GoLocalProv | Inside the Art with Michael Rose

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

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PHOTO: Michael Rose

A visit to a juried exhibition usually offers the opportunity to see works selected by an art-oriented individual. In the case of HeARTspot Art Center and Gallery’s Black History Month exhibit, audiences benefit from the expertise of a juror who integrates their passion for creativity with their selfless love for the community. Judging by artist and activist Gem Barros, HeARTspot’s description of the exhibit states that the exhibit exclusively features artists who are part of the African American community. The resulting exhibition, which is on view until March 16, brings together a talented group of local artists and highlights a range of enjoyable art.

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HeARTspot’s Black History Month exhibit includes an array of exciting and varied works. Featured on the show are artists Chandra Akerblom, Shawndavid Berry, Mayté Castillo, Sydney Darrow, Danielle DePeza, April Doran, Tishawna Dunphy, Matthew Hill, Morgan Jamieson, Fitzcarmel LaMarre and Joseph Mushipi. Gem Barros also features artwork in the exhibit, giving viewers a sense of the juror’s personal aesthetic, which is distinctive and expressive. One of Barros’ contributions is inventive mixed-media work that highlights his important role in sewing face masks throughout the pandemic.

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PHOTO: Michael Rose

Judging an exhibition is a special skill, and the collection assembled by Barros brings out the best in the creators of art it presents. When asked what she was looking for when selecting works, Barros said: “The main qualities that drew me to each artist’s work were the materials and textures each artist used in their works and the message he was trying to convey by choosing to submit pieces for this art showcase.

From paintings, drawings and photographs to sculptures and digital art, the selected works display the views of individual artists. There are many stars in the show. Some of the most accomplished pieces in the exhibition are those by Sydney Darrow. Ranging from carefully observed realism to flowing and graceful abstraction, Darrow’s works convey his ability to refine alternating styles and themes with equal levels of skill. Darrow’s “Hands to Heart,” featured in the exhibition, combines these two interests in one bestselling work.

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PHOTO: Michael Rose

Shawndavid Berry, known locally for his skillfully crafted woodwork, displays recent paintings alongside a fine example of his three-dimensional art. The overlap between the two is Berry’s keen sense for the manipulation of organic forms, either on a flat surface or through carved wood.

The works of art on display suit a multitude of tastes. When asked what she wanted visitors to take away from seeing the show, Barros said: “I hope viewers will experience that these artists are here to give the community and the world a human connection through creativity and our art.” The exhibition is indeed an exciting celebration of connection, community and human experience. A number of works of art on display tap into this poignant humanist impulse.

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PHOTO: Michael Rose

One of these pieces is a striking portrait of Fitzcarmel LaMarre. A New Bedford-based painter, author, and muralist, LaMarre creates an iconic image with his “Integumentary Noir.” Against a luminous background, the figure in the painting makes eye contact with the viewers while surrounded by a golden halo. Nearby, an untitled portrait of April Doran celebrates another proudly singular model, who also engages with the public. Executed in gestural charcoal strokes, Nina Simone’s portrait of Matthew Hill is another worthy participant in the exhibition’s strong figurative group.

Multiple figures populate the impressive paintings exhibited by Joseph Mushipi, which offer captivating narratives. A self-taught painter from Zambia who recently moved to the United States, Mushipi creates works that focus on storytelling. His painting, “Heroic Destiny,” was awarded first place in the exhibition, a fitting honor for a carefully and intricately constructed work of art.

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PHOTO: Michael Rose

Speaking about his passion for this show, Barros says: “What excites me the most about this show is that some of these artists are presenting their works for the very first time and it’s not always easy to show the public what you have created behind closed doors or in times of vulnerability, especially during the lockdowns we have all experienced. So for artists to trust me to be a facilitator between their works, this showcase and the world, I’m grateful and excited about this. All of these artists deserve this moment and more.

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PHOTO: Michael Rose

With Barros as expert juror and artist advocate, HeARTspot Art Center and Gallery has curated an engaging exhibition for Black History Month, which will no doubt serve as a rich source of inspiration for all visitors.

The HeARTspot Art Center and Gallery’s Black History Month exhibit is on view through March 16 at 1970 Pawtucket Avenue in East Providence. The gallery is open Saturday from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and also by appointment. To learn more and plan your visit, go to www.heartspotart.com.

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Christopher S. Washington