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African American fiber artists sought for 12th annual exhibition in North Charleston

Image: Fruits of Her Labor by Jan Hollins The City of North Charleston Cultural Arts Department is seeking entries from African American textile artists from across the nation for a special exhibition presented as a component of the 2018 North Charleston Arts Fest, taking place May 2-6 in North Charleston, S.C. African American artists, ages 18 and up, living in the United States and working in the medium of fiber are invited to participate in the 12th Annual African American Fiber Art Exhibition, titled I’m NOT Every Woman, I’m a PHENOMENAL Woman! The exhibition will be on display at North Charleston City Hall from May 1-June 22, 2018. A $30 entry fee applies and allows artists to submit up to four entries. A maximum of two entries per artist may be selected. The application is available on the North Charleston Cultural Arts Department's website.  Deadline for entries is March 1. Curated by award winning and nationally exhibiting textile artist, Torreah “Cookie” Washington, this unique exhibition offers African American fiber artists a showcase to display their original and innovative designs. The challenge for this year’s special exhibit is for artists to create a fiber work, such as an art quilt, doll, wearable art piece, etc., that pays tribute to an extraordinary African American woman - past or present, real or fictional, a public figure or an unsung heroine. Artists should note that the curator will not select pieces relating to Maya Angelou as this theme was explored in the 2015 exhibition. Following the close of the show, up to 20 works will be selected to tour the state through the South Carolina State Museum’s 2018/2019 Traveling Exhibitions Program. Sites across South Carolina may request the exhibit to tour in their facilities, thus providing additional exposure for the selected artists. The 12th Annual African American Fiber Art Exhibition: I’m NOT Every Woman, I’m a PHENOMENAL Woman! will be on display 8 a.m.- 8 p.m. daily from May 1-June 22 on the 1st and 2nd floors of North Charleston City Hall, located at 2500 City Hall Lane in North Charleston. Admission is free. A free public reception in honor of the artists will be held at City Hall on Thursday, May 3 from 6 - 8 p.m. For more information, contact the City of North Charleston Cultural Arts Department at (843)740-5854, email culturalarts@northcharleston.org, or visit NorthCharlestonArtsFest.com.

Black Heroes Matter

Note: Sanford Greene, and Preach Jacobs, author of this article, received Artists' Ventures Initiative grants from the South Carolina Arts Commission in 2011. Letters of Intent for the next grant round are due January 11, 2017. Working with Luke Cage, two South Carolina natives lead an important moment in comics From The Free Times Article by Preach Jacobs Image above: Sanford Greene, an artist in residence at Marvel, sketches at his Columbia home. Photo by Daniel Hare

