This piece by Gunnerson was titled, “Adorn.” Photo by Janavian Young
“To me, sharing Black art means shining a light on how dope our Blackness really is: how misunderstood, how beautiful, how strong and courageous, and how neglected it can be,” Anderica Gunnerson reflected after presenting at the recent Black Art Expo.
In Anna Irvin, on Feb. 27, UM’s NPHC hosted a Black Art Expo in honor of Black History Month. The event allowed for Black students to showcase and sell their artwork, and a fair number of students participated.
One such participant was Zoey Edison, a junior art major with a concentration in photography, who presented her works, all inspired by interactions between and among people and the exchange of feelings.
“When viewing my work, I want people to analyze their interactions and relationships with themselves and others. I want people to think about how they make themselves feel and how they make others feel. It’s all about emotions,” said Edison.
“People are made to think to keep their innermost thoughts and true feelings to themselves, when that’s actually the most intimately beautiful part of them.”
According to Edison, the representation of Black art can lead to opening dialogues about disregarded topics in the Black community, like mental health.
“To me, sharing Black art means giving a voice to a vibrant, but overlooked group of people and culture. Topics like mental health are not taken seriously in the Black community and outlets like art are ways of stressing the importance of these topics,” she said.
More than creating room for deeper conversations about topics affecting the Black community, just seeing other Black artists creating, to Edison, provides encouragement in her artmaking.
“Seeing other Black artists makes me feel more accepted in the art community, because I can see people like me producing works of art,” Edison added. “That makes me feel like my goals are even more attainable.”
Deandra Hodge, a senior graphic design major, displayed her works, even selling some of her Brown Sugar enamel pins depicting, according to Hodge, “the beauty of Black women.”
Although Hodge does design work for others (for a price), in her own works, she said that she draws inspiration mainly from color palettes.
“I think about what colors I want to use and think about what would look best in a color scheme,” said Hodge.
For example, in Hodge’s poster “Excellence,” all the subjects have different skin colors and different shirts, with the colors of the shirts accenting the skin tones.
Sharing Black art with others, Hodge added, functions “mostly for representational purposes” and establishes a sense of relatedness and community among Black people seeing themselves made visible.
“Seeing other Black artists’ works inspires me. It feels nice to connect to a piece of artwork in that aspect, especially being an art student who has taken art history classes that focused on, as examples, Grecian, Dutch and Baroque art,” said Hodge.
Gunnerson, a junior biology major at Birmingham-Southern College, showcased her art during the expo, which emphasized emotion in its vivid coloration, especially evident in Gunnerson’s piece “Adorn.”
“My primary inspiration for creating art is honestly just to be free and to encourage others to also be free,” Gunnerson stated. “I use my artwork as another way to release anything that I may be feeling or going through.”
For Gunnerson, creating and sharing Black art, sharing her art, means, in particular, “showing other Black girls and boys that they have the ability to create, they have the ability to reinvent, they have the ability to be heard and to be free.”
Although neglected in mainstream culture, Black art, as Gunnerson discussed, provides a recognition of underrepresented experiences and voices in the artmaking world.
“It means shining a light on issues that sometimes don’t get the attention that they need,” Gunnerson said. “Sharing black art means acknowledging those brilliant Black artists who let their voices be heard by putting their souls, hearts and imaginations into their work.”