January 26, 2006

Colorblind attitude fuels exhibit

By KEITH BUCKNER, Special to GoTriad.com

An 8-year-old recently asked me if I had a favorite color. I paused to think for a few seconds and then answered, "Well, I don't really have one favorite; it's the relationships of the colors that matters."

It seemed like a simple question at the time. But it wasn't until recently during the opening of the exhibit "Blurring Racial Barriers" that I began to think about the deeper implications of my answer.

"Blurring Racial Barriers," a multicultural exhibit that opened Jan. 14 at Winston-Salem State University's Diggs Gallery, showcases the work of 41 local and regional artists as a way to celebrate Winston-Salem's ethnic diversity. Crossing 52, an organization that focuses on improving race relations in the community, sponsored the project through the donation of a $16,000 grant from the Winston-Salem Foundation. The exhibit will be displayed through October at three other galleries: Delta Arts Center, Salem Fine Arts Center Gallery and Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art.


Blurring Racial Barriers
Where: Diggs Gallery, Winston-Salem State University, 601 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive
When: through March 17
Hours: 11 a.m-5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
Information: Call 750-2458 or visit www.wssu.edu

Other venues:
• Salem Fine Arts Center Gallery
601 S. Church Street; 301 Fine Arts Center, Winston-Salem March 27 April 30

• Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art
750 Marguerite Drive, Winston-Salem May 5-June 18

• Delta Arts Center
2611 New Walkertown Road, Winston-Salem Sept. 17-Oct. 31

Trena McNabb spearheaded the project and is also one of the featured artists in the exhibit. Her life-size acrylic painting, "1st Grade School Teacher," is a portrait of popular Bolton Elementary teacher Barbara Cook. The painting shows the smiling Cook holding up a flashcard with other tools of the teaching trade: globes, books and even a teddy bear, painted montage style around her. McNabb's colorful, crowded imagery is an effective exploration in what makes people unique.

Glen A. Johnson's watercolor "Best Friends in the 1950s" is another kind of schoolhouse scene. This one portrays two little girls — one black, one white — painted in a cartoon-like style drinking from separate water fountains. Neither of the happy children seems to care one whit about which fountain they drink from.

Elizabeth Benton's black-and-white photograph "Will You Tie My Shoe?" gives a bird's-eye view of two preschoolers sitting in a wagon, symbolizing acceptance and togetherness. Their hidden faces and intermingled legs creates a nice design as well as a universal statement about interaction.

Thematic design takes another turn with Alix Hitchcock's ink and colored pencil "1, 2, 3, 4." This richly layered drawing shows the same nude female figure in various earth colors juxtaposed beside and behind bright shadowy shapes. There is mystery here and a fine balance between the recognizable nudes and abstract design.

Out and out abstraction finds a niche in the show in Asher Barkley's oil pastel, "Violent Sea (2)." Densely drawn colored lines form a figure eight, giving a sense of perpetual movement. All these intersecting colored lines can easily be seen as a symbol of the show's goal of racial unity. Earnestine Huff, who passed away in December, leaves a legacy of art making, teaching and helping minority artists. Huff and her husband, James, (also a participating artist) started the Southern Association of Fine Artists to aid minority artists. In this show, Huff's "Wisdom of Ages (Baga)" is a polished painting of three exotic sculptural figures facing one another in a kind of meeting. The work of this late artist represents the spirit of this particular exhibit perfectly.

Heading home on Interstate 40 from the opening that night, I remembered an encounter I once had with an African American artist who, upon discovering that I'm a painter, laughed and said, "Now there is a brother."

That is the kind of colorblind attitude that will fuel this series of exhibits and hopefully form new friendships in the process.

Keith Buckner is a freelance contributor. His column appears every other week in See This.
Contact him at Keith_Buckner@uncg.edu.


© 2017 Trena McNabb