Marvel’s X-Men comic was first released in 1963 at the height of the civil rights movement. Created by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby, the comic focused on super-powered beings called “mutants” being persecuted in a divided country. The mutants themselves were largely separated into two different factions following two powerful leaders with different theories on how to handle regular humans: Charles Xavier was a man of peace striving for mutants and humans to live together; Magneto wanted justice for humanity’s crimes against the mutants. Over the years, people have hinted that Stan Lee’s inspirations for the characters were Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Indeed, Magneto even invokes Malcolm with the phrase “by any means necessary” in the first X-Men film. Stan Lee has never confirmed the connection, but he did mention in a 2000 interview that the X-Men were “a good metaphor for what was happening with the civil rights movement in the country at the time.” Last month, 53 years after X-Men arrived,  Marvel Studios — the comic giant’s prodigious, profit-churning film and television arm — debuted the series Luke Cage on Netflix. The show features a tall, bald African-American superhero who’s indestructible. It features a black writer, director and a largely black cast, along with a score composed by Ali Shaheed Muhammad of iconic hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest. Episodes are named after songs by the rap duo Gang Starr. Once again, Marvel finds itself at the forefront of an important moment in the fight for civil rights. Arriving at a time when prominent, authentically black characters have become more the norm than the exception in both comics and television, Luke Cage, based on the long-running Marvel Comics character, is an affirmation of the progress made in both media, trumpeting the merits of a strong and moral black character — and one that just happens to be a wrongly accused ex-con — as racial divisions grip the country. South Carolina is no stranger to such racial tension — from the heartless slaying of nine souls at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church to Walter Scott’s high-profile death at the hands of a North Charleston Police officer, both in 2015, the state, like many, has been rocked by racially charged tragedies. So it’s appropriate that two Palmetto State exports are involved with recent, politically potent interpretations of Luke Cage. Michael Colter, the actor playing Luke Cage, hails from Columbia, where he attended Benedict College and the University of South Carolina. Sanford Greene, an artist in residence with Marvel since 2011, also attended Benedict. The Charleston native now living in Columbia is the illustrator for Power Man and Iron Fist, the most recent comic version of Cage, who sometimes fights under the Power Man moniker. In addition, the upcoming Marvel film Black Panther stars Chadwick Boseman (of 42 fame), whose hometown is Anderson. Black Panther, the first black comic book character by Marvel in 1966, was introduced into the company’s film and television continuum, known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in this year’s Captain America: Civil War. The hero is the alter ego of T’Challa, the fictional leader of the African country Wakanda, a nation often abused due to its being home to the rare and nigh-unbreakable alloy vibranium — the stuff used to make Captain America’s shield. Memes circulated the internet this past year with the hashtag #BlackPantherSoLIT, displaying something rarely (if ever) seen associated with a comic book movie: an overwhelming amount of black audience excitement. Anticipated with good reason. Marvel recruited writer-director Ryan Coogler, the mastermind behind the Oscar-nominated Creed. That Rocky reboot had a reported budget of $35 million. Even though the budget for Black Panther, this year’s Captain America: Civil War boasted production costs of $250 million. If Marvel is consistent with their major films, it will be the first time a film with a predominately black cast, writer and director would have so large a budget. [caption id="attachment_28695" align="alignright" width="267"]Columbia native Mike Colter plays the title role in the Netflix series Luke Cage Columbia native Mike Colter plays the title role in the Netflix series Luke Cage[/caption] The unapologetic blackness of both the new Luke Cage comic and show — and, likely, Black Panther — can be linked directly to today’s music. More and more, the buying public for hip-hop wants artists to be socially conscious in terms of their blackness. And — given the success of Luke Cage, which was so watched upon its release that it temporarily crashed Netflix  — people want the same thing from their black superheroes. The first teaser trailer for the series featured the Ol’ Dirty Bastard song “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” as well as a cameo from Method Man. Wu-Tang is all over the show. For the fingerprints of hip-hop to be all over both a comic and series at this level is unprecedented. Greene, for one, isn’t at all surprised about the recent emergence of black comic characters on the big and silver screen. He sat down with Free Times earlier this month after getting back from New York Comic Con in support of the new Luke Cage series and comic. “In 2008, I’m at [the Savannah College of Art and Design] at a Marvel symposium,” Greene recalls, explaining that he overheard someone mention the revered hip-hop producer Pete Rock. “I took a chance, never meeting this man before, walk over to him and introduced myself. I asked the guy what was he saying about Pete Rock and the man responded, ‘He’s my favorite producer of all time.’ I literally asked the man if I could hug him. It turned out to be Axel Alonso, editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics.” Alonso, too, sees these current hip-hop influences as inevitable. “With a diverse catalog of characters — from Luke Cage to Ghost Rider — and a talent pool that grew up to hip-hop — like Sanford — I think Marvel has been poised for this moment,” Alonso tells Free Times. “Across all media platforms — movies, TV and print — we are expressing an ever-growing piece of our creative DNA.” In Netflix’s Luke Cage, with Harlem as the backdrop, the title character is falsely accused of crimes, battles with cops and deals with police brutality and wears a hoodie throughout the series, which show creators say pays homage to slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin. Music has recently embraced similar sentiments — from D’Angelo’s Black Messiah to the Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly— and Luke Cage appears to be the superhero most in tune with the conscious hip-hop that’s popular today. Qiana Whitted, an associate professor of English and African-American studies at USC, writes and teaches about race and comics. She is the author of Comics and the U.S. South. She sees Luke Cage as delivering something black audiences desperately need. “While Cage’s show should appeal to audiences of all races, the series is also an acknowledgement of the importance of developing quality programming for black viewers,” she reasons. “But perhaps more significantly, Cage’s relevance as an African-American crime fighter will resonate deeply with the growing outrage and activism against racial injustice and police brutality in the United States. The racism that Luke Cage will confront in this fictional series is very real and very relevant today.” The Luke Cage character was introduced to the comic world in 1972 following the civil rights movement. Whitted says that this timing was significant. “Racism, drugs and urban poverty were urgent problems for the U.S. at the time, and while Cage’s prison background associated with him in the criminality of the blaxploitation films of the 1970s, the pride he expressed in defining his predominantly black Harlem neighborhood [away] from those problems made him the kind of hero that African-American communities could finally celebrate,” she says. “But with Cage fighting against fantastical villains as well as corrupt police, his heroism as an African-American man with bulletproof skin has always carried a distinctive kind of social and political importance.” During a recent interview on the nationally syndicated New York radio show The Breakfast Club, Michael Colter was asked about the show’s focus on social awareness in the black community and issues with social injustice. “It’s funny, we don’t have to do anything. It’s almost like if you want Trump to look like an idiot you let him speak,” Coulter responded “Right now it’s at a fever pitch. We couldn’t have timed it any better. …  So when we put this show out it just happened to be at a crucial time in society where they feel like we really needed this.” Whether it’s on the page or on the screen, in order for Marvel to do these characters justice they have to be willing and interested in portraying the authentic black experience that these characters draw on. When asked if being a black artist working for Marvel comics was ever a difficult thing because of color, Greene thinks quietly before answering. He says that being black didn’t necessarily have “anything to do with difficulties or me working there, but my experiences are ones that are the black experience, so in a way, yes. I’m influenced by hip-hop and that vibe and energy transcends into the art. You see many artists with those influences — like a Khary Randolph, Ed Piskor or even Jason Latour — and you see the hip-hop influence. You see art coming from graffiti. It influenced the way we draw. There was a time that Marvel wasn’t ready for that.” They definitely seem ready now. In addition to Luke Cage and Black Panther, Marvel recently spearheaded a concept called the Variant Covers, allowing artists to reimagine classic hip-hop album covers using superheroes as a backdrop. Sanford did two, recreating De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising cover with X-Men characters and Pete Rock & CL Smoothe’s Mecca and the Soul Brother cover with Hawkeye. Dozens of covers were made and the idea exploded with several big-time recording artists retweeting the covers, flattered by the homage. Sanford remembers speaking with Marvel when the idea was in the infant stages. “I had conversations with Marvel and told them that we had to make these covers as authentic as possible,” he says. “There’s an audience that is ready for something like this but we have to handle it with respect. We have to make sure that the people we are paying homage to support the idea.” For Charlamagne the God, co-host of The Breakfast Club and another South Carolina native, this is nothing new. “This is the thing, it’s always been happening,” he says. “When I was younger, I didn’t even realize Luke Cage was blaxploitation. I just thought it was dope that he had super strength, steel hard skin, and he was set in an environment that I could relate to. Even though I’m from Moncks Corner, South Carolina, I just connected with the backdrop of Luke Cage, not because it was the city but because Harlem was black and his super powers were how black men feel anyway.” Charlamagne also thinks that Luke Cage being bulletproof isn’t an accident when it comes to being black and strong in America. “We have to be super strong and have hard thick skin to survive in America,” he explains. “I think it’s happening now simply because Marvel is successful and if you watch the evolution of Marvel since the first Iron Man, it’s just the right time.” Greene echoes the sentiment, but thinks it’s simple reasoning: Marvel allowed these characters to develop and gave them a chance to be understood. “You can see how with things like black television how shows began to improve showing black culture,” he offers. “Shows like The Jeffersons began to show black characters in a different light and not in the hood. It’s amazing how with Luke Cage you can have a black character that’s a hero for hire and allow other characters to come into the universe like a Thor, a god, and it can actually work. When you see writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates write for Black Panther, you see Marvel’s attention to that detail. Even watching Luke Cage you realize that the show is The Wire with superheroes.” There is an underlying beauty in the Southern — and South Carolina — connection that’s involved with these pivotal black super heroes. It can’t be considered a coincidence that people with such a background are involved in the re-emergence of black Marvel characters. “What is important is the way Cage is presented in the series as a Southerner who runs away from Georgia as urgently as he flees his youth and his past incarceration,” she says. “The South is too often used in comics to convey racism, confinement and conservatism, but I hope it’s also clear that the South is as meaningful as New York in portraying Cage’s complexity as a hero who happens to be black.”

