Yesterday I hopped in the car and took a drive to the Baltimore Museum of Art. My sister was in town and I was tired of taking her to the same old exhibits at the Smithsonian Museums in D.C. I also wanted to check out an exhibit entitled Salvation by one of my all time favorite artists Kara Walker.
I can remember in my pre-baby days hopping on a train to New York just to see a Kara Walker exhibit. Life as a mom has minimized my free time but I am determined to hold on to some of what was me before I became a mom. As with all of Walker’s works, I fell in love with this piece. I love the fact that she mostly always uses African American women as the subject of her art and so many of her story lines surround scenes and images from slavery. In this picture, the women most likely a runaway slave, has escaped the clutches of slavery only to face death in a swamp as she appears to drown. Yet one must ask themselves does death in fact offer salvation when offered instead of a life as an enslaved?
The above two works of art entitled I Can’t Run are by Hank Willis Thomas ,1976 and were displayed in the same exhibit as Kara Walker. This piece was amazing, for you can only see the image if you use a camera with a flash. The first is without the flash and the second was the flash. I though this was quite technologically innovative for a work of art created over 40 years ago.
So you know I have to use this as a teaching tool this year. Robert Colescott’s Three Graces at the Bathers Pool : Venus is still Venus plays on the traditional images of the goddess Venus but places her among three equally beautiful black women where she has no tolerance for their attempt to share the spotlight and be admired for their beauty. This piece could spark hours long conversations about the perception of beauty in modern day American society and media.
I have never been wowed by Alison Saar’s pieces based upon aesthetics alone; however whenever I read the context and background story of her work, I am left speechless. This 1995 piece is called Strange Fruit.The subject is a woman who has fallen victim to the modern day metaphoric lynching of black women by the media’s persistent failure to represent positive images of black women. She is made out of tin with scarring all over her body which are references to African ritual scarification. Although she is vulnerable and is told she is not beautiful, her lipstick and body in the shape of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus says she is beauty and a force to be reckoned with. There is also a key hole on her stomach which leads many to think Saar is insinuating that she has the power to heal herself already within her.
The Sande Masks located directly behind me were used in ceremonies exclusively for women in Sierra Leone and Liberia to help young women transition into adulthood. I was hoping to stand in front of them and reverse the process . Sometimes i am tired of being an adult lol. All jokes aside, the detail was amazing and you could not walk away with out a sense of pride in being a woman of color.
Motherhood is so hard. I have never faced something so consuming and demanding in my entire life. Your children demand and deserve all of you. As mothers we give our bodies, minds, time, and money to our children. There are times when you can question if it is worth it or whether you have anything left to give at the end of the day. I took an opportunity to really look and listen as this 19th century Guinea “The Great Mother Headress” explains how her delicate lips , flattened breasts and elongated neck symbolize the beauty and selfless generosity found in motherhood. I heard her and walked away a little replenished.