For the past almost two decades, I have found myself frequently inspired by the work of artist Luther E. Vann, so much so that essays and poetry derived from meditations on his metaphysical paintings and sculpture eventually helped produce the book ELEMENTAL, The Power of Illuminated Love. Last summer (2008) thousands of visitors to the Telfair Museum Jepson Center for the Arts in Savannah, Georgia (USA) discovered Vann’s exceptional canvases on display during his ELEMENTAL exhibit, and this summer many more are discovering and re-discovering the artist following the recent announcement that he is one of the recipients of the 2009 King-Tisdell Cottage Foundation Arts Awards.
As an associate pointed out to me a few months ago, many very fine visual artists tend not to receive much validation of their work, or even of their identity as artists, within their home towns. With that in mind, it’s truly inspiring to acknowledge the efforts organizations and individuals have made to recognize Vann’s contributions to contemporary art.
The fact that my literary sensibilities encountered Vann’s painted pursuits at an intersection of shared creative visions remains one of the more intriguing developments of my aesthetic and spiritual life. Even more curious (I almost want to use the in-vogue word “improbable”) to me is the fact of our separate but equally authentic links to the jazz age era of the Harlem Renaissance: Vann’s connection comes as a one-time student of Harlem Renaissance artist Charles Alston; and mine as co-author of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance. The synergy of our shared creativity may be seen not only in ELEMENTAL but also via the cover art that Vann graciously provided for my novel Christmas When Music Almost Killed the World and for my most recent volume of poetry, The Bridge of Silver Wings 2009 .
Yet it seems to me that the greater dynamic instance of synergy is not so much what we have been able to accomplish as cultural workers, but what something beyond our visions, or abilities, manages to achieve when readers and viewers add their individual experiences to the work. Their focused attention brings to it personal histories, conversations, interpretations, emotional responsiveness, and a quiet or not-so-quiet wonder that in itself transforms a moment in time into a work of living art in humanly-divine progress. Such moments can endow art with a functional capacity for revelation or healing, and they can charge an individual life with a renewed sense of purpose and meaning.
They can also make a literary artist or a visual artist more fully appreciate the anguish and joys of a creative journey that produced more than one ever dared anticipate.
For more about Luther E. Vann, please click this link
For more on the King-Tisdell Cottage Foundation Arts Awards, please click here