Art Exhibition Celebrates Black History

The Southampton Cultural Center is marking Black History Month in their second annual celebration. Februrary’s programs include a multi-media lecture series on the American Civil Rights Movement, and jazz concerts and presentations. A group art exhibition with art by five African Americans working on Long Island is a through-line to the month-long celebration.

Visual Heritage II features art by Brent Bailer, Sheila Batiste, Nancy Brandon, Maxine Townsend-Broderick and Reynold Ruffins. The show was curated by Arlene Bujese, the curator-in-residence for the Southampton Cultural Center.

The show aims to present African American experiences and influences through visual art, said Bujese. Artwork includes abstraction, figurative and portrayal of scenes. The show was curated to contrast colorful works with stark ones, she said.

Joy captured in color is channeled in paintings by Ruffins, Bailer and Brandon. Bailer’s works are figurative and filled with life. Ruffins’s work on view is abstractions that imply narratives. Brandon’s art is geometric abstractions that jump with texture and vivid colors.

Balancing the show with subdue pallets are works by Batiste and Townsend-Broderick.

Townsend-Broderick is showing a series of original quilts and etchings. Her work portrays Caribbean life and the artist’s experience as a Caribbean-American, according to her bio. The art on view is mainly steeped in earthtones with accents of black, white and color to render their visual stories.

Batiste’s black and white works dominate one wall of the gallery. Occupying center stage is an eight feet by eight feet monoprint titled The Adventures of the Black Girl. The piece seems picturesque…it’s dominated by the silhouette of a life-size female set in front on what appears to be a wind of clover. Three abstracted busts (head and shoulders) line the left side.

Closer examination reveals raw power. Handwritten phrases in all lower case letters provide an intimate look into the experiences of “the Black Girl” and channels history.

“black girl a fine creature whose satin skin and shining” is written in one section. Diagonally below is the following: “you be good now go about your business you cannot stop here.”

Other written phrases include “standing at a respectful distance” and “made the white folk seem like ashen ghosts / use enough grease to get rid of the ash.”

Visual Heritage II remains on view at the Southampton Cultural Center’s Levitas Center for the Arts through February 28. The gallery is open Monday through Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. or by appointment. Visit www.scc-arts.org for details.

pat rogers

Pat Rogers is a freelance writer specializing in arts and culture on Long Island. When not going to art openings or interviewing actors or musicians, she’s looking for the next interesting story.