By Alec Clayton
In the South Sound as in the country at large, black artists are poorly represented. The “Futures Rising” exhibition, at the Leonor R. Fuller Gallery inside South Puget Sound Community College’s Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for the Arts, proves that there are many more excellent black artists in the area than is generally known. This exhibition is a celebration of black artists in the Olympia community, curated by Theresa “Momma Tee” Yost and showcasing the art of Sandra Bocas, Javoen Byrd, Shameka Gagnier, Cholee Gladney, Aisha Harrison, Travis Johnson, Sun Jordyn, Mskahe, Rhian Parker, Rene Westbrook, Yitagesu, and David Yost.
Yost is a poet and a promoter of both written and visual art. She was the 2018 Olympia Poet Laureate runner-up, and her poetry was published in the anthology “I Hear Olympia Singing.”
Bocas, a self-taught artist, was born in Venezuela, grew up in Trinidad, and had an extensive career in fashion as a make-up artist that spanned over 30 years. She says she has always been fascinated by the character and the soul behind the mask, which is revealed in her portraits of women. Four or her portraits are featured in the exhibition.
“I have chosen these four portraits for this exhibition because each portrait represents a particular plight that has and continues to face women of color around the world,” Bocas says. The four are: “Black Face,” which Bocas says “has no features because it represents not being seen. As a woman of color working in the fashion world in the ’70s and ’80s, there weren’t even foundation colors for our skin tones”; “And You…What are You Doing?” illustrating the killing of George Floyd; “War Weary,” a soulful portrait of a Muslim woman; and “Angela,” a portrait of Angela Davis.
Johnson is a painter and sculptor in the abstract expressionist tradition. “This ensemble of sculptures and paintings: ‘Elder to Ancestor 1,’ ‘Elder to Ancestor 2,’ ‘The Children,’ ‘The Complicated Future,’ and ‘Breathing While Black,’ play a dual function as the looker and the performer,” he says. “Each sculpture holds its own joy, life, and narrative while speaking clearly as kinfolk. This is a visual conversation amongst kinfolk that rises and falls with color, shapes, lines, and textures.”
Gagnier is a multimedia artist, working as a wood carver, metalsmith, printmaker, performance artist, music maker, and gardener — currently working with the Black Well Red Thread Collective, as are many of the artists in this exhibition.
Gladney’s “The Understory” series was created in mixed media collage, a combination of acrylic paint, colored pencil, ink, and watercolor.
Harrison, a figurative sculptor who works primarily in clay. She is a cofounder of the Black Well Red Thread Collective along with Gagnier and Gladney.
Westbrook is a multi-media artist. “Many of the pieces here are from a new body of monoprints that have collage elements added to give both contextual and visual depths to the imagery” she says. “As an evolving artist who has been steeped in social justice and cultural dynamics of the sixties, much of my creative pursuits into these issues keeps the work current and relevant.”
Futures Rising exhibition
Online, presented by the Leonor R. Fuller Gallery
4:30-6:30 p.m., throughout October.
9 p.m. opening reception via Zoom with live performances by poet and collage artist Rhian Parker and drummer Javoen Byrd (https://spscc.zoom.us/j/81394116835)
Free to attend online, donations accepted