The City of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs presents African Diaspora – Convergence and Reclamation at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park from September 6 – October 5, 2014. This exhibition brings together a group of local African American artists, who will examine their artistic practice and personal collections through the lens of their cultural heritage. Featured will be artists Hampton R. Olfus, Jr., James Denmark, Winston Kennedy, Arianne King-Comer, and Addelle Sanders. Curated by Dr. Ade Ofunniyin, the exhibition opens Saturday, September 6 with an opening reception from 5 to 7 pm. In addition, the public is invited to attend artist lectures by the exhibiting artists and curator on Sunday, September 28 at 2pm. All events are free and open to the public.
According to exhibition artist Winston Kennedy, “In a visual sense, some of [the exhibition artists] integrate the traditional African visual signs, symbols and images and others are able to weave formal issues of modernism of art creativity into the universal statements in our production of Western modernism. Therefore, our creative works range from: abstract to figurative abstraction; from realism to photorealism; from conceptual to other discrete modes of time and performance art. We reflect and reclaim an internal cultural gumbo – our studio production stretches across many modalities.”
Curator Dr. Ade Ofunniyin adds, “While the artworks featured in the Convergence and Reclamation exhibition does not have as their aim the undoing of representations written and/or painted by twentieth century low country artists, they intend to convey imagery connected to a transatlantic reclamation of Africa as source for renewal, inspiration and creative influences that can be utilized to propel, sustain, and add new meaning and/or significant cultural nuances to the visual imageries guiding our understanding of each other and the world, making life more meaningful for us all. The exhibit promises to cool and refresh the piece of earth that we tread upon and call Charleston.”
About The Artists
James Denmark was born in Winter Haven, Florida on March 23, 1936 into a family of Artists. He was exposed to color and form at an early age by his grandmother, a wire sculptor and quilt artist, by his grandfather, a bricklayer noted for his unique custom design molds and his mother who was gifted with an intuitive feeling for design and fastidiousness for detail which she expressed in all aspects of her daily life. This rich beginning is the root of James Denmark’s creative expression.
He attended Florida Agriculture and Mechanical University (FAMU) in Tallahassee, Florida on a sports scholarship. While pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree at FAMU, Denmark came under the tutelage of the artist and acclaimed African-American art historian, Dr. Samella Lewis, who exposed him to the great traditions and accomplishments of the African-American art movement. After graduating from FAMU, Denmark moved to Brooklyn, New York and began a career as an art teacher in the public school system.
From 1973 to 1976, Denmark earned his Master of Fine Arts Degree at the prestigious Pratt Institute of Fine Arts in New York. While at Pratt, Denmark met and was nurtured by an immensely talented community of artists. During this period he was heavily influenced by the abstract expressionists and admired such mainstream artists as Jackson Pollock, Clifford Still, William deKooning. The African-American masters Norman Lewis, Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence and Ernest Crichlow instilled in him an appreciation of African/American artistic heritage. “So much richness reinforced my natural talents,” Denmark says of his growth at Pratt. He likens it to picking up a baton and carrying it to the next leg-his collages. Denmark’s work underwent a stylistic transition at this time. He began experimenting with collage. Prior to this period, he worked primarily in watercolors and charcoal.
Denmark has a natural affinity for the difficult and largely improvisational medium of collage and quickly developed his own unique and easily identifiable style. With brightly handcolored papers, fabric and objects, Denmark creates compositions that go beyond the superficial and transitory and focuses, instead, on what is eternal and universal. Denmark’s collages, watercolors, woodcuts and reproductions are consistently and eagerly sought by galleries and collectors worldwide. He has had over 60 one-man exhibitions and has participated in a number of group shows. His level of acclaim is reflected in the number of prestigious collections in which his works are represented, most notable that of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Denmark’s works are a part of well recognized private and corporate collections in this country, as well as in Mexico, South Africa, Europe, Japan and Africa.
Winston Kennedy, an artist and scholar, is professor emeritus from Howard University, Washington, DC. At Howard University he taught printmaking, art management and photography for 29 years. There, he was previously chairman of the Art Department and director of the Gallery of Art. Later, he served in those same capacities at Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina. He is a graduate of North Carolina Central University, 1970 magna cum laude and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, MFA 1972.
As an artist, Winston Kennedy has exhibited his prints and paintings in galleries and museums in the United States, South America and Europe. He has lectured and written on two noted African American Printmakers – James L. Wells and Dox Thrash. Additionally, he authored the chapter on African American Printmakers in the book entitled A Century of African American Art: The Paul Jones Collection ( 2004). In addition to his work in theory and history, Winston Kennedy maintains an active studio practice. His current studio production involves a series of woodcuts and paintings. These artworks imagine and image the movement African people in the geographical places of the Ancestral Stream – the African Diaspora. Current artworks visualize the movement of Africans from the island of Jamaica to the Lowcountry of South Carolina. Previous prints and paintings in this series have pictured slave ships rounding the Bight of Benin, the Middle Passage, the death of Paul Bogle at Morant Bay, and Iemenja in Orangeburg County, South Carolina. This series of artworks continues.
