Margaret Rose Vendryes is an artist, historian and curator whose subjects, in her imaginative and gender focused exhibit, The Africa Diva Project, are all strong, black, female solo artists. She explores the role of gender in African and contemporary society through these music legends. The images of the women are taken from their vinyl album covers and surrounded by song lyrics but their faces are covered with exquisite African masks, traditionally worn only by men.
Tina Turner, Grace Jones, Anita Baker, Diana Ross, Beyonce, Nancy Wilson, and first diva Donna Summer are among some of the extraordinary singers this artist has captured on paper and canvas, and they immediately strike you as beautiful and powerful. In the music business, getting to the top as a female solo artist is a tough road but Margaret actually sees them as being very vulnerable.
“By wearing these masks, I’m giving them protection and creating a persona that gives them a sense of power and respect,” says Margaret, “in a sense connecting them back to their cultural legacy, the performance of Africa.”
This is her first commercial gallery show and the paintings can be seen through July14th at Child’s Gallery on Newbury Street. Child’s curator Richard Baiano is such a fan he owns the Nancy Wilson, draped in a stunning yellow, floor length gown. Margaret began the series in 2005 and the oil and cold wax paintings, priced from $8,000-$15,000, have taken up to 5 mos to complete.
Top photo by Darren Stahlman
First interested in the arts at 16 and still painting nearly every day at 93 years old, Anne Lyman Powers has had a prolific artistic career – to put it mildly. Born in Boston and educated at institutions such as Vassar, Columbia and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Powers devoted any free time she had growing up to studying, painting and sculpture. An early influence on her work was politics, reinforced by her experience traveling in pre-WWII Europe. In 1937, at 15 years old, Powers got a firsthand glimpse of Nazi Germany and its propaganda campaign against contemporary art, branding the work of modernists and expressionists as “Degenerate.” Powers herself would explore expressionist work in her painting, and back home in Boston, aligned herself with the Boston Expressionists. Later, changes in her personal life also meant changes in her art. Once married, Powers turned to her everyday life to mine it for subject matter – capturing vacation spots, social gatherings, and her family. However, her eye for political satire didn’t remain dormant for long, and she continues to explore political themes in her work to this day.
Sean Flood is a former street artist turned fine artist and somewhat of a local celebrity in Boston. His dynamic paintings of urban scenes and cityscapes are a reflection of his roots in construction and graffiti art. Flood harnesses the inherent intensity of graffiti, using line and form to build his paintings like the high-rises he depicts. Fresh off two very successful solo exhibitions at Kobalt Gallery in Provincetown and Childs Gallery in Boston, Sean sat down with us to discuss his art, his experiences, and his musings on how he got started as an artist.
HOW OLD WERE YOU THE FIRST TIME YOU PICKED UP A PAINTBRUSH? AND A SPRAY CAN?
I was a pencil guy from an early age – drawing as young as 8 years old – because painting scared me. I actually had my first show at 9! The Priscilla Beach Theatre [in Plymouth, MA] hosted a show – so it was coffee and hors d’oeuvres and then my doodles and cartoons on view.
I picked up a paint brush and a spray can – both probably around 15 years old.
WHAT WAS THE MOST EXCITING ASPECT OF BEING A GRAFFITI ARTIST?
Oh, definitely the rush of trying not to get caught. Then seeing it the next day, knowing you had gotten away with it. There’s a speed to graffiti art.
DID YOU EVER GET IN TROUBLE WITH THE AUTHORITIES FOR YOUR GRAFFITI ART?
Yes. I’ve been arrested three times, spent a couple of nights in jail, paid fines, had a probation officer, etc. One time I was painting the pier on Old Orchard Beach in Maine, during a camping trip, and I’m painting away and don’t notice a cop next to me until he taps on my shoulder.
I had to do community service sometimes. One of the best punishments I got was painting a mural for Boston City Lights – a dance studio in the South End. That was a great gig for a graffiti artist.
WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO MOVE FROM GRAFFITI ART TO FINE ART?
It was really about getting caught, and I moved to painting to try and stay out of trouble. I was good at graffiti art, bad at getting away. Graffiti art continues to influence my technique though. At first, I would try to include hidden graffiti in each of my paintings, but now I just take inspiration from the quick technique and shapes of graffiti.
WHY CHOOSE THE CITY AS THE PRIMARY SUBJECT OF YOUR ARTISTIC IMPRESSION? AND HOW HAS YOUR EXPERIENCE IN CONSTRUCTION INFLUENCED YOUR ARTISTIC VISION?
I’ve always been interested in buildings. My dad has been a builder in Boston his whole life. For me, growing up with that and working with him over the years has really drawn me to architectural subject. The perspectives and deep space alone excite me. In school, I tended towards figurative painting, but nowadays, I’m more drawn to cityscape paintings – there is more room there for me to develop ideas than with figurative painting, for now….
DO YOU PAINT FROM OBSERVATION OR IMAGINATION?
When I started out doing graffiti, I was focused on using the alphabet, and these raw, expressive marks. With my cityscapes, I’m trying to infuse some of that same expressive abstraction into my observed settings. Actually, right now I’m working on some paintings that are much more of a fleeting glance of a scene, a quick impression. There’s more room for imagination there.
WHERE WOULD YOU SAY YOUR ART IS GOING NOW?
In the short term, I’m hoping to get some inspiration from an upcoming trip to Europe. I’m headed to Rome, Naples, Venice – for the first time, Umbria, Basel and Ireland. I’m going to see the shows while I’m travelling – the Biennale for example, but also I’ll hopefully get a chance to paint some new places for me.
WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE HISTORICAL ARTIST?
In school I always liked Giacometti [Alberto Giacometti, 1901-1966], because of his expressive lines. He builds up forms through all of these different lines.
This is a tough question though. I mean I saw Van Gogh’s work in person in Amsterdam, and I was like “holy shit.”
Watch below to learn more about Sean: Video courtesy of Chris Engles
For the full interview watch here:
You might think that running Childs Gallery, one of Boston’s most established purveyors of fine art, would mean that Richard Baiano is stuffy, living like a citizen of the mid-20th century. But you would be wrong. Very wrong. Richard and his business partner, Stephanie Bond, who have co-owned the gallery since 2009, are constantly on the prowl looking for the next great artist all while honoring the 70-year history of the Newbury Street gallery that was founded by Charles D. Childs. Baiano got the art bug while working as an architect at GUND Partnership. We check in with him not just about the current state of Boston’s visual arts scene, but where he thinks it is going and which artists will be blazing that trail
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