On October 16, 2014 The Anacostia Community Museum (@AnacostiaMuseum) sponsored an artist panel featuring 8 of the 9 East of the River artists exhibited in Honfleur Gallery‘s annual juried show. They were: Yvon Fleurival, a Haitian-born, Southeast Washington based painter with an MFA from the Maryland Institute and College of Art (MICA); Rik Freeman, a painter based in NE Washington whose murals can be seen at the DC Convention Center and Dorothy Height Library on Benning Road; Lawrence Green, a photographer, filmmaker and DJ based in SE Washington who graduated with a degree in Film and Media Arts from Temple University; Malik M. Lloyd, a SE based DC artist with a BFA in Illustration from the Philadelphia College of Arts; Bruce McNeil, a SE photographer who had documented the Anacostia waterway for years and hosts photo tours of the waterway with the Anacostia Community Museum; Luis Peralta Del Valle, another SE artist and muralist who has created a beautiful mural of SE spots with the Anacostia Community Museum Academy on display outside the library at Savoy Elementary, and who studied at the Corcoran School of Art; Amber Robles-Gordon, a mixed-media artist based in SE with an MFA from Howard University; and James Terrell, a multi-disciplinary artist based in NE Washington with an MFA from the Parsons School of Design and a BFA in Howard.
I can’t stress enough the value of hearing artists discuss their work. Most artists work from a very personal place, and when they choose to reveal themselves and their inspirations you too may find yourself uplifted as I was, when for example I heard Amber Robles-Gordon discuss how her art employed the energy of color and that she saw everything she did, her art-making – her yoga and pilates instruction – as an integral component of her practice, each building upon the other to inform her work.
If you have the opportunity to attend an artist talk, whether in our East of the River communities or elsewhere, I encourage you to do so. It’s a way we can all support each other, doesn’t cost a thing, and invariably will inform you and amplify your understanding of the art, and perhaps find resonance in your own life.
A few of the artists chose to share their work and words with us, and I post their images here, with their permission. The artists retain all rights to the reproduction of their work.
Rik Freeman presents his work inspired during a residency in Bahia, Brazil. Image courtesy of Samuel Margai.
I was visiting Kenilworth Park towards the end of summer 2014 and saw this composition of lotus stems and the sky. The figures represented a salute to the seasons. Spiritually, it feels that every element is transcending and evolving into its space.- Bruce McNeil
This image was an assignment from the Anacostia Community Museum for the exhibition, Reclaiming the Edge: Urban Waterways & Civic Engagement. I was looking for a family activity that involved fishing. This particular anonymous family was fishing along the banks of the watershed of Anacostia River in Bladensburg, MD. They fished for survival to provide the basic need of food for the family. It doesn’t matter that the waterways are polluted. Many have stated, like the show, this is “our river” too. In their home countries, many rivers are more polluted and they fish for survival. What I found amusing was the daughter was taking pictures of me while I was taking pictures of them. – Bruce McNeil
Blackboard Series: The impetus for this series came as effort to educate black people of a variety of propaganda that we have been indoctrinated to through the years via history and religion. Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam has served as a major vehicle to influence billions of people’s perspective of the story of the first man. My intent was to use his very same bold and magnificent composition with text to expose the scientific and historical truth by altering the imagery from white to black. In addition to the full Frederick Douglass like afro of God, included are a few elements stereotypical to black men added in an attempt to make the imagery more distinctively black and digestible, such as the changing of the iconic finger touch into a fist-pump, the image of what could be considered a basketball into a globe resting on text books, indicative of past accomplishments. The most prominent stereotype associated with black men was changing Adams lifeless penis into an enlarged phallic symbol. Added to this school-related composition is “suggested reading” materials from two distinguished authors.
-Malik M. Lloyd
The impetus for the “Home” series came with visits to my Grandmother’s home in Columbia, SC over 25 years ago. The fields of vegetation would take on the appearance of cornrows, a hairstyle worn mostly by black people, and would set the stage for several artworks in the series. In addition to the fields, this artwork includes my Grandmother’s rusting red house and images of the Africa/Egyptian pyramids – another item that I associate with my concept of home. -Malik M. Lloyd
At the talk I learned that James Terrell’s father is a preacher. The stained glass which figures prominently in many of his works is a reference to this facet of his experience.
Rik Freeman’s love of Santana and the group’s song, “Bahia,” inspired him to apply to an artist residency in Bahia, Brazil – where he created these two pieces.
Thanks to the artists who contributed to the panel and show, and especially to Honfleur Gallery for supporting the work of these artists and many more.