A Celebration of Black Life

Reviewer: Kristine Gotham

Venue: Saginaw Art Museum

The Saginaw Art Museum began its celebration of Black History Month with an opening of three new exhibits. “The Black Hand Side”, “From Africa to Eternity”, and “Advocacy Through Design”, celebrate, acknowledge, and recognize black lives, culture, and community of the past, present and future through art and photographs, sculpture, clothing and masks, and more.  

Lark Allen III’s exhibit, “From Africa to Eternity”, is a collection of masks created from found objects. Allen has found a way to express his thoughts with everyday objects placed on a “traditional” African mask. “Eastside Keyboard Gangster” is created with various computer components, keys, and wires. It lends itself to a feeling of chaos within the technological world that we are required to operate within in this modern world. We often hide behind our computer screens, our words flowing from the keys, but our true identity hidden in anonymity. We are the sum of our computer parts.

“Advocacy Through Design” uses typewritten words to motivate and inspire.  There are posters, campaign signs, t-shirts and logos displayed, all encouraging the reader to respond, to think, to react.  Will you vote? Will you be a voice for the voiceless? Will you celebrate the achievement of your brothers and sisters in the shared struggle? Will you recognize and honor those who have fought before?  Words are powerful and when combined with strong graphics and colors they can evoke an emotional response. 

“The Black Hand Side” is a multi-faceted display with both historical and futuristic images of black life and people.  There is a wall of portraits, some painted, some photographs of individuals and families over many generations.  In the middle of the wall is a mirror, inviting the visitor to see themselves amongst the people and families hanging on the wall.  There are portraits of famous artists who have passed, Michael Jackson, Tupac, etc., reminding the viewer that anyone can reach stardom.  In the center of the display is a room set up that to me evoked a feeling of visiting grandma’s house.  There are tables and chairs set up for tea, and cozy areas for conversation.  There are pictures of African American men on the walls surrounded by flowers and butterflies, encouraging the viewer to see the beauty in the men and not just the rawness that is often seen and expected.

There is so much happening in these exhibits that I feel it would take several viewings to absorb it all.  I truly feel the celebration of Black life in each and every corner, in each and every piece.  February is Black History Month and this exhibition is a great way to immerse yourself in all that means.  The exhibition is open at the Saginaw Art Museum, Wednesday through Friday from 12 noon to 5 pm and on the second Saturday of the month.

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