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Oh, Gods of Dust and Rainbows, the second iteration of FRONT International, will run from July 16 through October 2, 2022.

Charmaine Spencer employs materials like clay, driftwood, grass, burlap, and soil to create skillfully crafted sculptures constructed from traditional and contemporary methods, such as weaving, firing, and collage. Her concern for natural elements that go unnoticed drives her interest in organic resources. Dirt, for example, is intrinsic to life yet in the West it is often undervalued. “Healthy dirt is what feeds us,” the artist argues, “it’s what makes everything happen.”

A throughline that connects Spencer’s sculptures and installations is her interest in African ancestral history and the application of craft to create tools for healing. Both Fire and Water (exhibited at the Akron Art Museum), for instance, are fashioned after African spirit vessels. Initiated during moments of ritual or ceremony, such vessels are called upon for a multitude of concerns that include safeguarding communities and healing the sick. Yet both Fire and Water are set apart by their distinct materials, too, like the repurposed nails that pierce Fire’s skin, and their correlation to the nails often found in Kongo Minski or “power figures.” The work was a collaborative effort in that it’s composed from shredded paper that once carried community responses to Spencer’s prompts that inquired what we would ask our ancestors. The work perform as spirit vessels, summoning ancestral spirits to guide, heal, and protect from the past and from that which is to come.

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Cleveland Botanical Garden
Thursday, August 11, 2022 5:00 PM - 8:30 PM

Invites you to the opening reception for
Charmaine Spencer's exhibition New Growth
11030 East Blvd, 44106 in Cleveland's University Circle
exhibit runs August 11, through September 25, 2022 

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Still We Rise

From: Seed To: Root conceptualized from the highly anthropomorphized African Spirit or Ancestor vessels. These vessels, primarily made by women, use the expressive characteristics of the elements. The material and its process are symbolic of the cycle of life and the worlds of human and spirit, earth, water, air and fire.
These works serve various ritual functions including, an axis for prayer or meditation, joining ceremonies, healing the sick, safeguarding the community, activating ancestral wisdom and the presence of various protective spirits. Their positive intervention was considered vital to maintaining harmony, health and well-being.
The exhibition title From: Seed  To: Root refers to the cyclical relationship between us and our ancestors, we give, we listen, we learn, we do. They heal, they guide, they nourish, and we grow.

Still We Rise explores the forgotten or overwritten histories of Cleveland and its effects on race and neighborhoods.
The first installation of the Crossroads Exhibition / Still We Rise ran July through December 2021. Still We Rise is Cleveland’s first-ever augmented reality (AR) exhibition. It showcased the artwork of 12 Cleveland-area artists of color. Curated by Robin Robinson, Still We Rise explores the forgotten or overwritten histories of 6 east-side Cleveland communities. Examining aspects of race and neighborhood identity, each work of art was created in response to a public site of political, cultural, or historical significance with direct community engagement. An accompanying exhibition was viewed in The Sculpture Center galleries displayed the physical artworks layered with dialogue and personal narratives of resilience. 
Spencer chose to focus on Woodland Cemetery, where Sarah Lucy Bagby, the last fugitive slave returned to slavery under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, is buried. Inspired by Bagby’s story and in retrospect of the past two years and the triumphs and hardships of her Black ancestors, Spencer created Water. Charmaine fashioned the work after African spirit vessels. Initiated during moments of ritual or ceremony, such vessels are called upon for a multitude of concerns that include safeguarding communities and healing the sick.

The FRONT TRIENNIAL, which opened this month in Cleveland, Akron and Oberlin, has announced a new fellowship program to support emerging artists based in northern Ohio. The three-year Art Futures Fellowship provides unrestricted stipends of $25,000 to four artists and facilitates career development for them through travel and networking.  The aim is to introduce them to opportunities that might otherwise be out of reach. The fellowship includes one domestic and one international trip to meet curators, collectors, critics and other internationally recognized authorities in the world of art. They will also receive funding for works commissioned by FRONT that will go on view in the next triennial in 2025. An excellent video is available on ideastream: https://www.ideastream.org/news/cleveland-s-front-triennial-aims-to-help-people-heal-through-contemporary-art

To the 2022 FRONT's Art Futures Fellows;
Amanda D. King
Antoine Washington
Charmaine Spencer
Erykah Townsend