Text and Meaning in Elemental the Power of Illuminated Love (part 2 of 3)

          Video cover image for the music and poem video “Angel of Better Days to Come.”

One example of ELEMENTAL, The Power of Illuminated Love’s principal themes would be the painting “Christ Listening to Stereo.” It depicts a youth on a bus in New York City. The image reveals how the youth is at once physically part of a larger setting while remaining, via his personal stereo, completely separate from it. Immersed in his interior pleasures, he claims a connection to the creative artist who made the music and who allows him to not only share in the expressed creative passion, but to utilize the same as a kind of soundtrack for his own anticipations, memories, desires, needs, or fears of the moment. 

Similar and yet very different scenes are frequently enacted in such public spaces as parks, malls, back yards, office buildings, clubs, and street corners. They all make the person part of a larger whole even while many individuals continue to exist primarily as isolated fragments of that whole. The following poem published in the book takes its title from the painting:

To continue reading the poem and full post by Aberjhani please click the link:
Text and Meaning in Elemental the Power of Illuminated Love (part 2 of 3) – National African-American Art | Examiner.com.

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Text and Meaning in Elemental The Power of Illuminated Love (part 1 of 3)


Angles of Ascents Anthology featuring the works of contemporary poets. (Cover image features poets Nikki Giovanni and the late Amiri Baraka)

Success for the creatively-inclined individual can be defined in many ways. Certainly there are those who necessarily measure their triumphs in terms of monetary gains. There are others for whom success means the refinement of a process, participation in a unique endeavor, the achievement of a level of personal mastery, or the realization of a rare kind of vision. 

For some, it is all of the above. 

Upon agreeing to work with the artist Luther E. Vann on a book showcasing contemporary art, ekphrastic poems, and short essays in 1991, there was little reason to believe it would ever see publication much less gain recognition as a “success.” It was not the kind of work on which publishers preferred to take chances. Neither the artist nor this author at the time commanded such compelling presences in the marketplace as to make a victorious outcome likely or inevitable in 2008. Whether or not it would have moved the hearts of judges making and breaking aspiring entrepreneurs during Shark Tank Week is debatable. 

Please click the link to check out the full post by Aberjhani:
Text and Meaning in Elemental The Power of Illuminated Love (part 1 of 3) – National African-American Art | Examiner.com.

New “Songs of My People” Art Exhibition Opens at Penn Center | Aberjhani | Blog Post | Red Room

Display of paintings by Luther E. Vann with a bio and profile of the artist in the center. (courtesy of Luther E. Vann)


The “Songs of My People” art exhibition, featuring fifteen new works by Savannah and New York artist Luther E. Vann, celebrated co-creator of the landmark art and poetry book ELEMENTAL, The Power of Illuminated Love  opened November 11 at Penn Center’s York W. Bailey Museum on St. Helena Island, South Carolina.

 

“Songs of My People,” which will remain on exhibition until January 7, 2012, is Vann’s first major art exhibit since his triumphant ELEMENTAL show at the Telfair Museum’s Jepson Center for the Arts in Savannah, Georgia, in 2008. 

For more please click the link:
New “Songs of My People” Art Exhibition Opens at Penn Center | Aberjhani | Blog Post | Red Room.

Dimensions of Time and Creative Vision

Cover story on ELEMENTAL, the Power of Illuminated Loved  

Cover story on ELEMENTAL, the Power of Illuminated Loved

After receiving an invitation from Amazon to add an author’s note to the site’s product pages for my books, I accepted and found myself having quite a bit of fun looking back on the experiences of writing different books. The following reflections are on ELEMENTAL, the Power of Illuminated Love (which btw is on sale right now):

Dimensions of Time and Creative Vision

If we accept the description of painting as a form of language, then it should be said that Luther E. Vann began composing ELEMENTAL, the Power of Illuminated Love with the oldest images in the book, which date back to 1970 and 1972. My pen started the process of catching up with his brush strokes in 1991, when I attended an exhibit of his work at the Beach Institute in Savannah, Georgia, and almost immediately started scribbling descriptions of the images that seemed to glow, shout, and sing at me from the canvases.

A little later, a chance encounter with the artist himself led to discussions about the possibility of creating a book together, one in which my writings-poetry and essays-would strive to articulate the essence of the paintings. Visually, Luther’s work already spoke very powerfully for itself and I had doubts about being able to match in words what he so masterfully had already accomplished with painting and sculpture. How would I even begin such a formidable task?

The idea of such a book itself went all the way back to Bohemian Paris, if not further, when artists such as Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall joined in creative partnerships with poets like Guillaume Apollinaire and Blaise Cendrars.  Who was I to fail to live up to such a noble tradition without at least giving it all the best shots I could muster?

I started by first borrowing small prints of the artist’s work and studying them. It would be a mistake, I knew, to simply describe the images. So I meditated instead on the creative and spiritual energies that inspired the artist himself and led to the works’ composition. Then I took the pressure off myself by writing only when struck by an impulse to do so as opposed to sitting in front of a blank page and trying to force a flow of words that were not there. With that point settled, the poems then seemed to arrive of their own accord, dropping out of the night sky like message-bearing meteor showers or greeting me with entire stanzas as I woke up in the morning.

