The City of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs presents Requiem for Mother Emanuel, an exhibition of nine paintings by Leo Twiggs, one of the nation’s leading African-American artists, at the City Gallery at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Waterfront Park from June 21 through July 31, 2016.
An artist’s reception will be held on Friday, July 8 from 5-7pm; this event is free and open to the public.
Requiem for Mother Emanuel brings together nine new works by Leo Twiggs, created in commemoration of the nine victims who lost their lives on June 17, 2015 at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. A video produced exclusively for this exhibition will feature the personal commentary of Twiggs, who shares his artistic vision and gives tribute to the extreme grace displayed by the Mother Emanuel family.
“This series has been the most difficult I have ever done,” says Leo Twiggs. “Some of the members of Mother Emanuel are close to my family. No series has been more painful or personal. I want people to look at my works and know that something tragic happened in a Church . . . that a horrible thing happened in a Church that changed lives. My paintings are testimonies to the nine who were slain. But I also record another moment: our state’s greatest moment . . . a response that moved us from tragedy to redemption. For one shining moment we looked at each other not as different races but as human beings. From the City Gallery I can see the docks where the ships came in carrying my ancestors. Through the decades many of them worshiped at Mother Emanuel. Hopefully, we will not forget but will remember that moment that brought us all together.”
One of the symbols that Twiggs has used in his paintings since the 1970’s is the Confederate Flag. The flag becomes a reoccurring symbol in the Requiem series as it is splashed across the surface of the Church. The flag morphs from a recognizable symbol to a disintegrating form that becomes a cross on a blood stained background and then changes to a cross with the red drained from it. The target and the symbol nine also appear in this series. There is a definite visual transition in the sixth painting as Twiggs recalls the afternoon he entered the Church and stood in front of the stained glass window.
Twiggs produces his paintings using the batik method, an ancient technique of manual wax-resistant dying applied to whole cloth. Twiggs manually dyes and dips each piece of fabric multiple times over the course of several weeks to achieve a look that exhibits remarkable depth, tone and texture.
About the Artist
Leo Twiggs was born in 1934 in St. Stephens, S.C. He received his B.A. summa cum laude from Claflin University, later studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and received his M.A. from New York University where he studied with Hale Woodruff, the acclaimed African-American painter and muralist. He received his doctorate in art education from the University of Georgia and was the first artist to receive the Verner Award (Governor’s Trophy) for outstanding contribution to the arts in South Carolina. As Professor of Art at South Carolina State University, he developed the Art Department and I.P. Stanback Museum. Twiggs was named Professor Emeritus in 2000. He has had over 70 one-man shows and his work has received international recognition, with exhibitions at the Studio Museum and the American Crafts Museum in New York and in U. S. Embassies in Rome, Dakar and Togoland, among others. His work has been widely published in art textbooks and featured in several television documentaries. Myths and Metaphors, a retrospective of Twiggs’ work organized by the Georgia Museum of Art in 2004, traveled throughout the Southeast. Leo Twiggs has been represented by Hampton III Gallery since the mid – 1970’s. He currently resides in Orangeburg, SC where his studio is located.
About Sailwind Pictures
The video program in the exhibition was produced by Sailwind Pictures of Greenville, S.C., directed and produced by Joe Clark and Ken Beale.