Arianne King Comer
Arianne King Comer is a multi-talented artist specializing in batik using the traditional indigo dye process to create batik paintings, wearable art, and decorative items. She is a graduate of Howard University and has studied textiles at the graduate level at Detroit Center of Creative Studies and Cranbrook Art Academy. She worked as a certified art teacher in Michigan before pursuing art full time and studying the indigo dye process on a United Nations grant in Oshogbo, Nigeria in 1992. She was the director of the Ibile Indigo House at Penn Center until 2004 and she relocated to Charleston in 2006 and lives at the Navy Yard at Noisette.
Hampton R. Olfus, Jr.
Born a Washingtonian, Hampton R. Olfus, Jr. creates works of art that are direct links to African, Native American and European styles. Olfus works in acrylics, pen and ink, pencil, watercolor, and mixed media; the pieces are very detailed and are, in many cases, reminiscent of fine sculpture. Hampton started drawing at the age of three. Encourage by his mother Gloria E. Olfus, he attended summer art programs, where he learned how to paint with oil paints. Hampton sold his first painting when he was 12 years old, while exhibiting at a summer arts program. He studied art history, drawing, painting, advertising and illustration, while attending College, and within artist group sessions. As a fine artist, Hampton has exhibited his art nationally and internationally, receiving awards and reviews from the press. During this period, he also worked for three newspapers in the D.C. metro area, as a commercial artist / illustrator, creating spot drawings, cover illustrations and ads. Hampton was also a founding member of the artist groups, Alpha Flight 2061 Inc., Black Artists Consortium, Artist Consortium Gallery, and HOSO Creations. As an illustrator sign maker, Hampton has worked for, the US Postal Service Wash. D.C., The New Day Group, Wash. D.C., and Paul Hudson aka; HR, of the band “Bad Brains” and promotional packages, album and cd cover designs for other, music groups nationally. Hampton has also illustrated books, created tee shirt designs, posters and greeting cards. Art is an integral part of his life by way of expression, vision, education and communication. It reflects his formal training and personal studies. In the words of Olfus, “Let art be art, fresh and new, no egos or selfish wants just the artist’s pure spirit.”
Artistic. Creative. Dynamic. Passionate. Inspirational. These are only some of the words one could use to describe Addelle Sanders and her astonishing fiber art masterpieces. With stunning pieces that each have their own distinct personality and style, Addelle has been creating beautiful works of art that have captured the hearts of art lovers everywhere for over 12 years.
Born and raised in Brooklyn , NY , Addelle always had a secret passion for the art world. However, it wasn’t until she enrolled in New York University ‘s Master’s Program that she decided to pursue her dream. During her studies at NYU she began modeling to supplement her income. In 1988 she began making jewelry and belts from leather and reptile skins as a hobby, but that quickly turned into a business. Eventually Addelle began creating female figurine pins and the response to these creations was so positive that she decided to dedicate her time solely to their design. From there the figurine pins evolved into the magnificent pieces you see today. It was from that venture the concept of fiber art was born. Along with her partner Ron, Addelle co-founded Fiber Art by Rondelle and together the duo used rich palettes of colorful silk threads and metallic cords to weave together intricate patterns to create classics like “Ladies Night Out,” “The Student,” and their popular “Diva” series.
The success of these works garnered Addelle numerous awards and has been featured in several galleries and art festivals including , Ellis-Chambers Gallery, International Home Gallery, Terri Logan Gallery, Pan-African Film & Fine Art Show, Essence Music Festival, Jazzfest, National Black Art Festival and was also chosen to be exhibited in the permanent collections of the Schomburg Center in New York.
Now after recently retiring from management position of 29 years at the Veterans Administration and relocating to Charleston, SC, Addelle is ready for a new and exciting challenge. Using the cultural influence and natural beauty of South Carolina as her muse, Addelle has evolved once again with the start of her new company perfectly titled Addelle. Addelle promises to continue showcasing Addelle’s exciting use of color and fabric in her fiber art pieces, while introducing an inspired progression that is sure to stimulate your visual senses. Addelle Sanders is one of the most moving artists of our time and definitely one to be watched.
Dr. Ade Ajani Ofunniyin
Dr. Ade Ajani Ofunniyin, is the founder of Studio PS/Gullah Theatre at 10 Conroy Street in Midtown Charleston. His vision for the studio was that it would be a community theatre and gallery, where local artists could develop their talents and create and display their works of art. The theatre featured Gullah theatrical performances, with the intention to demonstrate a more accurate and real view of Gullah people and culture. Dr. Ofunniyin is currently an adjunct professor at the College of Charleston. Dr. Ofunniyin previously curated an exhibition at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park during the 2006 MOJA Festival, Forging Spirits.