‘Requiem for Mother Emanuel’: Artist hopes his tribute to Emanuel 9 reflects hope in midst of loss

From the Orangeburg Times and Democrat Article by Dionne Gleaton, photo by Larry Hardy
In keeping with his roots in a holiness church, artist Leo Twiggs has a testimony he wants to share with the world. It speaks of the range of emotions he felt following the horrific mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston nearly a year ago.
Twiggs lets his art do the talking for him, though, through his use of batik, an ancient technique of manual wax-resistant dyeing applied to whole cloth. He spent many long nights over the course of several weeks manually dyeing and dipping fabric pieces to achieve a texturally rich and deep-toned series titled “Requiem for Mother Emanuel.”
Nine people, including Senior Pastor and state Sen. Clementa C. Pinckney, were killed by a gunman during a Bible study session at Emanuel AME Church on June 17, 2015.
The tragedy gained worldwide attention and emotionally moved Twiggs, who said his images for “Requiem for Mother Emanuel” did not actually begin as a series.
“The whole idea behind the Mother Emanuel series did not come as a series. I did not think of it as a series. I was doing one painting and that painting was in reaction right after the event happened,” the artist said.
His body of work will be exhibited at The City Gallery in Charleston from Tuesday, June 21 to Sunday, July 31. The City of Charleston is dedicating the entire first floor of the gallery for the display of Twiggs’ work. The paintings will be accompanied by a seven-minute video in which he talks about the nine images and his inspiration behind each.
The “Requiem for Mother Emanuel” exhibition is part of a nine-day remembrance the City of Charleston is hosting to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the church shooting.
“During that period, the exhibit will be open to the members of the church and survivors of the victims for private viewing,” Twiggs said.

‘This is about nine people that perished’

