"Dantor, The Warrior" by Bethanie Hines
When Ntozake Shange wrote "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf" in 1975, she couldn’t have known the immeasurable impact it would have on women all over the world. One of those women is Joyce Gordon, owner of the Joyce Gordon Gallery, and the creative force behind the upcoming exhibition, "For Colored Girls Only." She says the show is a celebration of women representing every “color, age, size, gender, local and international as a form of politics/non-politics, and as a body of thought.” Gordon explains that “The reason… I’m doing this is because all of the art submissions that I get through the mail, on the email, they’re all men. And I’m like where are the women? What are they doing? So I wanted to see.”
The exhibition will feature works by over 35 women artists from the bay area. It will be accompanied by a month-long performance series during March featuring monologues, dance and music on each Saturday of the month, and poetry readings on each Sunday.
Of the over 35 artists featured in the show, I had a chance to connect with five of them whose work addresses myriad themes.
Hiroko To is an Oakland photographer by way of Fukuoka, Japan. She has lived and practiced her art in Oakland for seven years and studied photography at Laney College. She frequently employs shapes, textures, and flowers in her photos. Of her art practice, she says “I focus on creating two varieties of imagery: abstract and nature. My nature photography is about capturing the essence of life…My abstract photography is about expressing the essence of who I am… For this show, some of my abstract photographs express a delicate shape and color, while others show strength and feature dynamic angles and bold colors. These are themes which are continually relevant to women.”
Oakland artist Letitia Ntofon hails from the San Joaquin Valley but has practiced here since 1996. She works primarily with oil painting on canvas, wood, and found objects, but begins everything with preliminary sketches. She states, “I paint because I see it as an effective way to connect people directly to difficult or ignored issues. Talking involves a lot of ego and resistance, but the moment we see a visual image our eyes automatically read that information, forcing us to deal with what we’ve seen—even if only for a few seconds… The disconnection between Black culture on the continent of Africa and that of America is a big theme for me right now…My work in the show deals with contrasts and commonalities, and attempts to create a third place for both cultures to dig each other, to create a never-before-told story with familiar characters---to see the other with new eyes.”
Zahava Sherrez is as another artist tackling distinct themes in her work. She was born in Argentina, grew up in Israel, moved to the US in 1985, and has practiced in California since 1994. Working primarily in stone, clay, mixed media and bronze she says she is interested in defying human divisions by embarking on a life long search for a human unifying core through her art. “I experienced immigration, oppressions and wars" she says, "finding myself too often between the Them and the Us, not belonging to either.”
Maash Pascal is a Montreal-born artist, who like Hiroko, also employs nature in her practice. She experiments with different mediums, including ink dropped onto oiled paper, or an alcohol wash. Her work explores “the nature of nature; the visible, hidden and rhythmic forces of water and earth as they shape and reshape our Earth.”
Rounding out our feature is Bethanie Hines. An acclaimed photographer from the bay area, she says she is concerned with getting at “truth” in her work. “The truth that we are beautiful, powerful, empowered, amazing, brilliant, sensual, vulnerable, passionate, scared. The truth always inspires me.” When asked why she believes a show dedicated to the work of women of color is important, she states: “As women of color I think it is our time to express ourselves, take our power back and not let others dictate who and what we are. This exhibit gives us a place to share, commune, support, and express in solidarity. We need this space, it’s a longtime coming.”
The “For Colored Girls” opening reception takes place Friday, February 12, from 6-9pm at the Joyce Gordon Gallery. See the Joyce Gordon website for full details.