|Lines of Migration: Paintings by Kenwyn Crichlow
and Obiora Udechukwu
Kenwyn Crichlow, Solace, oil
The question about lines—lines of departure,
lines of enclosure, lines of demarcation, lines of separation, and
so on—is an important part of the process of [understanding]
community, especially in the diaspora. We’ve grown up with
maps that show a line coming from Africa to the Caribbean and then
breaking up; that is the line that describes the diaspora. I also
relate [the idea of line as metaphor] to the lines that root me
personally to Trinidad and to the rest of the world. I remember
being asked at one point about my descent, and I say, as I look
at my own physiology and the physiology of my relatives, that we
seem to resemble Yoruba people. I don’t know if I am Yoruba
or Igbo, whichever continental African nation, because the line
that joins me to that continent is somewhere, but it has been snipped
off; that is an area of darkness. But there is a line that joins
me to the Caribbean, which is becoming clearer as I grow older because
I’m now able to more usefully piece together the narratives
and the anecdotes that members of the previous generations have
told me. To restructure the past, to look at the social and political
evolution of society and see where my family was in the landscape,
[allows me] to work out the line that joins me to Trinidad or to
the southern Caribbean.
When we talk about issues of diaspora, [we] return
to issues of race, class, and identity, issues of sociology and
heritage. But there are other important issues upon which these
also reside, which have to do with the making of things, which is
one of the ways in which we define ourselves. People in Trinidad
of African descent make things—much of this making comes out
of the ramagé process, which is a way of improvising, of
getting in touch with other areas of knowledge through time. My
way of making a painting is informed by the ramagé process,
which is part of the whole way of identification. I am informed
by the discourse about identities. That is, I suppose, quite subjective,
and maybe I am unable to tease it apart. It’s a value of negotiation,
especially of identity.
1993, acrylic on canvas
Although I have my Nigerian heritage, I’ve been living in
the United States for five years, and you can’t exist as an
island here. You have to be part of the society where you live;
all kinds of things impinge on your life. How do you rationalize
these things; how do you come to terms with your present position?
There’s a lot of ambivalence in my practice now as an artist.
In the 1970s, I moved away from strictly realistic painting and
began to work in the Uli idiom. Typically, Uli painting by rural
women in southeastern Nigeria is completely abstract and has a hard-edge
effect. The colors are very few and not intermixed. Occasionally,
I include figures in my work. For example, in a painting from the
Dark Days series, people are huddled inside a cell. Although the
picture references a specific and tragic period in the history of
Nigeria, it transcends that. The work looks back several centuries
to the infamous Middle Passage in which millions of Africans were
transported in unspeakable conditions from the continent to the
Caribbean and the United States to work as slaves on plantations.
In the 1990s, the military government in Nigeria treated people
in much the same way, locking large numbers of citizens in overcrowded
cells without trial. At a personal level, I was incarcerated by
the Nigerian military government in 1997 for some weeks, along with
other academic colleagues. So, there is a link. I take the particular
and use it to address the general. As far as I am concerned, human
beings have not changed. Human beings have not changed at all.
It is important for people in the diaspora to retain the good part
of their culture. I say this because there is a tendency for people
to give up everything they have when they encounter a “superior”
culture. Look at the United States—so powerful; with its technological
advantages it can take over any country, and so on. U.S. culture
becomes the index, but it does not necessarily mean it is the best.
Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote a book entitled It Takes a Village
[to bring up a child]—and that’s the way we do it back
home. Human beings are more important than capital. They are more
important than money. The point I’m making is that it’s
necessary for those of us who are in the diaspora to make sure that
our children know our stories, our histories.
In May-June of 2002, in conjunction with the planning
for this exhibition project, I attended part of a two-week summer
institute at the University of West Indies for students from St.
Lawrence University, Trent University, and UWI. Two concurrent seminars
were offered: “cultural performance: arts and identity”
and “social justice and comparative multiculturalism.”
Among many other topics, we discussed the functions of carnival
and the commodification of culture, and we learned about the history
and politics of cricket in the Caribbean (and sat through most of
a monsoon-like downpour to watch T&T fave Brian Lara in a match
against India). I drove through Port of Spain with Ken Crichlow
to find a gargantuan Spider Man billboard cutout perched atop one
of Trinidad’s ubiquitous Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants,
right across the street from a monument to Captain Arthur Andrew
Cipriani, an important activist in the country’s labour movement.