Creative work has a way of unfolding in one dimension of time while everyday life progresses in another. My fateful beginning on ELEMENTAL evolved into a journey that took all of some seventeen years. While ELEMENTAL continued to grow and mature at its own pace, my first three books were completed and published. Periodicals on a national level, like ESSENCE Magazine, as well as those on more regional levels, like the Savannah Literary Journal, began to publish poems from the work in progress. Likewise, Vann continued to produce award-winning paintings which eventually made their way into the book as well.

The most phenomenal part of the journey came when members of the community banded together to champion the publication of the book and in May 2008, almost seventeen years to the day from the first time I saw Vann’s exhibit, actually made it happen.  What follows is an excerpt from a letter (first published in Connect Savannah, January 2, 2008) that I wrote to thank the people of Savannah for their support of the celebrated work:

…This is, after all, the same city that gave the world such stellar talents as poet Conrad Aiken, rapper and actor Big Boi, photographer Jack Leigh, author James Alan McPherson, lyricist Johnny Mercer, author Flannery O’Connor, actress Diana Scarwid, and many other gifted men and women.

At a time when war and various forms of violent discontent are so much a part of our daily consciousness, I believe it crucial to engage creative alternatives. This is not to say that ELEMENTAL is nothing more than an aesthetic indulgence to appease the sensibilities of two artists. It is in a fact a work that speaks very much to the heart and soul of our times: to the need for global political agendas that anchor humanity in peace rather than ensure its demise with war; and to the power of individuals to persist in exercising love in a world where people no longer seem certain of love’s meaning or value.

We are as grateful as we are honored for the support being provided. We hope that in time the book comes to represent more than just the achievement of one creative team, but a collective contribution towards the triumph of art and a spirit of community devoted to [celebrations of] life over the chaos and intolerance that so often ends in life’s tragic destruction.

Aberjhani

Continue the discussion on redroom.com

Living Art, Living Poetry: Essay on the Second Anniversary of ELEMENTAL, The Power of Illuminated Love

ELEMENTAL artist Luther E. Vann.

ELEMENTAL artist Luther E. Vann.

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”
–Leonardo da Vinci

There’s nothing surprising in the observation that literary artists and visual artists often combine their talents to create works which, when joined together, allow each to transcend possible limitations of the other. The literary artist lends verbal depth to the visual. The visual artist provides visible articulation for the literary.

The goal of each has generally been the same: to fashion out of the raw material of creativity a symbol-or an image-capable of communicating some significant experience of truth, beauty, life, or death, to the observer. And there have been in fact any number of successful partnerships between such creatively charged intellects. Artist Romare Bearden and playwright Ntozake Shange’s I Live in Music comes to mind; as does various works by Salvador Dali and Federico Garcia Lorca; the visual style of Aaron Douglas and the literary voices of the Harlem Renaissance; the French poet and critic Apollinaire Guillaume, whose literary loyalty empowered the bohemians of Picasso’s early days; and more recently, poet Coleman Barks’ interpretations of Jalal Al-Din Rumi “illuminated” by Michael Green.

I meditate upon these creative artists’ subtle yet titanic achievements at this time for two reasons: one is because the ear-drum shattering booms of war and the soul-numbing cracklings of human discontent that continue to echo across planet Earth remind us of how painted and verbalized visions help people retain a sense of context and harmony in an era that too often seems to make such notions-like black and white TVs– utterly obsolete. The second reason is because May 29, 2010, marks the second anniversary of the publication celebration for the art and poetry gift book, ELEMENTAL, The Power of Illuminated Love, held at the Jepson Center for the Arts in Savannah, Georgia. A third less official reason is because recently ELEMENTAL was added to the Google Book search engine, which means those unfamiliar with it may now enjoy an extended preview .

Considering the legacies of visual art in partnership with literary art, in general, reinforces the powerful resources they still provide. Contemplating the anniversary of ELEMENTAL in particular renews appreciation for the extraordinary milestone it continues to represent.

Until the advent of the modern self-publishing and “author services” industry, getting any book published by an author who had yet to establish him- or herself as a viable commodity within the literary marketplace was much like running, at first one decade-long marathon to build up enough courage to call oneself an author, and then a second to convince a bona fide publishing house that you were not delusional by making such a claim.  This meant books of poetry published outside the academic arena were considered foolishly frivolous investments, and books of art extravagant pleasures afforded the few but not the many. Yet at how many graduation ceremonies, political functions, funerals, weddings, conventions, and other life-defining events are the words of poets evoked to clarify the spirit and substance of the occasion at hand? On how many rainy days and in how many hours of stifled desperation has an individual made her way into a museum or gallery and took healing refuge in an image that bore witness to their heart’s challenging journey?


