BLACK HISTORY MONTH CELEBRATED
More than 300 attend Friday night reception with artists
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about what matters.”
Thankfully for the Vallejo community, many artists seemed to have heard that saying and acted on it as their work appeared to speak volumes to hundreds of onlookers.
More than 300 people came out to visit a gallery honoring black artists was held at the Cal Maritime Anchor Center on Georgia Street on Friday night as well as Saturday. Artists and material by Liberty Pierson, Julia Vann, Verlannia Manchester, Izzy Drumgoole, Yohance Washington, Mandica Amber, Loba Yates, Bethany Matthis-Montgomery and Iconic Vinyl Art were showcased.
Edgar-Arturo Camacho and Abel Rodriguez, the owners of El Comalito Collective, helped put together the event along with partners Cal Maritime and Vallejo Art Walk, whom Camacho gave special thanks to.
“The goal of this is representation, representation, representation,” Camacho said strongly on Friday night. “I contacted all these artists, but I didn’t want to
present a theme to them. A lot of times with Black History Month artists are expected to present some kind of theme and I didn’t want to do that for them. I wanted the artists to express themselves in a way they would choose.”
Camacho said the event and the exhibit is a very good educational one for Black History Month.
“Historically, Vallejo hasn’t centered around artists of color,” Camacho said. “I think representation is getting better, because folks in the community are stepping up. Even myself, I felt I had to go out and make some calls and let people know about this event.”
Camacho said that on Saturday things died down a little bit as far as turnout, but visitors were still gravitating toward one piece of art in general — one by Vann in which a surfer is paddling out to sea. Vann, who is half Portuguese and half black and is a surfer herself, spoke about her two paintings on Friday night.
“Growing up I would hear a lot about the stereotype of how black people couldn’t swim,” Vann said. “And over time I realized that people of color weren’t represented well with art concerning swimming and surfing. So I wanted to give that area commentary and bring it to life in my work. I know that strong women happen to surf. So when I made these I thought about my roots on both sides of oppression and being oppressed.”
Vann said that one of her paintings of a swimmer breathing underwater paid homage to her ancestors, who were slaves. “The painting is saying, ‘I am breathing and I am existing at the same time,’” the artist said.
Vann said the painting of the woman paddling out to sea is about “facing fears. Sometimes you need to duck down and still do it. Approach the beast and take it by storm.”
Other paintings included Malcolm X as an X-Men, rapper and actor Ice Cube, and sketches by Pierson that she made while a student at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.
In the two pieces by Pierson, she described how the drawings of the human body were very therapeutic to her when she made them nearly seven years ago.
“I was doing finger drawings while studying anatomy,” Pierson said. “Usually my art is wood burning, but this piece was extremely therapeutic to me because it deals with anorexia and I was going through that at the time. But I wanted to show the body in way the media hasn’t been trained to explain it. Fat has a reason. Muscles shaped a certain way have a reason to them. Once you accept that we can accept our own bodies.”
Pierson said she wanted to focus on the contrast in the bones and the skeleton in her work. She said a few people came up to her Friday night and thanked her for her work.”
“It feels good to be vulnerable sometimes,” Pierson said. “Even if you don’t feel comfortable with something it can help someone else.”
Although the gallery features multiple rooms with multiple pieces of art, Camacho said the part of the exhibit he’s proudest of was the decision to have one big room with just one piece of art located in the center. The piece was by Kreative Righteous Gifts and included a Isicholo Head Piece and African earrings.
“I’m proud of that bold decision for the single piece in the room because it allows you to be in a space with a black figure and make you reflect on your feelings toward it,” Camacho said.
“Usually my art is wood burning, but this piece was extremely therapeutic to me because it deals with anorexia and I was going through that at the time.”
— Liberty Pierson, artist
Artists featured at the Cal Maritime Anchor Center Black History Month exhibit pose on Friday night.
Liberty Pierson poses with her two pieces of art shown at the Black History Month exhibit at the Cal Maritime Anchor Center on Georgia Street in Vallejo.
Julia Vann poses with one of her pieces of art at the Cal Maritime Anchor Center for the Black History Month exhibit.