By Rachel Galvin
Black & White Night by Funding Arts Broward always is a beautiful evening filled with art, music, food and networking. Gathering at NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale on January 9, lovers of the arts came out once again this year to sip some wine, try some hors d’ oeuvres and decadent deserts, listen to classical music performed by Dillard High School students and DJ Israel Charles, and have a curated tour of the latest exhibits in the museum. The event celebrated the 20th year of FAB preserving and cultivating arts in Broward County.
Curator Ariella Wolens began with talking about the exhibit by Kathia St. Hllaire. She was inspired by Haitian Vodun flags and a child of Haitian parents, so much of St. Hillaire’s artwork revolves around Haiti – its culture, politics and people. Her exhibit, on display until April 23, is titled “Immaterial Being.” This is a reference to a speech by former Haitian President François Duvalier, otherwise known as Papa Doc (1907-1971). In 1964, he overturned the constitution and announced himself “President for Life” and proclaimed himself an “immaterial being,” incapable of being overpowered by his enemies. Instead of focusing on the politics of the proclamation, she focuses on its spirituality, as the president was considered an eternal, spiritual force, a reincarnation of the Vodun spirit of Baron Samedi, the venerated Loa (spirit) of the dead. She also uses the title to reference the disembodied force of labor, of the people who are invisible and unacknowledged, according to the website.
This young artist grew up in African American and Caribbean neighborhoods and through her work she hopes to memorialize these communities within her innovative printmaking techniques. A master of mixed media, she employs everything from fabric to beauty products, weaving them together. She even utilizes industrial metal and tires. Her work is a mix of past and present woven into one, a commentary on how historic issues have not been solved yet. She comments on topics like assimilation, subjugation, spirituality, history and more. A large-scale whirl against the wall symbolizes a hurricane and seems to pose questions. Could the spirits of those who crossed the middle passage from Africa to the states who were forced into slavery be causing the tumult of the storms we see here in the Sunshine State? Are they seeking revenge for their experience?
The other exhibition Wolens showed to guests is called “I Had a Wonderful Life” and was created by artist Scott Covert. It will also be on display until April 23. His pieces all consist of rubbings of gravestones of people who he felt had character. The artistry of these pieces not only comes in the final product, but in the selection of the people presented and how he organizes them together on one canvas. What theme is he relaying in each? How are they related? His work is beyond just the canvas too; it is about the journey. For 40 years, he has been traveling the world to find the actual gravestones of these people and doing a rubbing of their gravestones.
In Victorian times, grave rubbing was a la mode, but it is less done these days, making his work very unique, albeit a bit macabre. Some of the gravestones include funny sayings. These final words are not mournful, but joyous. According to the website, their uplifting sentiment resonates with Covert’s attitude towards his art — each work is a celebration, a signifier of life, memory and profound experience.
For more information on these and other exhibitions at the museum, visit https://nsuartmuseum.org.
For more information on Funding Arts Broward, visit https://fundingartsbroward.org.
Photos taken by Rachel Galvin