When the late Michael Platt was alive, his house would be filled with artist friends, former and current students and the random mentee whom he would advise and encourage to take their creativity head-on.
His favorite directive? “Just do it!” So, some eight months after his sudden death in January, his wife and artistic collaborator Carole Beane decided that the imploring statement should be the title of the group show, made up of nearly 40 artists who were inspired, supported and motivated by Michael Platt.
Unlike the closing of his exhibit with Beane at American University’s Art Museum in March, where the official memorial for the beloved artist was held, Friday night’s opening of “Just Do It: Friends of Michael Platt,” at Honfleur felt less like a funeral and more like an appreciation of his life and work. But more pointedly, it showed how influential Michael Platt was to other artists, and each had their own story.
Amber Robles-Gordon, who has enjoyed a successful career as a multimedia artist, met Platt in the nascent days of her career. In fact, she was still in school at Howard University’s Department of Fine Art matriculating for her Master’s degree.
“‘Matrices of Transformation’ [is] a photography series I produced during my graduate thesis program at Howard University,” Robles-Gordon said of her works included in the exhibit. “To create these photographs, I overlaid a chicken wire weaving over other two-dimensional works in progress. … I was documenting the discoveries all the way, which literally sounds like something Platt would say.
“I feel it’s fitting these particular works be included in this exhibition,” she said. “Michael Platt was part of my thesis committee. Additionally, my thesis defense and exhibition was held in his studio gallery within his home.”
Textile artist Lynn Sylvester, who choreographed Platt’s very personal memorial program at American University, was a regular at the famous dinner table in Platt and Beane’s Columbia Heights row house.
Her contribution to the exhibit, “Cold Face,” a dyed textile artwork which she agreed to put up for sale, with the part of the proceeds of artworks sold at the exhibit going towards Black Artists of DC, a collective group, recalled her relationship with Platt.
“Having known Mike for several years, it was amazing to see many of those he influenced, including me,” she said. “Their work was varied but the world of Mike’s image were inspired, so much talent he attracted.”
Some such as Remy T met Platt relatively late in their lives, while others attending knew him all of their lives. His piece in the exhibit, “Precious One,” is reminiscent of Platt’s photographic printing and was created in the Platt Studio.
“He and Carol invited me to enjoy my life after retirement,” Remy T, a retired stagehand, said of his late friend and mentor. “What better time to relearn my passion for the art of printmaking?”
Some pieces, like Debra E. Tyler’s “Archival Photo,” contain actual images of the artist whom people referred to as “the image-maker.” Juxtaposed in a botanical overlay, Platt’s profile with his signature braided, dreadlocked beard is central to the image while shrouded in light and texture, yet another signature of Platt’s work.
And of course, several pieces by Platt himself were interspersed between those by artists who knew and loved him, and they were many more beyond the 39 whose works took up the lower and upper gallery walls.
First cousin and ardent supporter Sandra Anderson, took partial credit for pointing a younger Platt towards the arts, rather than a “more acceptable” professional career.
“We are first cousins,” she exhorted. “So I somewhat gave him ideas!”
Platt grew up East of the River in far Northeast, close to the landmark Shrimp Boat, so his exhibit at the Honfleur Gallery was really placing him in proximity to his neighborhood, Beane said.
“This was his side of the river,” she said. “He had an amazing journey with old and new friends. His last piece was the installation [in the AU exhibit]. It took the efforts of his son, Little Mike, [artist] Martha Jackson Jarvis with her big truck and others to make it happen.”
An artists’ talk with some of the featured artists will be held later in the exhibit’s run, which extends through Sept. 28. Other artists in the show include Sheila Crider, Luis Peralta Del Valle, who piece is called “The Image Maker,” and Aziza Claudia Gibson-Hunter, whose mixed media piece “Shango’s Invocation,” brings to mind Platt’s deep reverence for the spiritual and the ancestral.
“Just Do It” is at the Honfleur Gallery (1241 Good Hope Rd SE) through Sept. 28. For more information, go to the website of the Anacostia Arts Center, http://anacostiaartscenter.com.