All posts in “Maya Angelou”

Object of the Week: Daedalus/Upliftment

In Daedalus/Upliftment, a young Black man struggles to take flight. His gaze is fixed on the ground instead of the sky, with eyes downcast and obscured by gold sunglasses. One hand is outstretched to conceal himself. The other grasps a plume of pheasant feathers, with a rope tied around his wrist. A wreath of ostrich feathers adorns his neck, draping his chest and blending into bright white pants. The feathers symbolize the deities Yoruba Orisas Obatala of wisdom, and Osun of love.

This full-body portrait portrays someone steady, yet vulnerable, someone who embodies the emotional juxtapositions of freedom and captivity, hope and doubt. The dazzling high-tops—inlaid with gold leaf and spray paint detail, dripping to the edges of the canvas—paired with grayscale triangle-patterned socks are captivating. Although a symbol of value, the gold sneakers carry much weight: a strain against the aspirations and ability to rise.

Daedalus/Upliftment is from Dr. Fahamu Pecou’s 2015 series, I Know Why The Caged Bird Blings, the series title inspired by Maya Angelou’s poem, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.” A visual/performing artist and scholar, Pecou concentrates on Black masculinity in his work. Pecou probes today’s media representations, expectations, and images of Black men removed from Black agency—including stereotypes of violence—and their emotional toll on readings and performances of Black masculinity. In 2017, Pecou was the subject of a retrospective exhibition “Miroirs de l’Homme” (Mirrors of the Man) in Paris, France and a recipient of the 2016 Joan Mitchell Foundation “Painters and Sculptors” Award.[1]

Pecou continues to lead speaking engagements across the nation, and gave a TED Talk in Atlanta, Georgia, “An artist’s counterpoint to black masculinity and identity stereotypes,” sharing his own testimonies as a Black man in America.

Daedalus/Upliftment alludes to the Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus. Daedalus built wings of feathers and wax for himself and his son, Icarus, to escape their prison. Despite Daedalus’ warning, Icarus flew too close to the sun, melting the wax on the wings, falling and drowning in the ocean. Pecou reinterprets this classic tragedy and questions the actions of Daedalus as Icarus’ father. Daedalus/Uplifting provokes a meditation on paternalism and masculinity, with “the breakdown of intergenerational communication and the emotional complexities within the Black male experience that trouble the desire and ability to take flight.”[2]

In the far-right corner of the stark white background, Pecou leaves us a surrealist poem:

Uplift meant

Uplift men

up… lift men

UP! lift men…

Up.

– Rachel Kim, SAM Curatorial Intern

Image: Daedalus/Upliftment, 2016, Fahamu Pecou, acrylic, gold leaf and spray paint on canvas, 84 × 48 in., Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Art Acquisition Fund, 2016.20 © Artist or Artist’s Estate
[1] “The Official Website of Visual/Performing Artist and Scholar Dr. Fahamu Pecou.” https://www.fahamupecouart.com/
[2] Fahamu Pecou: https://www.instagram.com/p/BItROlBDUIg/?hl=en
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Muse/News: Muholi arrives, an unlovable tree, and monuments to rad Women

SAM News

Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness is now on view at SAM, and it’s not to be missed. Here’s Elena Martinique for Widewalls and Victoria Valentine of Culture Type on the South African visual activist’s work.

Jasmyne Keimig of the Stranger offered this sneak peek; keep an eye out for her feature story on the show.

Outside suggests “11 Alternatives to Crowded Outdoor Instagram Spots,” with the sculpture park handily beating the gum wall.

Give a read to Casey Arguelles Gregory of The Eye’s post about what we do with problematic art; Claire Partington: Taking Tea at SAM is given as an example of how to respond.

“[The installation] creates a stunning dialogue between the historical ‘porcelain room’ and our modern attempt to reckon with the colonialism and institutional racism that necessitated the creation of these beautiful objects.”

Local News

The Stranger doesn’t like our city flag. They’re throwing a design contest for a new one (non-binding). (SAM tickets are among the prizes!)

Crosscut’s Brangien Davis on Beili Liu’s new show at MadArt, which addresses the global refugee crisis with clothing frozen in place by cement.

The Denny Substation has a sculpture called Transforest—apparently the tallest public art in the City—that the Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig calls “unlovable.”

“Obviously, Transforest can’t capture certain things about trees—their smell, the sound of leaves rustling in the wind, their sense of knowing. But as I stood underneath it, sweating under all that sun, trying to figure out this sculpture, I realized I was missing something simple, easily capture-able about trees—their shade.”

Inter/National News

Artforum reports on the ongoing controversy involving the proposed destruction of a mural at San Francisco’s George Washington High School; now 400 academics, writers, and artists have written an open letter opposing the plan.

Elsewhere in school murals: Dr. Maya Angelou is celebrated in over two dozen eye-catching murals throughout the campus of the Dr. Maya Angelou Community High School.

And elsewhere in rad women monuments: Zachary Small of Hyperallergic reports on the proposed monument on Roosevelt Island to the groundbreaking journalist Nellie Bly.

“Almost 132 years later, the intrepid reporter will return to the scene of the story that made her a hailed heroine of journalism as a permanent monument.”

And Finally

If you are not always eager to learn more about Bob Ross, then I just don’t know what to tell you.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Photo: Installation view Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness at Seattle Art Museum, 2019, photo: Natali Wiseman.
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