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Walking into Oxon Hill Manor for the black-tie reception of the “Black Women’s History Month Art Showcase: Woke Beingness” on April 14 was about more than the fabulous work by the artists, it was about their stories — and the importance of Black women in curating, developing, revealing, celebrating, maintaining, teaching and cherishing cultural narratives.
“We’re here to let people know who Black women artists are and what their role and responsibility is to keep this culture,” exhibit curator and celebrated artist Cheryl D. Edwards told The Informer. “Artists create from their interior. And they are Black women and I wanted it to be intergenerational because we are, many times, unheard and unseen.”
Edwards was inspired by the definitions of “woke” and “beingness,” when creating the exhibit’s title.
“Woke is an adjective meaning ‘alert to racial prejudice and discrimination.’ While the term ‘beingness’ is a noun defined as ‘the quality, state, or condition of a way of life.’ African American women artists have historically had to encounter, confront and negotiate the terms of their artistic practice. Black women artists have generally created art which exudes beauty, strength, wisdom and love,” Edwards explained in her curatorial notes, noting each artist embodies all of the aforementioned qualities.
Although her curatorial research and work provided the artists, Edwards credits the brainstorming of Tristan Colding, program specialist with Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC), for the exhibit to get on its feet.
Colding was inspired by an initiative in Atlanta, Georgia, declaring April as Black Women’s History Month. The program specialist wanted to bring that same energy to the arts and people of Prince George’s County.
“We’re here celebrating Black Women’s History Month. We’re here celebrating Black women artists in Prince George’s County and the surrounding areas in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia,” Colding said with enthusiasm.
Artists in the online Prince George’s Park “Art Auction,” until mid-May, include: Michelle Talibah, Adjoa Burrowes, Claudia “Aziza” Gibson-Hunter, Melanie Royster, Katherine Tompson, lauded quilter and multimedia artist Faith Ringgold, and Edwards, the exhibit’s curator.
“I wanted to be a part of [this exhibit] because I feel like it’s important that we put ourselves out there and we have to share our message with the people and I think through exhibitions, you’re able to share the messages in your work with others,” Burrowes, a visual artist who specializes in printmaking, told The Informer. “The fact that Black women in America, we tend to be overlooked. … It’s about time that we get our due.”
Burrowes, 66, included pieces from her series “Winds of Change.”
“During the pandemic, it seemed like something turned and people started questioning a lot of stuff. And it’s still happening. We’re still questioning and still trying to make people understand what our experience is in America,” said the Chicago native who now lives in Northern Virginia. “So my challenge as an artist is, ‘How do you deal with all that phenomena in a visual way and how do you deal with it in a nonrepresentational way? How do you deal with it with line and shape and value and tone? How do you create this concept of change? So I try to do that with the lines, try to create a certain dynamism, to make you feel like things are moving. That was my objective.”
With their artwork on display and for purchase, the evening celebrated the women with delectable food treats, an open wine bar featuring selections from the McBride Sisters’ “Black Girl Magic,” collection, and speeches about and by the featured artists. The captivating art heightened the beauty of the Oxon Hill Manor, which features fancy furniture in several multipurpose rooms and beautiful outdoor spaces.
“It’s just been a pleasure to see someone who has been so supportive of arts through the generations. And that’s what I’m so appreciative of,” Cecile Tolliver told The Informer, talking about Edwards. “And then to have this exhibit in such a glorious, glamorous place. People do not really know the gem that they have in this Oxon Hill Manor here.”
“And so thank you,” Tolliver continued, turning to Edwards. “I’m so appreciative of what you’re doing for Black women.
For more information on the exhibit and to purchase artwork, go to www.pgparks.com.