Reflections: African American Life from the Myrna Colley-Lee Collection
July 27–October 1, 2017
Reflections tells a highly personal story of community and place through a selection of the extensive collection of costume designer and arts patron, Myrna Colley-Lee. Featuring 50 works including paintings, works on paper, collages, and fabric works, Reflections presents the lives, traditions, and environments of African Americans in the 20th century. The exhibition focuses largely on the figurative and representational, presenting pieces by such noted artists as Romare Bearden, James Van Der Zee, Elizabeth Catlett, Eudora Welty, and Betye Saar. Together, these complementary works present a snapshot of life from within the African American community as well as by artists working in close proximity to it.
The imagery depicted in the works selected for Reflections focuses primarily—although not exclusively—on two areas: narrative, or genre subjects from everyday life; and the landscape of the American South. The juxtaposition of these two, distinct yet related, allows viewers to connect the strong tradition of storytelling by African Americans (narrative and genre subjects), with the sense of place that is largely unique to Southerners (the landscape). Colley-Lee is herself a transplant to rural Mississippi, and her collection reflects in part her personal appreciation of the two traditions and the way in which she sees them intertwine.
The use of collage by African American artists is well represented in Reflections, ranging from the work of modern master Romare Bearden, continuing through the art of legendary Betye Saar, and up through the younger postmodernist Radcliffe Bailey. Beginning with classic studio portraits by celebrated photographer James Van Der Zee and concluding with contemporary prints by Tom Rankin and Maude Schuyler-Clay, the photographs included in the exhibition chronicle the past century in a straightforward, sometimes documentary, approach. Paintings and works on paper round out this selection, and include examples by the iconic Elizabeth Catlett as well as lesser known and emerging artists including Roland Freeman and Charles White. Finally, textile works including quilts, invigorate the exhibition with color and texture, and merge self-taught and folk artists with trained practitioners such as Carol Ann Carter, Geraldine Nash and Hystercine Rankin.
This collection represents a dialogue between the artist and identity. Only by reflecting upon the lives, traditions, and environments of African Americans in the 20th century, can this identity be found.
Reflections is organized by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC, in collaboration with Myrna Colley-Lee.
Broken Time: Sculptures by Martin Payton
October 19, 2017–February 11, 2018
This exhibition will include a few of Payton’s early muscular works made from industrial materials and steel girders as well as his recent lyrical metal works. Payton’s recent works incorporate found metal pieces with organic shapes, wrought and worn by their use and disuse. His process is inspired by New Orleans jazz musicians who maintained African heritage in the form of polyrhythms, chants, and improvisation. Though modernist influences are apparent in the line and form of Payton’s sculpture, the improvisational nature of his work and his use of time-worn found objects roots his sculpture firmly in African heritage. His forms and use of material reference West African sculpture, dance, and deities as well as the oppression, resistance, and resilience that characterize much of the African American experience.
Born in New Orleans in 1948, Martin Payton currently lives and maintains a studio in Baton Rouge. Payton was a professor of art at Southern University from 1990 until retirement in 2010. He received his BFA from Xavier University and his MFA from Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. Payton’s has been widely exhibited and is held in the permanent collections of NOMA, the Amistad Research Center, the William King Regional Arts Center, and the Rosekrans Runnymede Sculpture Garden. In 2002, as part of a collaboration with friend and colleague John T. Scott, Payton constructed the Spirit House, a public art project that celebrated African American contributions to New Orleans by incorporating drawings of area school children into the project.
LSU Museum of Art will publish a catalog with plates and essay contributions by curator Courtney Taylor as well as scholars of African American art and jazz to accompany this traveling exhibition.