On a recent Thursday, local art lovers joined the Nasher Museum of Art for the debut of a new exhibition which featured a perfect example of various hues placed on equilibrium. I adore pop art, but “Color Balance: Paintings by Felrath Hines and Alma Thomas” took me on a voyage that included a whole new understanding of bubbly colors and odd shapes. I’ve gained a way to utilize my mind and appreciate what is classified and known to the masses as abstract art! But what struck me the most was the vivid connection between the art and history. Born an African-American female, I have a bond and understanding to stories that the generations before me have to offer, and in this case it was translated through blots of paint and pieces of shredded blocks.
Now, before I transform into a storyteller, it’s only right to share insight into the two extraordinary artists that are featured in the exhibition: Felrath Hines and Alma Thomas. Both had various influences only to translate them into intangible eye candy; their work was singular, but displayed analogous emotions at the same time. Hines (1913-1993) took on the title of a chief colorist early influenced by cubism, playing with various tones of color and turning them into hefty geometric concepts. Much of the detail in Hines’ work involves smooth, milky textures which are sharply supported by defined lines.
Thomas (1891-1978), on the other hand, gives us mosaic chunks of paint influenced by things witnessed on a day-to-day basis in nature. Some of the work appeares to be vivacious, but yet dry and jagged to the imaginary texture at hand. That only makes her work more interesting. The way she uses space creates works of art within the piece. Both artists have proven to be nothing less than spectacular.
I truly enjoyed the similarities in each artist’s work. Though you can tell which work is by whom, each piece truly illustrates a distinctive story. Since all the work is abstract, anyone can make their own interpretation. For instance, Thomas’ “Red Azaleas Singing and Dancing Rock and Roll Music” shares similar “rhythm” and “melody” as her other pieces. Constructed in 1976, the acrylic painting brings images of the Jackson Five in my mind, twirling and singing backup for miniature Michael Jackson in matching suits in front of a crowd of over-heated teenage girls. The three panels in the painting can also be interpreted to display a different state of feeling or movement of that time of music. For example, the red shapes begin in a tight bunch, with defined lines creating sub-images while still dividing the red blocks apart. As the painting shifts to the right, the mood appears to be loosening up, resulting in a peppermint splash between the radiant red and pure white. Perhaps this is her picture of behind-the-scenes 1970s music?
One of the visitors of the night, Carlitta Durand, a local up-and-coming R&B singer/songwriter who worked with some of NC’s hip-hop talent such as 9th Wonder and Little Brother – shared her appreciation for one of Hines’ pieces, “Escape.” She explained that the oil on linen piece looks like a colorful window, open for the perfect get-away. She also described the three-dimensional white element resembling a paper plane, possibly “escaping” out of the three-toned window.
Another aspect of the exhibition was the “create it yourself” section where visitors turned into artistes in less than 30 seconds. Visitors tapped into their inner artistry and used the magnetic colored pieces to create their own masterpieces. Wendy Livingston, marketing and communications manager at the museum, appeared to have taken on influences from both artists as she placed large yellow circles and various shapes close together surrounded by small bits. The piece of art Wendy created seemed to be a cross between Hines’ “Aquatic Adventures” for the circular shapes involved, Hines’ “Yellow on Yellow” for the sun blinding hue incorporated, and Thomas’ “Light Blue Nursery” with the use of the tiny bits. Other visitors seemed to gain inspiration as well.
While Thomas plays around with space and lines, Hines uses layers with magnitude–both showing us definitions of color balance. What’s your interpretation? Check out the “Color Balance” exhibition today, open for viewing through September 5.
Look at photos from the opening now on Flickr.
IMAGE: Shabazz (left) and friends discuss thoughts on Alma Thomas’ “Red Azaleas Singing and Dancing Rock and Roll Music.” Photo by Dr. J Caldwell.
Photo by Dr. J Caldwell.
Diane “Shabazz” Varnie is a rising senior at North Carolina Central University.