Beverly Y. Smith: Ancestral Threads
Darien Arikoski Johnson: Fractured Fictions
April 15 – June 18, 2021
Beverly Y. Smith grew up and lives in Charlotte, NC. She received a BS in Psychology from Morgan State University, Baltimore, MD. She earned her BA in Art Education from the University of North Carolina, graduating magna cum laude, and earned a Master of Art Education from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC. In addition to being a working artist, Smith was art educator for the Charlotte Mecklenburg School District as a high school Visual Arts teacher for 28 years before retiring in 2012.
Smith constructs collage-like art quilts using fabrics that she patterns with a variety of surface design processes. The surface is layered with machine stitching, hand embroidery, paint, transferred images, found objects and graphite drawings. Her figures are drawn on canvas with graphite pencils and come from live models and photographs based on family members or people of personal importance, transforming them into ancestors that tell stories from another time. It has always been important to Smith to carry on the quilting tradition of her ancestors, while balancing the complexities of a world that is insistent on telling their story for her. Smith’s body of work focuses on the concept of “Duality,” – the coexistence of freedom and restraint. Smith sees this as a dichotomy of mental freedom to create as she pleases, but also a spiritual restraint that dictates that she uphold and honor her Southern roots. She is particularly interested in garments known as “White Welsh Plains”, created specifically for Blacks during slavery to restrict certain clothing, based on the South Carolina Act of 1735. Smith’s future goals include having an impact on how quilts are viewed in the context of art.
Artist Statement: I choose to express myself through quilts because of its personal connection to my ancestors and Southern roots. When I visited my grandmother in South Carolina, she had patchwork quilts that snugly covered me at night. I always felt safe under my grandma’s hand sewn quilts, which took on a rhythmic pattern similar to Kente cloth with vertical strips, bright colors, and asymmetrical improvisation. A simple piece of fabric can hold family truths from generations back. My grandmother’s quilts consisted of leftover scraps from my aunts’ worn out dresses, my uncle’s ripped jeans, and calico, faded floral tablecloths from several Thanksgiving dinners. Conversations with my 98-year-old mother, grandmother, and aunts have always inspired me to base my artworks on the Antebellum South – expressions and idioms as well as past taboos and controversial issues.
Beverly Smith will be in conversation with Roni Nicole Henderson on opening night, April 15th. Henderson is a Columbia, SC based filmmaker and visual artist who makes fiction, experimental, fine art, and documentary films and video installations. As a photographer, she shoots fashion and fine art and documents artists and everyday folk. Her films have been featured in the Blackstar, Crown Heights, and Pan African film festivals. She received her MFA in film from the Savannah College of Art & Design and a BS in English from Clark Atlanta University. Both Smith and Henderson explore family, ancestral influences and current challenges in their work.
Darien A-Johnson received his MFA from Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ in 2009 and a BFA from Saint Cloud State University, Saint Cloud, MN in 2002. A-Johnson is known for incorporating the “glitch” aesthetic into a ceramic medium. The “glitch” aesthetic incorporates digital or analog errors. It is a way of organizing perception that emphasizes the artificiality of representation.
A-Johnson’s work addresses thoughts of memory, technological integration, mark making, and perceptual consciousness. He has found clay to be a relevant medium to explore the relationship of illusion and form, thought and physicality. A-Johnson recently went from being a studio artist in Copenhagen, Denmark to join Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA as an Assistant Professor. Darien A-Johnson’s work represents the current entanglement of human cognition and digital processing. The recent proliferation of the camera‐phone enables us to record spontaneously. Experience is interrupted to capture and store moments. The recordings are used for recollection; however, over time our reliance on the two‐dimensional image to replace perceptual experience flattens and fragments the memory. By dissecting and altering these fragments, his work raises awareness of a continually altered state of visual consciousness that speaks to a shift in the experience of what we see.
Darien A-Johnson’s sculptural work is a contemporary departure from the ceramic medium that explores how social media and modern modes of communication affect our perception. Sumter and surrounding areas are especially rich in ceramic artists so this would be a good opportunity to hear a different approach to clay.
Although radically different on the surface, Beverly Y. Smith and Darien A-Johnson both explore memory, material and mark making in their respective mediums. Sumter County Gallery of Art is committed to continually challenging our audience and institution. It goes without saying that presenting these artists reiterates SCGA commitment to presenting culturally diverse contemporary artists and reflects a commitment to changing mindsets while serving all the citizens of Sumter. As with all that we do here at the gallery, these exhibitions would not be possible without the generous support of our community sponsors: Rep. J. David Weeks and the Weeks Law Firm, Ben Griffith – State Farm, Tammy Kelly – State Farm, and the Sumter County Cultural Commission.