I have always resonated deeply to artists and writers who are able to resurrect and reconstruct the intense moments/images of childhood, and excavate those memories to create new, compelling works of art. When novelist Alice Munro described the worn dismal linoleum of her childhood home in Canada, she expressed a telling detail that allowed me to “see” the whole house, her town, the community, the era, everything. And Jack Kerouac’s eccentric riffs about his introspective-yet-raucous boyhood on the mean streets of Lowell Massachusetts left me feeling transported and jazzed. American collagist, Romare Bearden (1911 – 1988) had that same singular gift. In this marquee exhibit of over 80 works, he reaches out and embraces fleeting moments in his childhood; and preserves them, fully intact. Every detail, every nuance, every train whistle, every blue note of a harmonica, every squawk of a chicken, every buzz of a bee. Far deeper than memory, much more meaningful than mere nostalgia, the emotion behind the work is intense and gripping, yet strangely soothing.
Bearden’s work is full of push/pull. At first glance, it seems direct and full of contemporary color-blocking. Graphic, strong, modern, full-throttle. But when you approach the work, you find yourself leaning forward to “hear” the narrative; longing to know the stories, and be included. In many of his collages, he seems totally hell bent to “list” and enumerate everything in the scene – the slightly-wonky hurricane lantern on the sideboard, the wide-open doors and windows ever-hopeful for a passing breeze but just as likely to usher in chickens from the yard, piled-high laundry baskets, coverlets and old quilts tossed over stair railings and stuffed into odd corners, and the passing train (always a train) whistling by, so close to the little wooden houses. He has full ownership of these memories and details, he has internalized every nuance, and he uses paper (in all of its variety) to recover and retell his personal story.
He once said “Time is a pattern…..You can come back to where you started from with added experience and you hope for more understanding.” He had complete trust and faith in his own process, and felt assured that he would be able to balance everything that needed to appear in a work, without ever giving up the overall integrity of the collage.The real stars of his collages are the people – the story tellers, the source of all the pathos. Whether they are simply cut from solid colored paper, and shown in dramatic silhouette style…..or an amalgam of mad clippings from magazines/newspapers, cobbled together and strangely cohesive --- People are front-and-center in Bearden’s work. Centerstage, they pull us into the story; and we experience them in a way that is vital and real. We eavesdrop as a group of cotton pickers gather at dawn, their empty sacks at the ready….the men are clearly taking enjoyment in one another’s company, even though a day of crushing brutal labor awaits. They share a grin, a story, a bit of news from another farm. Some look old, seasoned and bent; others are young, muscular and eager-to-be somewhere-else. We stand apart from them, and observe them. Not accepted in their company, but allowed to witness them. Thanks to Bearden.
In another collage, a solitary woman moves through her home, heading for a basket of laundry, engulfed in her routine, as a falling star shoots past a window in a nearby hallway. The unseen glittering star brings us into the story……We suddenly feel regret that the woman, so deserving of magic and beauty, has not seen the star; and it becomes a shared secret between the artist and the viewer.
In Bearden’s collages of blues musicians, we see men assuming a new role for an evening – dressed up in flashy clothes, holding their instruments aloft like badges of honor; they gather in clumps or on makeshift bandstands, and we can easily imagine the ruckus.
One of his often-repeated images was a nude young woman, somewhat odalisque-like, shown bathing; frequently with an older woman nearby provided a protective presence. Thanks to Bearden, we get to inhabit another life, another reality, another time.
Bearden’s work affirms my own feeling that collage is about the art of “Call & Response”. It is an art form that relies on curiosity, spontaneity, and the willingness to let one thing lead to the “next” thing. It urges us to take a different approach, change directions, paint over, keep going, and (best of all) tell our story. “Southern Recollections” is the most definitive exhibit of Bearden’s work I have seen; and the exuberant bounty of this stunning exhibit left me feeling stirred, inflamed, and in awe of this great American visual historian and collage master.
The prize provided by Lynne for the lucky draw is :
#A new copy of THE ART OF ROMARE BEARDEN by Ruth Fine
#A packet of 6 of Lynne Perrella's Bearden "tribute" notecards. You can see these cards on Lynne's website here and Etsy shop here. Please go and have a look at them. They are vibrant and bold and BEAUTIFUL!!! Lynne has used photographs that her husband John took in South Africa during his work as a visiting hospice nurse.
"Romare bearden has been one of my Art influences for decades. When I saw the series of commemorative postage stamps that were recently done in his honor, I wanted to create my own homage. I had no desire to "copy" Bearden, but I wanted to work with his "signature" ideas -- stabs of color, slices of photos, bold compositions, and narrative intensity." - Lynne Perrella
The winner will be announced on the 19th August.
The Newark Museum website here
thank you for one of the best posts I've seen anywhere for a long time - this work is off the scale of amazing!!!ReplyDelete
Ohhh I'm so glad you enjoyed the post, Jeane. Lynne's guest posts are always a treat aren't they?!ReplyDelete
Bearden's art has the singular ability to draw me in and before I know it, I'm in the painting interacting with the characters. I'm familiar with his work and have always loved it. I'm also familiar with Lynne Perrella; her books are ones I get lost in when I need to escape the daily grind.ReplyDelete
Excellent post. Thank you.
Je découvre Romane Bearden. Ces collages me touchent beaucoup. En fait, la totalité de votre billet me parle fort. Merci.ReplyDelete
Great choice for a guest post Robyn, such a pleasure to comment on amazing artwork and a a great tribute. Thank you for sharing :)ReplyDelete
Eyes fixed on laundry, while the shooting star fills the sky.ReplyDelete
Look up, look up away from the tedious chores and engage with your life!
