Today, I immersed myself in the art world — the world of creators and creations. At the Taubman Museum in Roanoke (an amazing city of art, music, culture, and diversity), I, for a moment, stepped into another world. I saw work from the artists that painted the portraits of President and Mrs. Obama. I saw artists, painters, photographers, fashion designers.
I disappeared into another world. I think that is what art is supposed to do, what museums do. They transport us out of the normal, every day grind and into the sublime. The move us to reflection, review, and reconsideration. Looking at art in a museum is a quiet, contemplative practice, walking slowly, gently in the world, silently looking, seeking understanding of a person, a scene, a picture, a situation, a thought expressed often without words, but with paint, photography, sculpture and images.
I thought deeply today. I was struck by the range of emotions, the points of connection, the shared humanity.
And, like yesterday’s blog on death and dreadlocks, I found an image of a beautician, doing dreadlocks. One man taking care of another man’s dreadlocks. Two men in Senegal Africa. You can feel the care, compassion, and love.
A portrait by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn. A point of connection for me.
One piece, by Paul Villinski, called Quilt, beckoned me to look closer. Quilt was basically a “quilt” of tightly intertwined leather belts, with some books and beer bottles, too, hanging from the wall and then falling on to the floor, and becoming loose and separated. What is going on here, I asked myself. And, then, as a true lover of art, I got closer, to examine, to feel in my spirit, to seek to understand the message the artist wanted to communicate and then… then…I saw, hidden behind the quilt, a chair. It was invisible and would have remained, quietly minding its own business, not revealing itself to me if I hadn’t move closer, sought to understand. It made me wonder how often in life, we fail to move closer, to seek to understand what is hidden and invisible. In finding the hidden chair, I read the description on the wall that said that “as a child dealing with a family member’s addiction, Villinski would hide in a closet and read for hours.”
I wondered, quietly and silently to myself, “What are those secret hiding places, those secrets in our hearts, those secret experiences that we think we can hide, but are revealed in our actions, our words, our thoughts, and our lives?” Does the world want to hear our secrets? Does that world want to know our pain? Does that world want to know our thoughts? Does the world want to look closer? Does the world want to seek understanding? Art and artists help us to see what is hidden. They have different eyes. They share the secrets revelations they have been given from the Creators.
When I left Taubman, I went to Virginia Tech’s Black Cultural Center and met Rhakim Smith, a recent graduate who is painting a mural for the cultural center. His mural is a powerful image of Black womanhood, the African continent, and Virginia Tech – almost inconceivable connections giving Virginia Tech’s history as an all-male, all-White military academy. But, the image, the mural, makes the invisible visible.
Virginia Tech is changing – changing in amazing, powerful, spectacular, and remarkable ways. I’m glad I’m here. I’m glad Rhakim returned back to Virginia Tech to give back of his gift of art. He is a beautiful and gentle spirit.
He reminded me of my son, Emmanuel, is an artist. Emmanuel means “God (the Creator) with us.” And like the Creator, he creates. He is a painter and a photographer, and like, Rhakim, a muralist. Last week, he painted a mural in a home.
He created something from nothing. It is a gift, to create, like the African Gods, Kings, and Queens, the ones we never learned about in school, who were the first creators of pyramids and paintings. Artists and creators reflect and reveal the God within each of us, the hidden secret of our humanity.
I want to learn to celebrate art more… music and dance too. To recognize beauty, often unseen; to see through different eyes, and to find the common humanity in the world. I want to see, to hear, to know, to understand….
Follow me on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/menahprattclarke/ to see more of Emmanuel’s art…and also adventures of Reginald and Whittaker….more on them, soon.