A target and the number nine are symbols that appear in the series, along with the Confederate flag, a symbol that Twiggs has used in his paintings since the 1970s.
“I go all the way back with both the target and the Confederate flag as part of the images in my work. I did a whole series on ‘Targeted Man,’ and I did a series using the Confederate flag,” he said.
The artist said he felt the Emanuel AME Church, often referred to as Mother Emanuel, was the target for such horrible violence because of its rich history. Founded in 1816, Emanuel AME is the oldest African Methodist Episcopal church in the Southern United States and is the first independent black denomination in the United States.
“Denmark Vesey was a pastor of the church at one time. Charleston probably has more churches than any other single place in South Carolina, but he picked that church because of what it meant to black people,” Twiggs said. “So my first image was this target and this silhouette of the church.”
He said he chose not to reproduce an actual picture of the Emanuel AME Church in the first image of the series, whose pieces were all done in batik on cotton.
“One of the things I didn’t want to do as an artist is to just put a picture of the church because when you paint and put just a picture of the church, you tie everything to a single church, when it’s really about churches. So what I did was create a kind of symbol of a church, a kind of imagery that could be any church. That piece was done in 2015 right after the horrible incident,” he said.
The second image was actually started in 2015 and finished this year.
“I used the flag and the number nine because that’s what it was all about. And it was at night, so I tried to suggest a kind of dark sky, said Twiggs, whose third piece also contained a blood-stained Confederate flag with nine X’s at the bottom of it.
Twiggs said the flag became more like a stain on the starkly white church in his fourth painting.
“I just saw what happened at Emanuel as a stain on this white church. Here is this blood stain on this white church that was really a metaphor for a white garment that somebody’s wearing and gets a terrible stain on. So the flag is there, but it becomes like a blood stain,” he said, noting that the nine multi-colored X‘s at the bottom of the flag represented the nine shooting victims.
“An X means somebody has passed, or that somebody is no longer with us. I don’t know why I used the different colors. I suspect it’s because I wanted to match up with the colors on the flag, but I think it also kind of represents that these were different people,” Twiggs said. “Some were young, some were old.”
He said each of his paintings is a testimony to the nine slain church members.
“They are single paintings that live on their own right. It’s like a testimony,” Twiggs said.
The Confederate flag become a recurring symbol in Twiggs’ “Requiem” series, and it is splashed across the surface of the church. It eventually morphs into a cross on a blood-stained background and then changes into a cross with the red drained from it.
Twiggs said there is somewhat of a transition made in the fifth painting, when the Confederate flag becomes “smaller and less prominent.”
“In this one, the blood of the flag has completely disappeared. … This is the flag, but there are nine stars and the flag is now morphing into a cross,” he said. “This is patterned fabric. This is the only one where I’ve used patterned fabric on it.”
Twiggs said he took a tour of the inside of the church, images of which are included in his sixth piece.
“I had not been inside the church in years. My art teacher at Claflin, Arthur Rose, was a member of that church. So I had been to that church early on, but it had been a long time. I just felt if I was going to do a Mother Emanuel series, I had to see where they died,” he said.
He was particularly moved by a massive stained glass window that was located near the church’s altar. He included its likeness in his sixth image, along with the Confederate flag’s continued morph into the image of a white cross.
“I wanted to get the feeling of what was inside the church. What’s amazing is one side of the church is starkly white, but inside it’s warm and has got all of that old wood. It looks historic,” said the artist, whose sixth image also includes the Palmetto Tree and crescent moon, symbols from the state flag.
Twiggs includes all three symbols of the Confederate flag, the target and the number nine in his seventh image, along with crosses representing the souls of the victims.
“I look at it and think of it as a summary because I used the flag, but the bloodiness is now gone. I used the target as I did on the first one, and then the number nine, which I also used in the second one. So kind of all the things that are incorporated in those paintings are in this particular piece,” he said. “And, of course, you have the crosses of the souls of these people rising and the moon.”
He intended for the title of the series to reflect hope in the midst of great loss, the artist said.
“The reason this is called ‘Requiem’ is because this isn’t about the living. This is about the nine people that perished in this horrible, horrific incident. Nobody knows what happens to you when you die but in the Christian religion, you are transformed from a physical being to a spiritual being,” he said.
“And I try to represent that spiritual being with the cross because the way Christians get to their final destination is the way Christ went to his destination — through the cross. So these people obviously were Christians, and for them that is the journey I try to portray them taking — that rising up from their church to another place,” Twiggs said.
That image is vividly shown in his eighth painting, where a white line of demarcation separates the church from the heavenly place that Christians seek to reach in the afterlife. A darker blue suggests the horror the victims endured on earth, but a lighter blue emanates from above.
