The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) is a trailblazer when it comes to the representation of African American Art. Only a small percentage of African American Art is displayed in the finest art museums in the United States each year, and the VMFA wants to change that. Opened on Saturday, June 8, 2019, Cosmologies From the Tree of Life: Art from the African American South is an immersive experience that is a showing of some of the underrepresented African American art in America.
The 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution has a goal to represent an inclusive and authentic history of the arrival of the first recorded Africans in English North America. Partnering with the VMFA on this exhibit allows them both to explore those stories. Diversity is one of the themes of the commemoration and by showcasing diversity in American art, American Evolution is able to share the culture and traditions passed down by African and African-American families in America over the 400-year history.
Art on display includes “folk or self-taught” quilts, paintings, sculptures and works on paper by African American artists from the 1900s through the 2,000s. Some of the works include “Housetop”, a quilt created in 1977 by Ritta Mae Pettway, “Birds Don’t Care Whose Head They Crap On”, a multimedia sculpture created by Thornton Dial in 1987 and an untitled book of drawings by Purvis Young in 1983. VMFA acquired the art from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, an Atlanta-based organization that preserves and promotes works by African American artists from the South.
Two great things about the VMFA is that admission is free for all and they are open 365 days a year. They also offer a few additions to the exhibit to involve people even more into the art. There was a talk with VMFA Curator, Valeria Cassel Oliver, on Thursday, June 6 about the artists; and coming up will be a class examining landscape and its influence on African American art on Thursday, July 16 for $30 and a special exhibit to discover the artists’ inspirations for their work on Tuesday, September 3 and Thursday, September 5 for free.
Cosmologies will be on display until November 17, 2019, so make your way to Richmond this summer to see some stunning art from the South.