Great story telling Lynn and Robyn and Mr.Bearden!
what a wonderful post! I had no way to get to the bearden exhibit and Lynne had just sent me a note saying to go! I'm a Bearden fan from away back and to see those pics is a treat! I'll be back several times! and oh,yes I would love to be the new owner of the book! and some Lynne note cards too! thank you, robyn and lynneReplyDelete
It was years ago, back when my company manufactured her rubber stamps, that the Magical Lynne Perrella grabbed me by the shoulders, pointed me in the direction of Romare Bearden and said:ReplyDelete
I've been a huge fan ever since. A fan of BOTH artists mentioned, by the way!
I am fortunate to live in North Carolina where the Nasher Museum at Duke and the Mint Museum in Charlotte both had great Bearden exhibits up this summer as well as the Reynolda House in Winston Salem.Always one of my favorite artists. Enjoyed this post very much!ReplyDelete
Wonderful post. I'm going to the museum next week with friends and can't wait to see for myself.ReplyDelete
Wow this is an incredible post, I had not head of Bearden and found these images so powerful and Lynn's descriptions riveting. Thank you for organising it.ReplyDelete
Like music, some visual art have a way to identify the artist from others who work in the same media. I recognize and am mesmerized by his pieces. Thanks for an in-depth treat!ReplyDelete
The past day or two, I've been thinking how I feel there have been many lifetimes in this incarnation, lives so disparate yet connected. Bearden's collages, as Lynne guides us, are not unlike that sense of layered experience, especially "The Train" as the subjects look us squarely in the eye, almost challenging, settling for nothing less than truth from themselves, asking the same of us. So many paths to wander with his work. Thank you for another installment from Lynne as she sails forth into art like it is (and it IS) another country, with its own language and customs.ReplyDelete
Another wonderful "sighting" from Lynne that makes us feel we've walked through the exhibit along with her. What vibrancy and amazing colour, a wonderful look into another world.ReplyDelete
One of my all time favorite artists, wonderful post and thank you for the opportunity to win the book. RebeccaReplyDelete
Bearden's use of colour is astonishing.ReplyDelete
Bearden's work never ceases to amaze. The colors are bold and vibrant, pulling the viewer into the story that each image tells.ReplyDelete
thank you Lynne for sharing your own impressions of the exhibit. thank you Robyn for bringing it all to us in today's blog.
He is one of my favorite artists too. When I taught middle school art I loved to do a huge unit around him and his collages. The students loved his work and loved making collages inspired by Romare Bearden. Thanks for the reminder Robyn and Lynne!ReplyDelete
Oh, and I love the 'Time is a pattern.." quote
Robyn - thank you for this post! Bearden was such an amazing talent. I love his vibrant colors and the movement in his work. Sometimes I think these stories of the old south will be lost in our quest to always be politically correct. Thank you Romare Bearden for keeping this history alive!ReplyDelete
This looks to be a sensational exhibit - matched here by Lynne's descriptive and evocative prose and Robyn's perfect choice of companion images. A home run all around!ReplyDelete
I'd love to win the book. Never saw Bearden's art, I love it.ReplyDelete
He was the Real Deal, a man in a society unfathomable to most of us. I agree with Judy about the American South and the violence of forced silence on this aspect of its story. I don't think it is documented as it should be in many art forms.ReplyDelete
I think of Jean Toomer's story poems Cane, which begin to evoke similar images.
I do love reading Lynne's colorful writing, and thrilled to enjoy this review here. I'm going this week.ReplyDelete
I don't think I've ever really seen college before. Oh I've looked at it, but not ready seen it. This artist is truly amazing. With your description, so well done, you opened my eyes. Now I know the inner meaning of the art. Thank you. PJReplyDelete
Romare Bearden is an inspiration for anyone who works in collage/assemblage.ReplyDelete
Just a spot-on commentary!! I love Bearden's work...for me the incredible shapes are wonderful..icing for the 'story'!!ReplyDelete
Thank you for this terrific post.
missy from the bayou
Beardens work is amazing, thank you Lynne for sharing his world with us.ReplyDelete
I had a chance to see a few of his fabulous pieces in NYC and Washington DC on a recent trip east & I was enthralled. I'd love to be the lucky recipient of this generous giveaway!ReplyDelete
I am amazed at the gripping faces and stories in Bearden's collages, what an amazing artist, thanks for this great post.ReplyDelete
Bearden is a hero of mine and lots of other collage artists, I'm sure. He shows the way to telling ones own stories using nothing but paper, glue and a pair of scissors. I'm happy to put my name into the pot of fans. Thanks for this guest post, Lynne, and to you Robyn, for the invitation.ReplyDelete
This has been wonderful. Bearden's work with Lynne's words! I haven't looked at art in this way for the longest time and I feel alive not in my brain but in my heart. Thank you!ReplyDelete
Wonderful storytelling collages!ReplyDelete
Bearden's collages are absolutely amazing. I love his style and the way how he use color, it's so vibrant and lively!ReplyDelete
Thanks for stoppng by and commenting on my altered bottles!
Wonderful and inspiring post! Bearden's collages are like still life paintings for the soul.ReplyDelete
Parella's homage collages 9on her site) are masterful and brimming with a reverent and emotional tie to the artist.
I am so excited to know who Romane Bearden is now! Thank you!ReplyDelete
Lynne, your wonderful descriptive writing has brought Romare Beardon's collages to life.. even though his collages are bright and colorful.. you added context and 'story' to each piece. Robyn,thank you for giving Lynne blog space.ReplyDelete
Thank you for the wonderful blog. Glad to discover.ReplyDelete