“That’s where the sky is bluer, and in there I have a lot of crosses because we call our funerals ‘home going ceremonies.’ We’re going to meet our relatives who went on before us; they’re all up there waiting for us. So when I’m doing this, I’m very steeped in African-American culture and traditions,” Twiggs said.
Deciding how to end the series with his final painting was something the artist struggled with. He thought about how the church was located less than a mile and a half from where Africans were brought to America as slaves and less than a mile from where the Civil War began.
“Mother Emanuel is less than a mile from where Africans were brought ashore and sold on Market Street in Charleston. Mother Emanuel was in a very unique place and is a very unique place. It’s the place where Denmark Vesey tried for freedom and was killed.
“I thought about the history of Mother Emanuel and I also thought that (what happened at) Mother Emanuel is not unique to us. It happened in Birmingham with four little girls. It happened in North Charleston when the guy was shot in the back. … This is the stony road we trod,” Twiggs said, referring to the lyrics of James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the National Black Anthem.
It was another line from that song, however, that kept coming back to him and was included in his ninth piece: “We have come over a way that with tears has been watered. We have come treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered.”
“Those two lines explain Mother Emanuel perfectly,” Twiggs said. “If the victims could speak, what would they say? They have said, ‘We have come treading a path through the blood of the slaughtered,’ and this is what has happened to many of us.”
“So what I wanted in this last one is to kind of sum up and give people the perspective of what Mother Emanuel really means to us as African-Americans. It’s a place that speaks about our journey, the pain of a journey that is repeated over and over when you look at our history,” he said.
In the final image, a number nine sits above the lines from Weldon’s song.
‘Our state’s finest hour’
Twiggs said the seven-minute video that accompanies his series was developed with a $10,000 donation from a group of art patrons in Greenville who have purchased his work over the years. The video was produced by Greenville-based Sailwind Pictures.
Twiggs said the director of Greenville’s Hampton III Gallery gave the donors an opportunity to preview his works and see the video during a special reception. The gallery is the state’s longest operating art gallery in which Twiggs has been a member since 1972.
“It was really a great afternoon. Once you see the video and these works, it gives a whole new perspective of what I was doing,” he said.
The Johnson Collection of Spartanburg acquired the last three of the nine paintings, Twiggs said.
“One of the most significant (art) collections in South Carolina decided to buy all three paintings and to donate them to two national museums and to keep one that so that it could be loaned to museums in our state,” he said. “That, to me, was nice.”
Another donor funded the printing of 5,000 brochures containing images of the paintings and an essay, all of which will be available at Twiggs’ exhibit at The City Gallery in Charleston.
“If you take the brochure, the exhibit could live forever. I’m so proud of that,” the artist said, noting that an artist’s reception is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, July 8 at The City Gallery following the nine-day anniversary commemoration of the church shooting.
“We’re not doing anything formal when they’re having the anniversary because that’s a quiet time. When they’re having the anniversary, the only thing is that the families of the victims will know that the works are in the gallery,” Twiggs said.
South Carolina ETV also filmed a documentary about the creation of Twiggs’ paintings on June 2. Beryl Dakers, who retired from ETV but continues to work on special projects, is a long-time friend of Twiggs, and she filmed the documentary.
“I know Beryl is also supposed to be going to Charleston to do something with Mother Emanuel. I think she’s going to do some interviews and everything else and then feature the documentary with that. So she’s putting together this documentary,” Twiggs said, noting that the documentary will likely air following the nine-day remembrance,
Bradley Glenn, an award-winning documentary producer from California, is also working on a 60- to 80-minute documentary about Twiggs’ work called “Leo Twiggs: Crossing Over.”
“He plans to bring a crew to Charleston to cover the Emanuel event. So I’ll probably be going down there for that. His documentary is not just about Mother Emanuel,” but he wants it to be a part of it, Twiggs said.
“He (Glenn) said, “I want to get you with some of the survivors.’ I said, ‘I’ve got to wait and see whether they want to do that.’ So he’s going to be in and out of town. It’s going to be interesting to see what he does,” the artist said.
Twiggs said what he hopes to do is contribute to the healing of the community in the aftermath of the church shooting with his works of art.
“When an event happens, there are people who want to write about it, there are people who want to talk about it and there are people who want to paint about it. I said in the video that after Mother Emanuel, it was our state’s finest hour because for the first time that I can remember, we came together as one,” he said.
“It was not about the color of our skin or status, but as one human being in relation to another human being. And, if anything, I hope that the paintings record that moment so that when people look at the paintings, they could say that a tragic thing happened at a church, but what happened as a result of that thing was something that had not happened in our state before.”
Entry to Twiggs’ “Requiem for Mother Emanuel” exhibit is free to the public. The City Gallery is located at 34 Prioleau St. in Charleston. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday. The gallery is closed on Monday. For more information, call the gallery at 843-958-6484.