“A Widow Remembers” by Luther E. Vann
(from ELEMENTAL, The Power of Illuminated Love)

There is much that could be said about ELEMENTAL as an extraordinary gift of manifested vision in the lives and works of two creative artists. We can note the still amazing fact of how I first came across Luther E. Vann’s work on exhibit at the Beach Institute on May 30, 1991, and found myself transcribing his painted worlds into notes for poems and essays long before considering the possibility they might one day serve as the foundation for a book.  Or we may consider how the journey started on that day took another 17 years–almost to the day!– before arriving at the destination of publication. From the writer-poet’s perspective, I remain humbled by the history accumulated along the way and which in times of doubt helped renew motivation and creative energy.  That the poems eventually included in ELEMENTAL contained value far beyond  kudos for an individual author was made evident when audiences at coffee house open mics expressed their enthusiasm and readers of those poems published in ESSENCE Magazine did so as well.

The greatest testimony, however, came when the story of the struggle to publish ELEMENTAL reached members of the Telfair Museum Friends of African-American Art and they in turn shared it with the city of Savannah. Members of the community (SEE “Thank You Gracious Contributors” page in Google book preview) then chose to have their say by contributing funds to raise the monies necessary to get the book published. They succeeded in a spectacular way that remains profoundly inspiring.

Whereas the great historian and humanitarian W.E.B. Du Bois once observed that “the cause of war is preparation for war,” the actions of those who made ELEMENTAL possible led me to consider that the cause of beauty and grace in the world is humanity’s empowerment of beauty and grace in the world.  While it is unlikely that poetry or art shall eliminate the reality of war in the twenty-first century, it is thrilling to know there remain individuals, and even entire communities, still willing to invest in art and poetry’s own uniquely explosive contributions to the great, and small, dramas of human history.

by Aberjhani

Continue the discussion on redroom.com

Savannah Artists Combine Creative Resources to Assist Haiti

Logo and list of contributors for the Artists for Haiti exhibit. (image courtesy of Phil Starks)

Logo and list of contributors for the Artists for Haiti exhibit. (image courtesy of Phil Starks)

Demonstrating their ability to make meaningful practical contributions to the world community, some thirty artists donated works to the Artists for Haiti fundraising exhibit, which opened March 7, 2010, and will run until March 21 at the Indigo Sky Gallery, located at 915 Waters Avenue in Savannah, Georgia. Participating artists set the prices for their works with 100 percent of the proceeds slated to go to relief organizations working to assist the victims of the massive earthquake that struck Haiti in January.

The exhibit is comprised visual works ranging from traditional and innovative sculpture to mixed media canvases, water colors, and photography. Addressing the full-house audience, artist and Indigo Sky Gallery founder Jerome Meadows emphasized that by hosting a fundraising event for Haiti, “The gallery is serving one of its most important functions right now.”


A Positive Response

The community’s positive response to the event became quickly evident as red dots indicating a sale began to appear next to various works. The idea for the event, said Meadows, came from Vaughnette Goode-Walker, the Telfair Museum of Art director of cultural diversity and author of the forthcoming book, Going Home. Artists responding to the call included such veteran talents as Suzanne Jackson, Imke Lass, and Luther E. Vann, as well as emerging artists like Phil Starks and Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) student Michelle Raab.

Along with Chloe Castro, Jessica Matthews, and Kathy Fritz, Raab was also one of the SCAD interns that Meadows credited with “putting this whole thing together.” Her art contribution, a unique blending of sculpture, painting, and words, is titled Fading, and consists of a plastic female torso painted over with a woman’s face, the silhouette of a man carrying a woman’s body, and individual lines of poetry. One section of poetry could almost be read as an open letter to the people of Haiti:

But if you smile
I know that it will be okay
even if you’re not here
with me
…”
–Michelle Raab


In Support of the Children

Originally from Ghana, William Kwamena-poh maintains a studio in Savannah’s famous downtown City Market Artist’s Colony and is among the popular artists in the Southeast. He described Haiti as “a second or first cousin to whom one automatically responds if you see them endangered. “If something happens to one, you go over there and say what can I do for you? What can I do to help? So donating to this cause was a natural thing. I didn’t have to think about it.

Specifically, Kwamena-poh donated two brilliantly-rendered paintings entitled Market Place and Voting Rights. Both  of these works, he said, reflect his understanding of life in Haiti. “When we look at most of the work in Haiti, it is mostly images of women in a market place, or women in action, women producing and going to the market. Or things that are communal in nature, reflecting a community identity. That’s why for me contributing to this exhibit was a natural thing to do, but I wanted something colorful, that reflected what Haiti’s all about.

“And the children. The children are the ones who ultimately don’t really understand what’s going on but they end up suffering from what is happening. They’re innocent victims of whatever the cause of what’s going on. Whether it’s wars, natural disasters, the children are always the victims and we need to support them to make sure they’re ok.”


Please click here for
: Savannah artists combine creative resources to assist Haiti Part 2

by Aberjhani

Continue the discussion on redroom.com

Harlem Renaissance dialogues (part 4): Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and giants of the Renaissance

Harlem Renaissance dialogues (part 4): Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and giants of the Renaissance

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