Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Soulful Celebration: Photos and More

What a wonderful time we had last night. The dinner catered by The National was delicious, and the performance by Ebenezer Baptist Church West was great! We'll be putting up photos over the next few days, so keep checking back here to see the slideshow expand.

Our director, Bill Eiland, sent along a copy of his remarks, and here is an excerpted version, in case you weren't able to attend:
President Adams, ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art, I want to welcome you to an evening of the visual and aural arts, and equally an occasion of honor for our esteemed friends the Castenells. For many years now the Georgia Museum of Art and its Friends have recognized the achievements of African American artists, in music and literature as well as in the visual arts. Just one example would be our touring exhibition of the work of Leo Twiggs, an exhibition enormously popular but not without controversy over his use of the Confederate battle flag, so successful that we had to add venues across the country. The catalogue has long been sold out and out of print. Just last year our Friends hosted their first Black History Month dinner at the Georgia Museum of Art in conjunction with an exhibition of works from the permanent collection. The high point of the evening was a public lecture and discussion by Amalia Amaki, a professor of the history ofr art at the University of Alabama and a member of our board of advisors; her topic was the collection of the recently deceased and by me much lamented Paul Jones, also a member of my board. Tonight's event, "A Soulful Celebration," is the Friends second event in honor of Black History Month.

As you all know, even the notion of Black History Month is not without controversy, with some critics believing it amounts to a kind of re-segregation, even the ghettoization of knowledge. We at the museum do not agree. Otherwise we could equally be accused of feminist or Latino apartheid.

Our curator of American art, Paul Manoguerra, who is white, and our deputy director, Annelies Mondi, who is white, and I, who am these days a little jaundiced, are just back from a visit to a major collection of African American art in Connecticut. The collector is articulate about her ideas on these subjects, as she explained somewhat patiently to us three Georgians. She believes in the balance both literally and figuratively denoted in the notion of African American art: black history as a recognized and recognizable field of study, of learning, of knowledge, and American history as the context in which it resides and from which it sprang. Or as some suggest, vice versa, with humankind so rooted in the soil of Africa that it is erroneous and foolish to conceive of such an insular context as North American, when African traditions inform and define world culture.

Amalia Amaki, about whom I just talked, addresses these issues in both formal and casual discourse with students and lay folk alike. She sees a kind of Jungian Geist--what some call "soul"--if you will, in the very compositions of paintings, drawings or prints by African Americans, whose palette is likewise distinctive, an observation we ourselves may make tonight in the works by John and Yvonne. The very controversial artist Georgia's own Kara Walker said, "I think for a long time I resisted making anything that had anything to do with race simply because it was what was expected."

My point in this lengthy welcome is to remind you that we are here tonight to break bread together, to bestow the appreciation of a grateful community on the Castenells, to hear some great music after dinner, and to listen to our guests, who may indeed be said to document black experience but who ultimately, through their honesty, as artists, describe our shared human condition, in effect, our collective soul.

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