Chotsani Elaine Dean, Antonio Modesto Milian, and Dr. Napoleon Wells Artist Talk

Join us for an enlightening conversation with exhibiting artists Antonio Modesto Milian & Chotsani Elaine Dean moderated by Dr. Napoleon Wells.

2:00PM – 3:00PM, Saturday, November 7, 2020

In-person spots are limited to 24 patrons to allow for safe distancing, masks are required and available should you need one, register here today*:

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*Please note: for those wishing to view the artist talk from the comfort of their own homes, this program will be presented on Facebook Live, so tune into the SCGA FB page @ 2:00PM on 11/7 to watch along (a recorded version of this talk will also be available after the event).  Check out Dr. Wells’ review of the exhibitions below for a preview of the in-person discussion upcoming on November 7th.


On Remembering and Honoring:

The works of Chotsani Elaine Dean and Antonio Modesto Milan at the Sumter Gallery of Art

By: Napoleon Wells

Upon first entering the Sumter Gallery of art and spending time with the exhibitions of Chotsani Elaine Dean and Antonio Modesto Milan, I was struck by the voices reaching out from their individual works. While both exhibitions are vibrant, unique, and intentional, their pieces feel connected by a very clear need to speak out. They reach out and call, and teach and minister to you. These artists are sharing more than just a dialogue with us. Rather, each of these artists is sharing a personal narrative, welcoming you into a collective history, and beckoning an audience to live with their subjects, for a time.

Chotsani Elaine Dean has a way with ceramics, such that she has crafted a stunning dialogue which honors her ancestors, and their legacies. Her pieces feel like memories, cast as spells, made real and whole, shared and worshipped. There is great care in the telling of the history and stories of each of her pieces. There is great care in acknowledging the earth, and voice and humanity in the baskets and Memory spoons she has made. Her work asks us to remember, and see. It asks us to know the stories and words and lives behind these moments in history which birthed these pieces. Her work brings her ancestors around their many generations of children, all communing. Memory, and Remembering. In spending time with her ceramic works, you can feel her channeling all of the emotions of the periods that she drew her ancestors’ words and lives from. You can feel pain, and the passing of time, and purpose, and beauty, and being resolute, and refusing to be erased. I walked from place to place, and piece to piece in her exhibit, feeling that the artist had been directly inspired by the hand of her family who had come before her and were channeling their scripture and verse through her art. I felt warm, being in the presence of the Griot, one who had shared sacred space with her family, and had brought us these pieces as individual texts, gifted to her, and us.

The next part of this seamless conversation carries over into the exhibition and works of photographer Antonio Modesto Milan. His images, capturing beings as they are engaging in so many different stages of their day and life, feel alive as all of his subjects appear to be speaking to him, and through him, with us. In his pieces, there is connection. There is resistance, and love, and survival, and beauty, and centering, and personal acceptance. These images are powerful, they overlap, and the draw you once more round their fire for exploration. There is the connection between Afro and Latinx communities and histories. There is the demand and realization that the lives of all of those captured, and the moments they are captured in, are meaningful, and perfect as a result. With his eye and his lens, his subjects are made present, and they are familiar. He is telling the story of their lives, and ensuring that these many subjects in those moments and in this time, are immortalized. It is difficult not to see some version of oneself captured in the lives of couples, and families, and migrant workers, and to fantasize that the being that we see is a hero, wizard or freedom fighter.

These artists, these creators are griots. They are telling the story of those before, with, and around them through their art. The conversation that each is having struck me out of my reverie, and called me into a family space, where it is story time. In that gallery, piece to piece, exhibit to exhibit, it was sharing time. It was honoring time. It was remembering time. I assure you that there is a conversation waiting on you in each of these exhibits, one ready to be shared and to inspire.


For more information about these artists and their work, click HERE.