Friday, November 17, 2006

Something I Can't Get out of My Head (A Conversation with Leslie Hewitt)

I first saw Leslie Hewitt in a print shop in New Haven. She and I were black women in a store together (do you know what I mean?) and I remember her quiet acknowledgment that day. She had what you call good energy and was the kind of stranger it's nice to find in your environs. So then the next day I meet her again, in a sculpture show that Torkwase is also in at Yale. We get to talking and Leslie takes me to her studio, where she is working on wooden objects that look something like bedframes, if I remember correctly, but they are arranged in maze-like fashion on the floor. And there are photographs of her between and among them. Leslie's studio feels like an attic bedroom to which I imagine myself sneaking off from a party to go work in. What I can't get out of my head is that she tells me she is taking a class on art from among American slave communities and noticed that while contemporary art about slavery is wrought with pain, the art she was seeing by enslaved people is not. I remember that conversation whenever I see her work, which, though often dealing with difficult subjects, is infused with a kind of rare joy.

Yesterday William Cordova sent me word of the opening of Passin' It On, an exhibition he organized for Rush Arts. Artists involved include Leslie Hewitt, William Cordova, Monique Walton, Torkwase Dyson, Rashawn Griffin, Charles Huntley Nelson Jr. / Kevin Sipp, and Robert Pruitt. This is from the press release: " artists present six films containing elements of a fantastic vernacular. From personas whose memories mirror experiences of our own, each film's characters acknowledge events in their intuitive and logical settings with no specific explanation. Using symbols and imagery that contain elements of legend, rituals and folklore, these artists challenge our assumed ideas of what is real and magical."

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