, grasping the gender symbols—one drenched in the colors of the American flag, the other in the colors of the LGBTQIA+ rainbow flag. “Congressional acts are temporary,” she says “but art is forever.”
The composition of the squirrels also was crucial. The squirrels face each other, seemingly holding their assigned gender symbols as weapons used to fight one another. The female symbol, a circle with a cross stemming down, is inverted and held by the squirrel to mirror the way the male symbol is held. Erickson said inverting the symbol was a call to uprooting the traditional view of women as a shield.
The color of the squirrels is also indicative of the message being sent. Both have rainbow colored lines covering their face and body. Erickson said she wanted to use the rainbow motif instead of the colors of the transgender flag, to place a gentle reminder that transgender individuals are included as a part of the LGBTQIA+ community.
The squirrels also have different base bodies. The choice to make one black and one white was a conscious decision to ground it in societal tensions involving race, and to highlight the different viewpoints that stem from race within the LGBTQIA+ community.
When working with a new piece Erickson says she “allows the work to take [her.]” She starts with a design, but as the piece of clay is being shaped, it gradually takes on a new form. The overall product is as much a reflection of the process as it is the original idea.
HB2 Squirrels are a part of the past and present, she says, representing the processes of the Moravian potters, as well as speaking to the heightened political atmosphere surrounding LGBTQIA+ issues, and specifically the HB2 bill that was introduced in North Carolina in 2016. The resulting work of art challenged norms through revitalizing old processes and questioning societal implications.
The idea that became the HB2 Squirrels began as a study of a set of figural bottles from the 18th or 19th century. Erickson says the bottles originally intrigued her due to their lack of clear function and their unique construction. The bottles’ unglazed interior and overall shape indicated that they were made using a cast or mold. During her artist residency at STARworks, Erickson began using traditional techniques with salt-glazed stoneware to see if she could create a similar design. The original designs of the squirrels were modified to be reflective of the modern era.
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