“I invite everyone to the table. The language that I use in my art is universal as well as personal, and intimate. I share memories by storytelling through sewing, printmaking and painting.”
– Delita Martin
Witness: Black Artists in Texas, Then and Now is curated to celebrate major contributions of Black artists of the past and present throughout the state. The creative process of sharing personal narratives through the visual arts is a testament to the importance of documenting our individual experiences and marking the moment as a witness. This long-overdue focus on important Texas-based Black artists provides a platform to create awareness of the significant contributions they have made, and continue to make, in American art history.
This Grace Museum exhibition features works of art by 15 artists, including three major works by multi-disciplinary artist Delita Martin, who currently works in her studio, Black Box Press in Hamilton, Texas. Martin’s work deals with reconstructing the identity of Black women to piece together the memories, symbols, signs, and language found in everyday life from slavery to the present. By fusing a visual language with oral storytelling, she creates identities and new narratives for women of color.
Storytelling, community, and family are the primary inspiration for many of the paintings, sculptures, ceramics, photographs, textiles, murals, drawings, and prints by John Biggers, Kermit Oliver, Roy Vinson Thomas, Harvey Johnson, Riley Holloway, Delita Martin, Sedrick Huckaby, Letitia Huckaby, and many other successful Black artists included in the exhibition.
Riley Holloway was encouraged to create art by his mother, a figurative painter and sculptor whose inspiration made a crucial difference in her son’s life. “She’s the reason I started art to begin with,” he says. She is the subject of his painting, My Mother.
Letitia Huckaby’s work is rooted in faith, family, legacy, and the Black experience. “I am always looking at how the past relates to the present and to the past. Images printed on cotton fabrics, hand stitched together with traditional African-American quilting patterns, cotton sacks, and vintage embroidery hoops push the boundaries of photography by using a traditional practice in an untraditional way to create a new visual language.”
Cofounder of Kinfolk House, Sedrick Huckaby states, “I believe my paintings are done in a language more closely in tune with my soul than the language of my tongue.” Paintings of his grandmother and her home are included in the show, along with a new sculpture and painting titled, Halle, Halie-Lujah II.
Each artist and work of art selected for this exhibition brings something authentic, personal, unique, and valuable to the nascent conversation about race and culture. In the words of artist Charles Criner, “I believe images I create are important and should be cherished windows into our past and visions of our future.”
Contributed By The Grace Museum