October 22, 2006

By Tom Patterson
JOURNAL COLUMNIST

Plenty to See and Ponder

"Blurring Racial Barriers" ending at Delta

Fourth in a series

This is also the last week to see another exhibition of special interest - the fourth and final installment in the "Blurring Racial Barriers" series, on view through Saturday at the Delta Arts Center.

The series was originated by Trena McNabb, a local artist, and inaugurated earlier this year. Its three previous installments were held in three different locations. All of the shows have included works by artists from various racial and ethnic backgrounds. Many of these works - although not all - have highlighted themes of inclusivity and tolerance.

The final installment is visually dominated by three monolithic, painted sculptures by Dempsey Calhoun, from his "Thriver Survivor" series. Fabricated from fiberglass resin and stainless steel, they're shaped somewhat like airplane wings or very large propeller blades. Oriented vertically and mounted on heavy wooden discs that anchor them to the floor, they've been painted in boldly contrasting colors with abstract patterns and forms that suggest seeds, eggs, vegetation and human figures. These painted components are reminiscent of traditional Inuit designs.

Another of the show's more commanding pieces is Francis H. Brown's The Troupers. Rendered in a classical style characterized by dramatic chiaroscuro, it provides a backstage glimpse of a theatrical production, showing costumed actors readying themselves for a scene change. The central figure is a young black man or boy who appears strikingly calm and self-possessed as he is aided in adjusting his costume by an older cast member.

Two of the show's most impressive works are informal portrait photographs by David Spear. Both are from his "Visible Spirits" series, recently published as a book (Gnomon Press, 2006). Like other photos in the series, these were made in or near Mineral de Pozos, a village in northern Mexico.

In one of the photos, a boy smiles shyly, almost as if he was unaware of the snake coiled loosely around his neck. In his other photo, an elderly bruja, or sorceress, holds up a drinking glass that appears to contain an egg floating in a clear liquid. She eyes the contents of the glass as if it might hint at future events.

Subjugation of Indians

A highlight among the show's several collage-based works is Ray Martin's Ten Little Indians. A Monopoly board serves as the backdrop for this piece, which comments ironically on the subjugation and displacement of American Indians by European colonists and their descendants. Its other components include small stones, ,wire mesh, plastic figurines, a map of Oklahoma, fragments of portrait paintings of American Indians and 10 rusty nails signifying the Indians referred to in the borrowed nursery-rhyme title.

Other highlights of the exhibition includes collage by Anne Kesler Shields, James Huff's pencil portrait of Malcolm X, a folk-style painting by J.J. Jackson, a lightbox by Maya Freelon, and works on paper by Alex Hitchcock, Anita Philyaw, Bobby Roebuck and Terry Shupbach-Gordon.

The Delta Arts Center is at 2611 New Walkertown Road. For more information phone 336-722-2625

Published: October 22, 2006
Reprinted from the Winston-Salem Journal
© Piedmont Publishing Co. Inc.

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