One evening, students in the arts course performed in a cabaret
of sorts, and I was stunned by their creativity and passion. I listened
to a Celtic fiddler and a folk guitarist who sang Bob Dylan’s
“Tangled Up in Blue.” A storyteller shared a parable
about the sun and the moon, and a visual artist/poet performed a
radical feminist manifesto. On the BWIA trip home, “Shallow
Hal” was featured as the “in-flight entertainment,”
and I stopped off at the “America!” store in the Washington
Dulles airport terminal to purchase Osama bin Laden “Terrorist”
As I tried to sort through this weird collage of images and phenomena,
I realized that many of the concepts that the students explored
in the institute were made evident in my travels. Lines of migration—people,
capital, and cultures moving across borders, in ways that don’t
often make sense. In this exhibition, Kenwyn Crichlow and Obiora
Udechukwu reflect and comment upon issues of the diaspora and identity
in the Caribbean and North America. As such, they are both eloquent
narrators. Their work strives to make meaning of their own personal
histories as well as the ambiguities and contradictions of contemporary
culture. The juxtapositions reveal many lines of departure.
-Cathy Tedford, Director
Richard F. Brush Art Gallery
Kenwyn Crichlow, Painting
through to the Dream,
2001, oil on canvas with 22 carat gold leaf
In January 2000, the Ford Foundation awarded St.
Lawrence University a three-year faculty and curriculum development
grant entitled “Crossing Borders: Revitalizing Area Studies”
to work collaboratively with Trent University in Canada and the
University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago. Through
the project, faculty and students at the three institutions have
studied the relationships between geographic areas and the global
movement of people, capital, and cultures across geographic borders,
and they have investigated and compared the influence of Africa,
Asia, Europe, and indigenous peoples within the United States,
Canada, and the Caribbean from transnational, multicultural, and
interdisciplinary perspectives. This exhibition was proposed by
Eve Stoddard and Grant Cornwell, grant project coordinators at
St. Lawrence, both of whom have long recognized that gallery programs
can be well integrated into the academic life of an undergraduate
liberal arts institution.
Presented during the 2003 Festival of the Arts The
Gullah Connection: From West Africa to the Islands of the Americas,
the exhibition and educational programs are funded by the Ford
Foundation grant. Special thanks to Carole Mathey at St. Lawrence
University, Ronald Joseph at Gallery 184.108.40.206., and David LaRiviere
at artspace for their assistance with the traveling exhibition.
Obiora Udechukwu, Night Journey,
2000, gouache on paper
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Zalmaï: War and Peace
- January 20 - February 22, 2003
Mali, 1994,gelatin silver print
I HAVE SORE EYES
I had to leave without it. It was a Zenit, a Soviet camera my father
had brought back from a trip. A crazy luxury for a child of Kabul
who dreamed only of living in images. I was sixteen years old and
had to flee Afghanistan like a thief.
Months of travel followed. An itinerary without images, a black
hole. I needed a reason to escape, and chance encounters gave it
to me. The discovery of the world through photography showed me
that my bewildered gaze was no longer alone. I had to set off again.
But where? The question was rhetorical: where the dead speak nonsense,
where misery spreads on beaches of silence. Wherever life overflows
on itself, raw and naked. In Manila, on the steaming mountains of
rubbish or in the swamps surrounding the shantytowns; in a camp
of refugees, lost in Central Africa, where children dance under
the stars; among nomads of every race, of every ethnicity. What
does humanity have to say to these barefoot nobles, wounded to the
bone, so close to lives nearly extinct, yet still burning brightly.
Faced with these conflicting interpretations, I rage, I exult,
and have the wild desire to open the eyes of those who have seen
What use is photography? On the road fleeing Kabul, I remember
a sea of white flags floating on a village turned graveyard. I do
not know why I have kept this image, so sharp, of such aberrant
disaster. In whose name? For what end? But it resonates in my eye
like a reminder of reality.
Pakistan, 1994,gelatin silver print
Zalmaï’s photographs capture the slow, distressing drift
of exile and dispossession: spectral figures against a stormy sky,
a sheared row of peaks that frame a figure like a sacred relic,
horizons of men, both of this world and of some timeless land. This
is a documentation of a journey through ambiguous territories—from
Cuba to India, Mali to the Philippines, Indonesia to Egypt, and
a return to Zalmaï’s native Afghanistan—a search
for place when one’s own land has been destroyed. Most of
all, his work is about the fragility of presence.
Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1964, Zalmaï fled his homeland
in 1980 to escape the occupation of the Soviet Army. He [moved to]
Switzerland, where he studied at the School of Creative Photography,
Lausanne, and at the Center of Professional Education in Photography,
Yverdon. Since 1989, Zalmaï has worked as a freelance photographer
for The New York Times, Le Temps, Geo, Newsweek, Reflex Magazine,
Outside Magazine, and Vanity Fair. His assignments have taken him
around the world, and his work has covered a variety of topics,
from Tibetan refugees and rickshaw drivers in Calcutta to pygmies
and Sudanese refugees in the Central African Republic, before bringing
him back to his native Afghanistan to photograph the effects of
landmines. Since his first solo show at 16/25 Gallery, Lausanne,
he has had numerous others at museums and galleries throughout Europe.
More recently, Zalmaï’s exhibition Afghanistan, produced
by the International Red Cross, toured Switzerland, Germany, and
Austria. He currently resides in New York City.
On January 28–31, 2003, St. Lawrence University will host
a peace conference entitled “The Real Situation: A Peaceful
Anti-War Uproar.” Organized by Erin Cianchette ’03 and
a committee of students and faculty, the event will bring together
international and local scholars, activists, and musicians in an
effort to shed critical light on a range of issues related to the
ongoing “war on terrorism.” All of the events are free
and open to the public; see http://student.stlawu.edu/~ecianc91/
or call 315-229-7548 for more information.
War and Peace is an Umbrage Editions exhibition.
Curator: Nan Richardson; Associate Curator: Lesley A. Martin; Director
of Exhibitions: Launa Beuhler.
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Photographs by Viggo Mortensen
Viggo Mortensen, Chris' Dogs, 2001,
archival pigment print, 20 x 20 inches
[Viggo Mortensen] is photographer, painter and poet; a triple-time
eye/I who shares with us the desire for the perfect as never more
than an elusive glimpse of something that surprises us all. It seems
that these moments can only be held if they appear to be escaping
or yielding to what cannot last. Photography, whatever else it may
be, is a focusing on detail. Mortensen likes sotto voce details;
he gives his attention to instants that would otherwise have passed
by unobserved, or more significantly, unregistered—things
that in a literal sense were simply there for him because he was
there for them—things that would have easily passed by as
all else passes by, as we ourselves finally do.
Mortensen seems to suggest that all incidents are photographable;
perhaps none carry more significance than any others, or they carry
the overwhelming significance he has given them through his involvement.
It is a matter of being involved, being present, being, as Pollock
might have said, “in it,” in what is happening, trusting
it. He returns us to the subject as a connection through which life
passes. We form the event, selecting what seems significant to us,
and in so doing we shape ourselves through the precise energy of
our attentions. The things he photographs belong to him, are of
him because they happened to him, and therein lies their coherence.
- from “Viggo Mortensen: A
Life Tracking Itself” by Kevin Power
Signlanguage (Smart Art Press, 2002)
Viggo Mortensen, Winter, Venice, 2000
archival pigment print, 10.5 x 30 inches
WE UNDERESTIMATE DAMAGE
DONE TO THE SKY
WHEN WE ALLOW WORDS
TO SLIP AWAY
INTO THE CLOUDS.
I REMEMBER MAKING PROMISES
TO YOU OUTSIDE. WE
WERE WATCHING FLOWERS
THAT HADN'T OPENED.
A BEE DARTED, CAREFUL
NOT TO STICK TO
YOUR HALF-SHUT MOUTH.
Viggo Mortensen, Blue #4, 1998,
arhival pigment print, 20 x 20 inches
YOU FOUND MY KEYS
ON AN ANGEL’S HIP
MOVED HALF THE FALLEN TREES
FROM THE FROZEN ROAD.
THIS TRIP IS
ALL I THOUGHT
IT WOULD BE
AND WE’RE NOT
EVEN ½ WAY YET.
IF I CAN’T TOUCH YOU
WITH SNOW-HUNG FIRS
OUR ONLY WITNESS
CAN’T HAVE YOUR EYES
WHEN EVERYONE’S ASLEEP
THEN THE FIRE’S ALMOST OUT.
YOU ASK THE UN-NAMED
ATTRACTION TO LEAVE TOWN
BUT KEEP CHECKING
IF I’M STILL AROUND.
SHOULD WE SIDESTEP
PUTTING FINGERS TO
WORDS TRACKING LIPS THAT
WOULD INFORM US?
ONCE SAID I’D MISSED
YOU EVERY INSTANT
BEFORE WE’D MET.
