Monday, October 31, 2016

A Good Night's Sleep: The Latest Exhibit at Colored Girls Museum

In the heart of Philadelphia's Germantown District is a beautiful, warm environment to heal wounds and reflect on history.
Rest but don't forget to weep.
The Colored Girls Museum contains harrowing levels of metaphoric entryways into once traumatized eyes of the black girl. This provincial ghost overcame dishonorable past. Oppressive chains and tyrannical rulers whipped flesh off back and placed choke hold on her mind, body, and soul. Now released yet not entirely freed from damaged control, she tells many stories inherently stretched through visiting artists. Their works adhere to her walls, sleep on her mantles, stand on her floors.

Porch canopy bed scene whispers an invitation to slip between white sheets and dream the dream of peace and solitude on a cool moonlit evening.
First floor salon features Michael Clemmons' Four Girls in Birmingham. The first two are Cynthia Wesley (April 30, 1949-September 15, 1963) and Carole Robertson (April 24, 1949-September 15,1963). These porcelain sculptures are also comprised of oxides, wood, paper, photo transfers, and acrylic. Created in 2007.
Addie Mae Collins (April 18, 1949- September 15, 1963) and Denise Menair (November 17, 1951- September 15, 1963).
Latest exhibit, “A Good Night's Sleep,” soothes 400 year tired bones. Various range of mediums sates ravenous appetite for truths that were stolen blind. No longer robbed and aware that collected riches existed, this vibrant spirit shares indulgent histories for all ages. From here, viewers take apart spirited ancestor's storytelling rooms. They follow in her ghostly footsteps, apprehensively turning corners, down the creaky spiraled rabbit hole stairs are murals and woven fabrics.
First, rickety porch contains an inviting twin sized canopy bed, a see through blissful fortress of puffed white pillows and tucked white sheets. For exhausted souls, such a sight purely seduces, its intentions to beguile eyes into succumbing to relaxing mediation.

Unknown artist. The woodburn is excellently rendered portrait with wood chips inventing a convincing cloth.

Lovely artist Initstar Hamilton in the turquoise and gold kitchen she painted entitled "River Bed."
Trees and grass swirl around cabinets and countertops in a mesmerizing ode to the spectacular world Mother Nature provides to those who seek solace.
Endless swirling possibilities mirror our innermost desires to experience joy and magic.
Inside the stove, however, Initstar keeps her stashed art supplies.
An elegant brown woman doll seems to dance in the center, a gracious hostess that beckons revelers to wander into Betty Leacraft's curated "The Dream Space."This includes poets: Pheralyn Dove and Bea Joyner, fiber artists: Linda Black and Leacraft herself, and quilters: Asake Jones and Dindga McCannon. Plus Jihan Thomas and M. Nzadi Keita.
Pieced fiber optic quilt by Dindga McCannon tells a story of various women draped in glittery clothes and regal headscarves against a patterned blue backdrop and sunny jagged border.
Stitched lettering closeup from McCannon's quilt. Impressive detail.
Unique arrangement juxtaposed mixed patterns and images together, forming a message infused curtain.
Adored Africa Rising fabric.
"The Colored Girls Washroom," curated by Janet McDonald and Suzanne Burgess, contained a plethora of positive messages on the walls, the mirrors, the shower curtain....
Bathroom selfie.
Throughout the museum are various piles of stacked books. Topics range from black artists to black authors to children's literature.
At the top of spiraled stairs, a painted kitchenette more magical than the swirling paintbrush imaginings of Vincent Van Gogh, a bathroom with posted positive self-help quotes. In next room, an impressive library of books ranging from John Steptoe's Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters to Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow travel from impressive library shelves to mind as a couple discusses black female nudity wrapped in a flag-- an extraordinary flag made with synthetic hair and cotton, created as the artist watched Alex Haley's Roots. 

Tasha Douge created this American Flag by braiding together synthetic hair (bought from Asian hair stores) and strategically placing cotton whilst watching Alex Haley's "The Roots." Certain areas of this flag showcase extreme tightening due to the film's horrific scenes. This in turn caused Douge to integrate frustration into her artistic procession.
As a part of a brilliant collaboration, Jessica and Oliver Tingling of Boogie Down Spring Productions took Douge's flag and photographed it alongside various models. This woman, who is bare with synthetic braids atop her head, wraps herself in the metaphor.
Model travels with the American Flag.

On second level, inside bedroom of beautiful black yarn dolls and vanity mirrors, while Nina Simone's deep bellows an onslaught of blistered, gut-wrenching jazz out of ancient jukebox, Barbara Bullock's painted portraits of commending black women add glow to warm earth hues.

Another Michael Clemmons work. This porcelain is in the muted second floor big bedroom, part of "Every Shut Eye Ain't Sleep" curated by Clemmons and Vashti Dubois.
Propped either on beds or vanity tables, Lorrie Payne's enchanted dolls (some faceless) with cornrowed yarn for hair, are dressed in lengthy ethnic fabric dresses and fat dangling beads while radiantly reflected by warm, incandescent glow.
The Colored Boys Room, curated by Clemmons and Betsey Casanas featured work from Casanas, Sheena Garcia, The Black Boy Project, Olivia Nelson Haynes, and Torian Love.
Lastly, a special presentation called The Colored Boys room features poignant portraits of black youth forever trapped in pigeonholed society. Made up of powerful stamina, a video plays of middle schoolers discussing race, identity, and growing up in America.

Clip from Olivia Nelson Haynes' video, "The Black Boy Project" has interviews by middle and high school age boys discussing unique circumstances and dangerous perceptions while growing up black in America.
"My Brother's Keeper III," Sheena Garcia, digital photograph on fabric, 30" x 24," 2015.
Book Loves Part II.
Another Book Lovers Paradox: The Sequel.
Overall, The Colored Girls Museum is rich in fascinating tales to spread down generation to generation like glittered heirlooms a mother can pass to her daughter (or son)-- intelligent, open-ended thoughts of a liberated, enchanted world.


  1. Wow, I feel moved by the flag, and also My Brothers Keeper III. Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. Yes. I agree. Some of the more empowering work inspired my thoughts. Great art spot in Philly. Glad to shed light on its existence. :)

    2. Hello Janyce. Thank you so much for the mention. The Colored Girls Museum is such a magical space. It is a difficult task to try and put into the words the essence of that space. I am humbled to hear that she inspired you. There are some minor things mentioned in your piece that I provide more clarity on. For example, the model in the photos is me. If you are interested, I can provide more insight to what inspired me to create her and more about my process. If yes, I can be reached via email at I would love to also hear about your thoughts/experience with her and the photos.

  2. Thank you Vegan Peace. I am very proud to say that I birthed "Justice." She is more than a flag. She lives and breathes and that is why I think she resonates with so many. She speaks the truth and speaks to black strengh in her stilled silence.