The history of art is filled with constant tension between objective values and subjective judgments, which often makes it difficult for us to feel a connection with what others define as fine art. Often we think of “art” within the context of eurocentric standards of beauty and talent. Therefore, many people reject art as having no place in their lives or homes. In the book Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things, author Don Norman, who is Director of the Design Lab at the University of California, San Diego, suggests that beautiful things change your emotions in a positive way, making you feel happy and less stressed. What is life without beauty? New research also tells us that a region at the front of the brain “lights up” when we experience beauty in a piece of art or music. What “lights up” for us are the exciting, ongoing activities of Telfair Museums’ Friends of African American Arts: • a recent visit to Penn Center, called one of the most significant African American historical and cultural institutions in existence today • the new exhibit at the Jepson Center by African American artist Mickalene Thomas entitled, Mickalene Thomas at Giverny • the Annual Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation Lecture and Reception, Thursday, Oct. 8 at 6 pm. The event is free and open to the public.
Last Saturday, members of the Friends of African American Arts visited Penn Center on St. Helena Island. Established over 150 years ago, as Penn School, it is one of the first schools built to educate the former slaves. We are so fortunate to have such a significant African American historical and cultural legacy right here in the Low Country. To learn more about the Center, take a look at its web site at www.penncenter.com.
We also invite you to visit the Jepson Center now to enjoy the dazzling mixed-media works by Mickalene Thomas, who combines rhinestones with acrylic and oil paints to create compositions that often reference iconic works of art from 19th century Europe. In her re-imagined renderings, Thomas replaces the European subjects with African American women, inviting questions about conventional beauty, racial identity, and the traditional art historical narrative.
Last but certainly not least, the Friends of African American Arts presents our Annual Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation Lecture and Reception at the Jepson Center, Thursday, Oct. 8, 6 pm. This event is free and open to the public. Coming to Savannah is our guest lecturer, Dr. Deborah Willis, author of “Posing Beauty”, and a MacArthur Foundation Fellow in 2000. Dr. Willis is a leading scholar in the investigation and recovery of the legacy of African American photography. Willis is an engaging speaker who has produced landmark books and exhibitions, including the Smithsonian exhibition Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers, 1840 to the Present (2000). She is a respected artist herself and mother of a successful artist. The Friends of African American Arts invite you out for this stellar opportunity to hear Dr. Willis speak about Mickalene Thomas and other contemporary artists who have re-staged art historical themes. It’s a great time for African American Arts!