Exhibits at Snap! Space and Cornell Museum explore the portrayals of African Americans in art.
Black is beautiful. But it’s complicated. Two exhibitions that visually explore both sides of that equation, from its vibrancy to its painful history, open back-to-back in Orlando and Winter Park this weekend.
On Friday, Posing Beauty in African American Culture, featuring photographs by prominent art photographers such as Charles “Teenie” Harris, Gordon Parks, and Carrie Mae Weems, will open at the Snap! Space art photography gallery on Colonial Drive in the Mills 50 District.
The traveling exhibit, featuring candid photographs of black lifestyle, body image and fashions from 1890 to the present, has been curated by Deborah Willis, chair of the Department of Photography and Imaging at Tisch School of the Arts of New York City.
Her interest in photography featuring people of color was influenced by two family members who pursued photography, and she is among many African American photographers and educators to be inspired by The Sweet Flypaper of Life, the hugely influential book by Roy DeCarava and Langston Hughes that explored residents of mid-1950s Harlem in poignant images and prose.
The installation is a longtime dream of Snap! proprietors Patrick and Holly Kahn.
On Saturday, at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum on the campus of Rollins College, The Black Figure in the European Imaginary will open. The exhibition revolves around how black people were portrayed in Europe, mainly in paintings, from 1750 to 1914.
The inspiration for the exhibition goes back to a 1797 painting of a former slave, Jean-Baptiste Belley, who bought his freedom and became a crusader for the abolition of slavery in the French revolutionary government. After writing about the painting in her dissertation, Rollins art professor Susan Libby became intrigued by the wide-ranging fascination that European artists developed in people of color – portraying them as exotic, alluring, and sometimes sympathetic figures.
Libby is co-curator of the exhibit, along with Adrienne L. Childs, an independent scholar, art historian, and curator. Childs is an associate of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, Harvard University.
Both exhibits are free.