ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — A new exhibit at Englewood’s Bleue Tile Gallery & Art Space is seeking to explore the nuance of such a divided world.
The exhibit, titled “Not So Black & White,” displays the work of 11 artists in several mediums: sculpture, photography, painting, and videography.
Curators say the “limited, high-contrast palette allows for an increased focus on form and spatial relationships intensifying what happens when artists cast aside the color spectrum and focus on the visual power of black, white and everything in between.
Not So Black & White
Courtney Cotton, the gallery’s director, said “things aren’t black and white. There’s a beautiful space in between. We can shift, and we don’t have to have fear.”
She hopes the exhibit leads to “more oneness, more compassion and understanding.”
One of the artists showing work at the exhibit is Daniel Sprick. His painting, which shows a white bird on a dark background, depicts what he calls “death anxiety,” a theme that has been a constant in his career but has taken on greater meaning in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Most of all what I want people to receive from all of my work in general is…a sense of well-being,” he explained.
Alli Gerrish, an artist from Boulder, said “I’ve pretty much been painting and sketching my way through my life, my entire life.” Her abstracts paintings are on display at Bleue Tile Gallery & Art Space.
Besides introducing people to new artists, Cotton has some grander goals for the Not So Black and White exhibit, which opens May 14 at 6 p.m. and runs through June 18.
“I’d like to see more oneness, more compassion and understanding,” Cotton explained. “Things aren’t black and white. There’s a beautiful space in between. We can shift, and we don’t have to have fear.”
“I’m hoping COVID helps us come together, relinquish some fear that we have, and break down some old systems—older educational systems, older black and white systems,” she continued. “And that we find beauty in the gray. We find beauty amidst the uncertainty.”
To mark International Women’s Day 2020, we’re celebrating seven female designers, artists and creative heroes changing the way we think about the world through their use of visual media.
There’s no shortage of inspirational women in the fields of illustration, graphic design and art, although sometimes they’re under-represented. In line with International Women’s Day, we’re showcasing some of the women who have helped to redefine female roles, shape how we see things and pave the way for female designers of the future.
Specialism: installations, sculpture, painting (and many more)
Career highlights: After training as an artist in Japan, Yayoi Kusama moved to New York and became part of the avant-garde and pop-art scenes in the 1960s. There she made waves with a before-its-time flashmob featuring naked people painted with polka dots. The dots are an all-consuming theme in her work. She is also known for ‘infinity installations’ which use mirrors to create a perception of never-ending colored spaces.
Why we love her: Yayoi Kusama is fearless, prolific, bold and brave, never afraid to challenge norms either in her native Japan or in the more permissive culture of the USA. She is also a powerful example of someone working and living with mental health issues. Her style is linked to visual and auditory hallucinations and she uses art as a means to express and understand her experiences.
Paula Scher. Credit: John Madere
2. Paula Scher
Specialism: Graphic design
Career highlights: After starting out in children’s publishing and designing album covers, Paula Scher became the first female principal at design consultancy Pentagram in 1991. She is responsible for iconic branding and visual identity work for companies like Microsoft, Coca-Cola and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which reflect her love for typography and its potential for expression. She is now a lecturer and educator in graphic design.
Why we love her: Paula Scher is one of the most influential designers of any gender. As well as producing an impressive body of commercial and fine art, she is committed to educating and paving the way for the next wave of creative talent and setting a shining example of what can be achieved for female illustrators and designers.
Jessica Walsh. Credit: Dezeen.com
3. Jessica Walsh
Specialism: graphic design, art direction
Career highlights: Jessica Walsh is already a titanic talent in the graphic design world despite being not yet 35. After studying graphic design she interned at design consultancy Pentagram under Paula Scher, and honed her illustration style working for Print Magazine. Teaming up with Stefan Sagmeister, she became principal partner at Sagmeister & Walsh in 2012, before founding her own agency &Walsh in 2019.
Why we love her: Jessica Walsh’s work blends the craft of design with a strong cultural thread that comments astutely on the world we live in. Projects like ‘40 days of dating’, for example, play with expectations of modern romance while showcasing talented illustrators. We especially love Jessica’s initiative ‘Ladies Wine & Design” which encourages women in design to collaborate rather than compete.
Bridget Riley. Credit: Telegraph
4. Bridget Riley
Career highlights: Bridget Riley is one of the best-known practitioners of op-art – works which expand and manipulate the limits of optical perception. Trained as an artist, she graduated from a career as an educator to a full-time artistic practice beginning in the mid 1960s. Her work has been exhibited worldwide and she has won numerous awards for her visionary use of color, light and line.
Why we love her: Hypnotic, precise, pure and vivid, Riley’s work speaks for itself. As well as bending the brains and eyeballs of innumerable viewers, Riley has made an impact by carving out a space for art in her native London. She founded the SPACE artists collective which has been running since the 1960s, and was influential in creating the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery by fending off government plans to sell off the land where it now stands.
Laetitia Ky. @laetitiaky
5. Laetitia Ky
Specialism: Human hair
Career highlights: Ky hails from the Ivory Coast, and via Instagram has quickly become world-renowned for her playful yet political use of her hair as a sculpting medium. Ky uses a system of wires, wool and weave to turn her dreadlocks into images that augment, reflect or comment on the world around her.