NOW BELIEVE WE KNEW
HOW SAD WE’D BE
Viggo Mortensen graduated in 1980 from St. Lawrence University,
where he majored in government and Spanish. Special thanks to Pilar
Perez at Perceval
Press and to Robert Mann and Irene Grassi at Robert
Mann Gallery, New York, NY. The exhibition is supported by the
Carlyle and Betty Barnes Endowment Fund.
Gallery not be open on Friday, February 28 until the opening reception
at 7:30 p.m. We will have special open hours on Saturday as follows:
a.m. - 2:00 p.m. (open)
p.m. - 8:00 p.m. (closed for poetry reading/book signing)
p.m. - midnight (open)
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The Astonishing World of Tom Tomorrow:
An Exhibition of Cartoons by Tom Tomorrow
Compassionate conservatives; courageous Democrats; the war on terror/Iraq/whatever;
homeland security; civil liberties; John Ashcroft; corporate crime;
subversive penguins: pick any of the absurdities of the absurd times
that we’re living through, and the odds are good that Tom Tomorrow
has taken aim on them. With the help of Sparky the Penguin, alien
Republicans with the face of Rush Limbaugh, a parallel earth on which
a small cute dog was accidentally elected president, and actual quotes
from fundamentalist terrorists of a different stripe (like Pat Robertson),
Tom Tomorrow’s work lays bare the contradictions and idiocy
at the roots of capitalism, politics, war, greed, consumerism, and
patriotism—and it’s damn funny to boot.
While there’s a certain comfort in calling Tom Tomorrow a
political cartoonist, there’s also something lost in that
designation. His work transcends the typical one-cell Op-Ed page
cartoon, both stylistically and substantively. What other “political
cartoonist” would use vintage action figures to critique social
security reform, or cram several hundred words into a single cartoon
in an attempt to clarify misconceptions about single payer healthcare
systems? His frequently bizarre and always humorous off-kilter approaches
give Tomorrow’s cartoons a depth that extends his parody and
critique even further, making them all the more effective.
We live in a political climate in which the once unthinkable is
now commonplace. Orwellian Total Information Awareness schemes,
a highly secretive executive branch with unprecedented power, and
a president who declares crusades arguing that “you are either
with us or with the terrorists” now mark the order of the
day. It has become “un-American” and “unpatriotic”
to question these developments, yet Tom Tomorrow continues on week
after week, levying an effective, biting, and pointed critique of
these new sacred American phenomena. In this sense, Tom Tomorrow
is no mere political cartoonist. He’s a vital cultural critic
and link to the common sense that we seem to have lost in declaring
war on everything and everyone.
assistant professor of sociology
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After the Wall: Gender and Social Relations in
Post-Communist European Posters and Ephemera
Rich Hopkins & Luminarios, 2002,
Blue Rose Tours/Jack Wolfskin, offset lithograph,
32 13/16 x 23 1/4 in.
The posters and street ephemera on display in this
exhibition were collected during four trips to central Europe since
the summer of 2000. What began as mere curiosity for the odd flyer
taped to a light pole became something of an obsession: I found
myself roaming the streets of (east) Berlin, Prague, or Warsaw—streets
that are, generally, far safer than the streets of American cities—in
search of posters, flyers, announcements, advertisements, etc.,
whatever caught my eye. These were materials on their way to becoming
rubbish; soon enough, every single object would be pulled down,
covered over, thrown away, or scratched out. This was the ephemera
of the street, visual texts cheaply produced and displayed, meant
to draw the attention of passers-by to a coming event, a demonstration,
concert, or performance; to an issue, problem or question of the
day; to a product, apartment, or a body for sale or hire; or even
to a lost cat.
The transitory artifacts of popular culture are by their nature
indicative of social change, and many of the objects chosen for
this exhibition display gender as a prominent aspect of the massive
social, economic, and political transformation still under way in
post-communist Europe more than a decade after the end of the Cold
War. In these texts, gender difference is variously displayed, encoded,
and represented. For example, a street poster from (east) Germany
advertises a band, “Rich Hopkins & Luminarios,”
with a nostalgic play on the recent Cold War past featuring a come-hither
image of a “cowgirl” in skimpy buckskin sitting atop
a wooden fence rail. The desert setting suggests the American West,
while the Soviet stars on the cowgirl’s wrists indicate that
she can go both ways, ideologically speaking. Yet her blowing on
a smoking gun suggests, too, a nostalgia for (hetero)sex, or perhaps,
a sexist nostalgia, underwritten by the eroticized spectacle of
the “Old West”/Hollywood cowgirl.