Emanuel AME Church massacre inspires haunting new series by Dr. Leo Twiggs

From ArtReport.com Article by Alison Sher

[caption id="attachment_25902" align="alignright" width="200"]Leo Twiggs Leo Twiggs; photo by Jerry Siegel[/caption] Dr. Leo Twiggs was one of the first African Americans to earn success as a visual artist in the newly integrated academic landscape of the 1960s. Twiggs paints in batik, a craft that’s so old it’s been found in the tombs of Egypt. He’s the first person to experiment with the method as a painting medium. Twiggs uses wax, dyes, and muslin cotton fabric to reimagine the often oppressive scenes and symbols that he sees living in the South. His latest series, a nine piece collection, Requiem for Mother Emanuel, is a reflection on the June 2015 shooting at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, SC where nine African Americans were murdered during a bible study. Art Report: What has it been like working as an African American artist since the civil rights movement? Dr. Leo Twiggs: In the beginning, African American art wasn’t in museums. Then there were shows specifically for African American artists. If you were featured, critics wouldn’t talk about your art. The African American artists, however, were great artists who eventually became accepted into the mainstream. Major museums are now beginning to collect the work of African American artists. They  realize that African American art is still American art, and you can’t tell the story of America without including African American artists. AR: What inspires the themes of your different collections? LT: I think an artist paints out of his own encounters with the world. I deal with specifics and that’s what makes my work universal. I paint about the struggle of being second class and put in a corner. When I paint a confederate flag, people don’t know if it’s by a black or white person. People fly that flag like the war is still going on. I wanted to portray it as an old tattered object that I pulled out of a trunk after 150 years. I also did a series called Targeted Man. I grew up with the KKK in my neighborhood. Being targeted is an experience all African Americans can relate to. When 9/11 happened, everyone in America felt targeted. AR: How did the Mother Emanuel massacre effect you? [caption id="attachment_25904" align="alignright" width="200"]Leo Twiggs, Requiem for Mother Emanuel #2 Leo Twiggs, Requiem for Mother Emanuel #2[/caption] LT: I grew up 45 minutes outside of Charleston. My first art professor was a member of that church. Before doing this series, the last time I went there was for his funeral. I’m doing this series because I have to do it. Something inside me is driving it. I’ve finished four of the nine pieces. They’ve all already sold. The shooting impacted me because the people were killed in a Bible study, and I know how people are in Bible study because I go each week. You become friends with the people there. I could empathize with what happened with them. What was amazing was the forgiveness and the redemption of the highest level that was expressed after the shooting. How do I capture the brutality of the event and the forgiveness that followed in nine paintings?  You see the brutality in Requiem for Mother Emmanuel #3 (pictured above). Dylan Roof targeted the oldest church because it’s the oldest African Methodist Episcopal church in the South, and he wanted to make an impact. After that shooting, for a few hours, we came together–not as black and white–as human beings. There was a kind of empathy and unity that came about from that tragedy that we have not seen in this state since the Civil War. But how long does it last? I suspect that it’s fading as we speak. Now that the tragedy is over, the status quo is hardening and legislators are making it even harder to get rid of the Confederate Flag. People sink back into their old ideologies. That’s why the series is so important for me. I want to capture this moment that people felt redemption from something as horrific as all that, one shining moment that people can treasure that’s dissipating as we speak. AR: What is the significance of the Confederate Flag in the South to African Americans? LT: The South is a place of contradictions. You’ve got to read between the lines. You have the hospitality and syrupy sweetness, and you have the racial tensions and the oppressive environment used to keep people in their places. Those are the kinds of contradictions I explore in my work. I believe that in the South there is a separateness that still exists. People move around each other during the day, but like Martin Luther King Jr. said, on Sunday, the South is the most segregated place in the world. What people don’t see is that there are niceties, but the camaraderie is surface level. There is a facade that’s here. The Confederate Flag is a facsimile. We’re nice to each other, but in the background there is always a shadow that is the flag and what it represents. Charleston is the place that the Civil War began. That’s one reason why Mother Emmanuel made a powerful statement. In one shining moment, people began to feel the pain of others and the flag came down. Twiggs does not yet know where the The Requiem for Mother Emmanuel series will be shown when it’s complete. However, like much of Twiggs’ work, the images are already predicted to become iconic portrayals that honor the transcendence of African Americans in response to one of the most significant hate crimes in recent history.