Why we love her: Laetitia Ky is a fresh voice with a completely original approach to visual art and design. She uses her platform to comment on issues that matter to her including inclusivity and gender, with a special focus on uplifting other women. She recently launched her own clothing line and has signed a 2-year contract as part of the Elite Models World Digital Creator Award.
Margaret Calvert. Credit: London Design Festival
6. Margaret Calvert
Specialism: Typography, design
Career highlights: While she may not be a household name, South African designer Margaret Calvert’s work is deeply familiar to anyone who has lived or travelled within the UK. Along with her colleague Jock Kinneir, she is responsible for the design style used on road and rail information signs, as well as the ‘Transport’ font found across the nation’s motorways.
Why we love her: When Margaret Calvert started out, female graphic designers were unheard of. Fortunately, she is steadfast and driven, even when working against the prevailing expectations of the times. Her approach, based on clarity and ease of reading at high speed, met with resistance from traditionalists but has been upheld as the official style for the UK transport system as well as the gov.uk website.
Camille Walala and LEGO collaboration, ‘House of Dots’. Credit: Arts & Collections
7. Camille Walala
Specialism: Graphic design, murals
Career highlights: Calling to mind artists like Lichtenstein and Warhol, Camille Walala’s work is a riot of powerful lines and pure tones that set them startlingly apart from the street settings where they typically appear. After starting out as a textile artist, she began taking the UK capital by storm with distinctive murals, interior design projects and store frontage.
Why we love her: Camille Walala paints the world in bold blocks of color. Her ‘tribal pop’ style is fresh, directional and fun, and is rapidly gathering momentum. In January 2020 she launched ‘House of Dots’ a walk-in installation in collaboration with LEGO. We expect to see much more of her in the future.
“Painting takes me to another world where I am as free as a bird,” says Judhaiya Baiga. She says this is her way of putting her village on the global map and keeping her traditions alive.
Judhaiya Bai Baiga’s painting recently travelled all the way to a Milan exhibition in Italy and was sold instantly. This was not the first time Baiga’s painting was displayed in an exhibition along with paintings of other talented artists.
A resident of Lorha village in Madhya Pradesh, 80-year-old Baiga who belongs to a tribal community, has the distinction of seeing her art travelling to several art galleries in India and abroad.
“Age or fame has nothing to do with the errors. Perfecting any art is a myth as there is always scope for improvement,” Baiga repeats the sentence from the other end of the phone in case the message was not heard.
Despite being a Diwali week, Baiga is kind enough to oblige for an interview. The excitement to share tales of her village and paintings is clearly evident in her voice.
When asked how she feels about getting international recognition, she says, “It has not changed my life as such. But yes, a change can be seen as more and more women, including my daughter-in-law are taking an interest in painting. Some of these women always wanted to paint but did not have avenues back then.”
How Age Worked In Baiga’s Favour
Baiga belongs to a tribal community heavily dependent on forest resources for their livelihood and some engage in menial jobs. Education, roads and employment are still to reach the interiors of the region.
She lost her husband when she turned 40 and now lives with her two sons. Her only daughter is now married.
Baiga decided to start her second innings with a colourful attitude, literally.
Happy in their world, her community loves to dress in the brightest and most colourful clothes and lead life with the belief that there is no substitute to hard work.
This is probably the reason why Baiga took up painting at 70, an age when most people retire and indulge in rest. But Baiga, who worked in the fields for most of her life, finds relaxation in painting.
“Painting takes me to another world where I am as free as a bird. When I learnt about a teacher who is willing to teach for free in our village, I decided to give painting a try, something I was never interested in. Yet, on the very first day, I found my passion,” says Baiga.
She joined Ashish Swami, a well-known art teacher and an alumnus of Shantiniketan, West Bengal. He runs his studio ‘Jangan Tasweerkhana’ in several tribal belts of Madhya Pradesh to prevent local cultures and traditions from becoming extinct.
“We have such rich cultures across India that are on the verge of dying. Painting is an effective means to save them. By articulating the local practices or customs in paintings, we can also tell other people about local traditions,” Swami tells TBI.
Almost a decade ago, Swami opened a studio in a small room of Baiga’s village. He teaches painting for free and also helps them get fair monetary value through art dealings. Close to 15 local women have been a part of Swami’s classes for the past ten years.
Swami, particularly enjoys teaching people from Lorha village because of their peculiar imagination that colours the canvas.
“Even if they draw something as basic as a tree, their outlook is so different from the rest. They manage to capture innocence in wild animals and serenity in clouds. Their definition of a perfect nature lies in the harmony or co-existence between trees, birds, animals, water bodies and humans,” he explains.
Initially, Baiga and Swami would be happy with whatever amount the painting would be sold at. But soon, they realised the value of the paintings and stood firm on their quotations.
“Paintings are sold on craft and not on how creative they are. We are trying to change that and promote creativity by taking the painters to exhibitions that take place across India. Currently, paintings by Baiga are valued anything between Rs 300 to Rs 8,000,” he says.
While Baiga is content with the money her paintings are making, it is not the motivating factor behind her passion. For Baiga, its her way of putting her village on the global map and keeping traditions alive.
People like Baiga prove that there is no age to learning, and even nature can educate, one only has to be receptive.