I had a wonderful opportunity last night to meet a phenomenal artist. Not only were his works of art beautiful, poignant or striking, they told a story- a story of expression, of life, and of hope.
Curlee Raven Holton is an exhibiting artist, curator and distinguished educator. Over dinner last night, he shared his journey with me and four other people - He studied drawing and painting at the Cleveland Institute of Art, then he went on to earn an MFA degree, with honors, in painting and printmaking from Kent State University in Ohio. Since completing his studies, Curlee has successfully maintained a dual career as an educator and a professional exhibiting artist.
Over the past week, I would take the long way to my office to view his works of art. Stopping from time to time to view ones that really caught my eye. Last night, during the opening, he opened up my mind to the expression and story behind each picture. While people were slowly pouring in, walking around, greeting one another, I was captivated by one picture called, "The Quilt." The colors, the sadness that emanated, the social cues that were sprinkled throughout the piece told a story. I knew it had something to do with Civil Rights, and I knew it had to have something to do with pain, as well as hope. During the lecture, Curlee explained where his inspiration for this piece came from. I was thrilled to learn that I was able to understand, without anything more than a title for the piece. It took me aback. It made me think. It touched on a heart string somewhere - and that my friends, is what Art is all about.
I knew then that I was in the right place, and the art I am promoting can very well open the minds of someone. Here I am, a white girl growing up in the south. I am looking at this piece done by a black man from the north. He shared his pain, his struggle, his interpretation of times past, and in some cases still present, and it made sense to me. A girl, again, that has absolutely no connection to being oppressed - yet I felt what he was feeling, and I knew, I had important work to do.
After the opening, I joined the Curator, the Artist and his sister-in-law, and Guest Services person and went to a local restaurant, The Tic Toc room. As I dined on filet mignon, and listened to this incredible man share his journey with us, I sort of chuckled. Just a month ago I was worrying how I would put gas in my car, or if I would ever be gainfully employed. Now I am immersed in art and culture and I realized life is as it should be.
I chose the Passion. In turn, I will keep the Momentum.
If you are interested in learning more about Curlee Holton, you can see his work, or attend one of his lectures. Since 1991 he has been the David and Linda Roth Professor of Art at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, where he teaches art and African American history. He has lectured and written extensively about African American art and artists. Perhaps most notably, he is the founding Director of the Experimental Printmaking Institute. EPI was founded in 1996 to promote research and experimentation with in the medium of printmaking. Since its founding the Institute has produced 100 print editions by 80 different artists. Works produced at EPI have been collected by prestigious museums throughout the United States.
As we move forward this week, let us remember to express ourselves. For those of who are writers, we need to make sure we are explaining, describing, interpreting and sharing what we see and hear. If you are an artist, then you must show us what you are feeling and seeing. If you are a musician, let us hear what you hear.
You never know, someone like me may come along and be forever changed.