Spoleto Festival USA holding Porgy and Bess auditions for classically trained African-American singers

Spoleto Festival USA will hold auditions in accordance with the terms established by the Gershwin Estate, for experienced, classically trained African-American singers in all voice categories who seek positions in the opera’s choral ensemble for the 2016 season production of The Gershwins®' Porgy and BessSM. These auditions will take place in Charleston, SC on Friday, February 19 from noon to 5 p.m. Production period: Rehearsals for this production will begin on May 16, 2016. The production will have six performances and the contract period will end no later than June 12, 2016. Auditions: To be considered for an audition, singers should submit a current resume, headshot, and cover letter to Assistant Producer Sara Bennett at the email address provided below. Once your materials are received, we will contact you to set up an audition time. Hard copies of materials may also be sent to the address below: Sara Bennett | Assistant Producer SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA 14 George Street, Charleston, SC 29401 o: 843.720.1107 | e: auditions@spoletousa.org Audition requirements: • Please have two memorized selections to offer; at least one must be an operatic aria, the other should be a selection from the opera Porgy and Bess. • Please bring copies of your headshot and bio during your scheduled audition time. • Prove United States citizenship; permanent residency; or possess, at the time of the audition, legal permission to work in the United States of America during the rehearsal and performance period. Auditions will be held at Second Presbyterian Church Education Building located at 342 Meeting Street, Charleston, SC 29403. For more information, please email auditions@spoletousa.org.

Early career African-American artists invited to apply for $25,000 William H. Johnson Prize

[caption id="attachment_21538" align="alignright" width="200"]William H. Johnson William H. Johnson, c. 1918[/caption] The William H. Johnson Foundation for the Arts is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization that seeks to encourage African American artists early in their careers by offering financial grants. The Johnson Foundation awards grants to individuals who work in the following media: painting, photography, sculpture, printmaking, installation and/or new genre. The 2015 William H. Johnson Prize is $25,000 and the winner will be announced in December 2015. The William H. Johnson Prize is awarded annually to an early-career African American artist. For grant purposes, "early-career" is a flexible term that should be interpreted liberally to include artists who have finished their academic work within 12 years from the year that a prize is awarded. For example, a person who finished their studies in 2003 is eligible to apply in 2015, but not in 2016. Age is not determinative, and artists who have not earned BFAs or MFAs are still eligible so long as they have not been working as a professional artist for more than 12 years. The application deadline is Friday, Sept. 18, 2015, at 5 p.m. All applications must be submitted online. Find complete guidelines and apply online. About William H. Johnson William H. Johnson (1901-1970) is known primarily for his majestic Scandinavian landscapes and his witty and poignant scenes of African American daily life. Johnson, an African American from the rural South Carolina, overcame poverty, racial prejudice and a grade-school education to become one of the country's leading artists. Through the force of his personality and with a steadfast belief in himself, Johnson created an art entirely his own, original and fresh. Via: William H. Johnson Foundation for the Arts