Old Yeller by Niki Johnson
Daughter of an Immigrant by Jeff Zimmermann
Papaya and Sugar by Brendan Hudson
The Lost Scrolls of Poverty: Prayer Cloths and Altarpieces," Nancy Wellington Bookhart's exhibition at CBU's Beverly and Sam Ross Gallery, is a soul-searing mix of religion and memoir. Across frayed, heavily painted canvases that look like ancient scrolls, Bookhart writes some of the Bible's most poignant passages. In Pieta, she scrapes through burnt-sienna ruins, through burnt-umber palimpsests of souls, back down to the nap of the canvas where she writes, "They crucified him — King of Kings — drink the cup."
There is passion here as well as pathos. In The Prayers of My Mother, Bookhart clips prayer cards with clothespins and collages them to tattered clotheslines. Some of the cards are blank. Some are scrawled with notes to God, to the artist's mother, to herself. Red paint, dripped down the cards and smeared across the dark scumbled background, looks like fresh blood on old wounds. In The Ecstasy of St. Teresa, deep-red prayer cards give way to crimson brushstrokes swirled across a golden band at the top of the canvas.
The Ross Gallery's long hours give viewers time to sort through these bruised testaments in ways the artist intended. With words as searing as her work, Bookhart writes, "If one could but endure the depth of hell — and arise from this darkness, they would become the very procurer of their fate."
Through May 1st
You'll find no generals, no celebrities, no corporate logos in the 58-by-152-foot mural Note of Hope, one of Memphis' most monumental works of art. Funded by entrepreneur Chick Hill, organized by Rhodes College's Center for Outreach in the Development of the Arts, and designed and painted by noted Chicago muralist Jeff Zimmermann, Note of Hope stands instead as a monument to all Memphians. The red, yellow-green, and gray-blue hands materializing out of a rainbow at far left of the work suggest not only the rich mix of races that make up our city but also the passion, potential for growth, and dark passages that make up all our lives whatever our nationality or creed.
The open hands hover above the waves of an ocean and beneath a skull-and-crossbones — open-ended symbolism that evokes the nearly infinite possibilities, positive and negative, that play out every day in a large metropolis. Two mothers — one African-American, the other white — mirror one another's love and pride and aspirations for the infants they cradle. Their partners, painted in monotone, are emotionally unavailable, perhaps too absorbed in work to enjoy the present moment, or they could be mere shadows of what they were because of limited opportunities, dead-end jobs, dreams never realized.
Zimmermann continues his exploration of awareness and opportunity with a series of teenage faces — one in shadow, another in full sunlight, eyes closed. A third youth looks far left and appears to be scanning the horizon, wanting to take it all in.
Zimmermann's cinematic stories and symbolism invite multiple interpretations and viewings. You can drive by the corner of Madison and Third anytime to see Note of Hope or park your car and sit on the grassy hill across from the mural that also serves as a left-field berm for the Memphis Redbirds. This open-air gallery never closes.
Opening reception: Sunday, April 26th, from 2 to 4 p.m.
The Marshall Arts one-night-only exhibition "Off the Wall" features work by Zimmermann, as well as Memphians Niki Johnson and Anthony Lee and Chicago muralist Brendan Hudson — three talented artists who are also helping Zimmermann mount the Note of Hope mural.
Zimmermann's startlingly alive Daughter of an Immigrant captures a teenager's rich inner life. The young woman's mouth relaxes, and her eyes, deep pools of blue and brown, look inward. Drips of paint along her cheeks, her face's scumbled edges, and the tabula rasa in which she floats all heighten our impression that new ideas and feelings are just taking shape.
Old Yeller, Niki Johnson's appliquéd portrait of Donald Trump, is a powerful counterpoint to Zimmermann's art. Johnson masterfully handles a difficult medium as she convincingly replicates Trump's thinning hair, flushed face, and the textures and colors inside his wide-open mouth. With trademark irony, Johnson chooses a title that brings to mind not only a senior citizen having a power tantrum but also the classic American movie about a brave and faithful dog.
Brendan Hudson's moody abstractions of South American cityscapes, such as Papaya and Sugar, capture the lurid, beautiful colors of light shining through the haze of pollution. His translucent patches of color floating beside one another but never quite coalescing suggest the ephemeral, unsubstantial slums lining the hillsides of São Paolo and Rio de Janeiro.
In Anthony Lee's painting Glyph-1.aop, the opalescent body of a seahorse curves into a Henry Moore-like nude reclining on a 1950s chartreuse divan beneath which Lee paints the sole of one of Philip Guston's shoes. Lee's synthesis of Art Nouveau grace, Henry Moore heft, and luminescent cartooning is a new direction for this artist and a mind-bendingly beautiful one.
Opening reception: Friday, April 24th, from 6 to 10 p.m.