On the other hand, sexism and its socially damaging effects form
the explicit topic for other posters, including those from the Centrum
Praw Kobiet (Women’s Rights Center) in Warsaw and other women’s
and gender studies centers newly emergent in the region. Systematically
ignored under the former communist regime, male violence against
women is emphatically denounced in visually arresting posters such
as “Zero tolerancji” (“Zero Tolerance”).
In addition, the show includes works not immediately or explicitly
about gender, such as “Dem Polizeistaat entgegentreten!”
(“Oppose the police state!”), featuring a disturbing
black-and-white photo of heavily armed German riot police bearing
down on a young couple (and, it seems, on us). That one of those
riot police may be a woman does not lessen the hyper-masculine quality
of their state-sanctioned threat of violence.
-Dr. Joel Morton, curator
assistant professor, Gender Studies
Dem Polizeistaat entgegentreten!, 2002,
creator unknown, offset lithograph,
21 1/8 x 16 ½ in.
Posters from Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic can be viewed
on the Gallery’s Web site at http://www.stlawu.edu/gallery/eeursplash.htm.
Special thanks to Marisa Zarczynski ’06 for her research assistance.
Please contact the Gallery for information about this traveling
Zero tolerancji, 2002, Centrum Praw Kobiet,
o ffset lithograph, 23 9/16 x 16 1/4 in.
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“To Whup Up On Sin”
African-American Self-Taught Art
Sister Gertrude Morgan, untitled acrylic painting
8 x 10 inches, collection of Susann Craig
I first heard about self-taught art while interning at Intuit:
The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art in Chicago during the
summer of 2002. While there, I conducted research at a desk between
two cavernous galleries and across from what I soon discovered was
a black box theater for performances, screenings, and lectures.
Given the size of the place and the scope of Intuit’s programs,
I was surprised at how little I knew about this stuff. How did it
correspond to other art forms I had studied in art history courses?
At the time, I thought, “Wow, these people are crazy like
Van Gogh!” Would Van Gogh be considered an outsider artist?
Yes and no. During his lifetime, he was considered insane, his talent
unrecognized, and yet today many regard his paintings as the pinnacle
of high art.
This exhibition, the result of an independent study course I am
taking this semester, is comprised of fifteen drawings, paintings,
and sculptures by six 20th-century African-American artists. Included
are watercolors of dreamlike mountain scenes with floating eye/plant
hybrids, glimmering mosaics depicting fantastical spirits, mythical
representations of flying angels and demons, colorfully illustrated
stories of the Apocalypse, and playful wood carvings of birds, horses,
and famous or not-so-famous human figures. The artists use supplies
that can be purchased at a local dime store, like crayons, colored
pencils, glitter, or random, found objects like scrap metal, shovels,
cans, and old furniture.
Typically labeled visionary, divinely inspired, or
obsessive, these artists have had no formal training and have worked
outside of traditional institutions like museums and commercial
galleries. You probably won’t find them discussing existential
philosophy at Starbucks. Yet their deeply personal approaches reflect
a range of life experiences, inner emotions, and fantasies. One
artist, Sister Gertrude Morgan, a self-proclaimed “missionary
and everlasting gospel teacher,” feels her Godly work can
“whup up on sin,” which inspired the title of this exhibition.
-Matthew Whitehead ‘03
Special thanks to Martha Watterson at Intuit: The
Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Chicago, Illinois, and to
Susann Craig, Jeff Cory, and Erik Weisenburger, lenders to the exhibition.
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Barnes Endowment Annual Juried Student Art
Steven Gianakos (American, born 1938) ,
Bedroom Scene, 1997,
i nk and watercolor on paper , 14 1/4 x 20 1/8 in.,
gift of Dr. Richard T. and Odile ('51) Stern
Student artwork in all media, including drawing, painting, photography,
sculpture, ceramics, and printmaking, will be presented in this
exhibition organized by the Student Art Union and the Department
of Fine Arts. The Annual Juried Student Art Exhibition is open
to all St. Lawrence University students.
Juried by Doug Schatz, assistant professor of sculpture at the
State University of New York, Potsdam, the exhibition is supported
by the Jeanne Scribner Cashin Endowment for Fine Arts and the
Carlyle and Betty Barnes Endowment. Special thanks to Ashley Havens
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Monday-Thursday 12-8 p.m.
Friday-Saturday 12-5 p.m.
All exhibitions and related educational programs
are free and open to the public. The
Gallery welcomes individuals and groups for guided tours; please
call (315) 229-5174 for information.
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