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Afro-Americana Exhibit explores Black culture through visual art at Gaylord Pickens Museum

Nigerian artist Alex Kathilu’s painting, "Smile" will be on exhibit during the Afro Americana show from Jan. 12 – April 21 at the Gaylord Pickens Museum. Photo courtesy of Alex Kathilu

By Darla Shelden
Contributing Writer

Oklahoma – Inclusion in Art, has partnered with Gaylord Pickens Museum, to host the exhibition ‘Afro Americana’ exploring African American culture. The presentation includes work from noted and emerging Black artists from Oklahoma.

The exhibition will run from Jan. 12 to April 21 at the Gaylord Pickens Museum, located at 1400 Classen Drive in Oklahoma City.

Inclusion in Art is dedicated to promoting racial diversity in Oklahoma’s visual arts community and to connecting communities through socially conscious presentations that challenge the mind and embrace progressive thought.

Through exhibitions, workshops, creative projects and lectures, Inclusion in Art continues to support artists of color find the resources available to assist them with their artistic endeavors.

Inclusion in Art director Nathan Lee said, “Afro Americana includes artists of African American and African descent. It’s a wonderful example of the widespread growth of creativity in Oklahoma. In the past many visual artists of color particularly those of Black descent were completely off the radar. Now they are becoming more proactive in seeking venues and developing their professionalism.”

Formed in 2004, Inclusion in Art has been responsible for renewed interest in art coming from the minority creative class, the creation of the first database of contemporary artists of color living in Oklahoma, and it has been recognized as one of the most successful initiative dedicated to racial diversity in Oklahoma arts.

The work of Afro-Americana is a showcase of many different styles and mediums. Influences range from traditional folk art and quilt making to more contemporary works.

Featured artists include Joyce Carley, Suzanne Thomas, Nigerian artist Alex Kathilu and Lola Jenkins.

Painter Joyce Carley captures the beauty of Black culture through her artwork. Her paintings showcase the African American experience and draw on ancestral African spiritualism. She uses both African and Afro American influences to create paintings that celebrate both cultures and draw similarities between the two.

“It is my desire that people will embrace the art that God is painting through me,” said Carley.

Carley recalls her early ideas and experiences with creativity fondly. “I was born in Shreveport, LA, and grew up in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. I always enjoyed art as a child. While in elementary school, I was awarded first place in an art contest throughout the Oklahoma school district and my artwork was displayed in the state Capitol. That experience let me know that art would always be a part of me,” said Carley.

Suzanne Thomas is a college professor at Rose State College whose current work is a series of paintings inspired by iconic figures such as Billie Holiday, Dorothy Dandridge, and Diana Ross.

Alex Kathilu’s paintings are a celebration of his love of jazz music and his native West African rhythms.

Lola Jenkins is a quilt maker whose rich tapestries become literal paintings of made of fabric and cloth. Her subject matter ranges from landscapes to people that she has come across in her travels as an artist.

Other artists featured include Ronna Pernell, Robert Hill, Arisha Burlingame, Andrew Akufo and Rene Refour.

Afro-Americana marks a milestone for Gaylord Pickens Museum and is an example of Oklahoma’s changing artistic landscape. The event is free and open to the public.

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