By Lisa Roma and Reginald True Coleman
The “Evolutions of Us” Art Exhibit
Have you ever come across a piece of jewelry that caught your eye, and as you looked closer there was one thing about it that sold you? Then, after having it for some time, it seemed to be more attractive the longer you owned it. That is one way to describe the “Evolutions of Us” art exhibit. When we walked into the room we knew we had stumbled upon a jewel. But the longer we stayed the more interesting it became.
It was a mild winter day, Saturday, February 18th when we arrived. The brightly lit walls of the ample sized gallery were lined with quite a variety of art styles. The space was filled with guests and exhibitors. A spread of refreshments covered a table near one corner of the large square room at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) 5th floor gallery located at 321 West 21st Street in Manhattan. The exhibit featured the work of 12 artists, five of whom spoke.
Viewers listened intently while various artists stood in front of their respective exhibits and shared what their artwork meant to them and why they created it. Several exhibitors voiced how creating their art helped them to express their feelings and experience some level of healing. Others chose to express a political point of view.
The artwork covered a range of topics. Some of the paintings were photo-realistic portraits, while others were surreal. Some combined retouched photographs with typed words. One artist combined dream-images that he described while beating an African hand drum. Some artists included controversial political content while other described their art as being an extension of their mental health journey.
Laura Anne Walker, the event’s host, opened the exhibit with a reading of her poetry before discussing her art, whose colorful drawings were prominently displayed. Her eloquent poetry and art spoke about her experiences with hospitalization and recovery.
Guest viewer Steph Walker shared the words of photo-realistic artist El Kuumba: “He said he uses his artwork to express his pain, and that’s how he processes his pain. It also helps him connect to who he is.”
Artist Cynthia Timms spoke about her art project, which revolves around her letter to Rosa Parks, and said she believes “in art and activism. What can I do as an artist, as a writer, as a citizen, as a woman, as a black woman?” Vincent Salas, whose art expressed his spiritual and shamanic phase, also played an African hand drum during his talk, explaining how he added paper from his prescription drugs as a background to some of his art. Artist Ray Lopez spoke of the controversial and political views expressed in his work. Artist Lawrence Willoughby talked about his New York City painting. The other artists whose work was displayed, but who did not speak, were: Jenny Chan, Michael Johnson, Linda Moses, Girl Negron, Georgia Redd and Aracelis Rivera.
The “Evolutions of Us” art exhibit was curated by Being Neighborly, a not for profit organization, in collaboration with The School of Visual Arts art therapy program. Being Neighborly is directed by artist Francis Palazzolo, who formerly created and directed the HAI Art Studio.