The Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum now exists in more places than one, with REVERBERATIONS, an exhibit of art exclusively by Black artists – a meditation on progress and oppression – in St. Petersburg’s James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art.
While the Woodson Museum, at 2240 9th Ave. S., is currently in the middle of a $20-million fundraising campaign to open a new facility, the James Museum provides the space for REVERBERATIONS, which opened on Juneteenth (June 19) and will last through August 29.
“We are proud to host this exhibition by the Woodson Museum, as they amplify the voices of artists not often found at the forefront of American art and demonstrate the strength of an African American museum in our region,” said Laura Hine, Executive Director of The James Museum.
The James typically features art from Western America’s landscape and history, but the opportunity to pair with the Woodson provided some content wiggle room.
Curator Desmond Clark, a former trustee for the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum, chose the artists, all of whom hail from the Southeast, and many from the Bay area.
“The rich history passed down for generations displayed in the images in this exhibition do not just echo; they reverberate,” Clark said.
Highs and Lows
The Woodson’s exhibit fills the steel-gray back room of the James, and its impacts are immediate.
The subjects span more than a century, with people in H&M jeans, pre-Civil War slavery garb, and much in between: It’s a reminder that unspeakable wrongs aren’t that far away.
Paintings like Shannon Elyse Curry’s nearly floor-length acrylic “Adebowale Return of the Crown/Bellezza Nera” draws wanderers in with a nude woman smoking a cigarette, pictured in three angles of quiet human behavior.
“Seeing a woman of color in a moment of silence and clarity is a scene of beauty,” said Curry, who is Tampa based. “There are three profiles of the same person because I believe that symmetry is the root of beauty.”
Curry’s work, characterized by rich colors and candid subjects, is featured multiple times in the exhibit, notably with “Girl in Blue,” a mixed media piece of a young girl that stares forever with huge, wonder-filled eyes.
The work was created from a photograph of a friend’s family member.
“When I looked at her all I could think was, ‘What are you thinking”’ Curry said. “I wanted to capture that young beauty.”
On a different spectrum, Tampa artist Nneka Jones’s work focuses less on visual grace, and more on Black victory and crisis through ultra-realistic portraits.
Jones created her acrylic head shot of Kamala Harris after a commission from the Washington Post. In REVERBERATIONS, Harris’s face is paired next to startling protest pieces of young Black children with targets on their young noses.
The Woodson Museum has big plans for their future space, but the current museum is small and inappropriate for exhibiting art.
“We had this empty space, and so we got in contact with Terri [Lipsey-Scott, executive director at the Woodson],” said Victoria Doyle, Director of Marketing for the James Museum. “It unfolded and we couldn’t be more proud and excited to display this work.”
Lipsey-Scott is the prime warrior in Woodson’s battle for expansion to a 29,000-square-foot facility with multiple exhibit spaces, an outdoor venue and sculpture garden.
“We are always looking to grow, and while this museum holds our history, we need more,” Lipsey-Scott previously told the Gabber.
While the Woodson awaits funds for their new home, showing at the James Museum keeps things fresh.
“Our new location, this exhibition and partnership with the James Museum is a representation of the unlimited opportunities we have to serve and honor our African American Community,” Lipsey-Scott said.
See REVERBERATIONS daily from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art at 150 Central Ave. through August 29. More at woodsonmuseum.org.