Come Friday September 18th at 5 p.m., The Museum of Human Art will begin its reign over the apartment gallery above Mahall’s. It all begins with "When the Color Heals the Rest," the latest work by Lauren Pearce.
Pearce brings her fantastic pallet to Mahall’s quaint apartment gallery and aims to offer art as healing practice for a culture in tumult.
“So much of my focus right now is perspective, healing, grace and joy,” says Pearce, who is Black. ”When thinking about this show and what I wanted to create, so much of it was surrounded by my identity, but also what that actually means to me. There is such a push for people to consume Black struggle and I wanted to share something more than my struggle, more than the pain we are currently feeling. I wanted to share how art, color, and the relationships in my life bring me joy and help me to find healing and peace in the chaos.”
The exhibition is curated by Antwoine Washington, who is the founder of the non-profit organization Museum of Creative Human Art, which he started when he moved back to Cleveland after receiving his BA in Studio Art from Southern University and A&M College, Baton Rouge, LA, doing a brief stint as a U.S. Postal worker and before suffering from a stroke in 2018.
Using art as therapy, Washington has continued to flourish as an artist, exhibiting his work at the Cleveland Print Room, Worthington Yards, The Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Rooms to Let and Artist Archives of the Western Reserve. He also was commissioned to do a mural in Public Square by Land Studios. We were able to interview Washington to take a closer look as what inspired this exhibition and his non-profit.
“Museum of Creative Human Art uses a character-based approach to bridge creative expression with education and personal development,” explains Washington. “We provide a space for underserved youth to learn, connect, create, and share. At the heart of our work is a focus on cultivating conscientiousness, moral agency, core values, and the social attitudes necessary for individuals to make meaningful contributions to society. We encourage young artists to produce independently, but also reinforce shared imaginative exploration to spark fresh ideas and works of art. We aim to equip young, underserved artists with the tools to express their thoughts, emotions, and views through various art forms.”
Pearce’s works have been created over the past couple of months but she says that the majority of them were finished the last couple of weeks. They were inspired by her Jamaican culture and the influential people in her life, particularly strong Black individuals. The paintings are explosive with color while expertly balanced with white space. Her work is exceptional considering she had no training outside of the Art Magnet school she attended for Middle and High School in South Florida. Her work brims with natural talent and fervor while not convoluted with self-awareness.
“I think people are complex and for me so much of my inner work comes from painting the people in my life. I normally paint from my experiences so painting the people in my life goes hand in hand with that,” remarks Pearce. “We as people are filled with stories and if I can capture just one of those stories with my brush makes me feel incredibly fulfilled. We are unique and for me it is even more important to paint the brown and black people in my life. I want them to be felt, seen, and known for the beautiful and remarkable people that they are.”
There is a wildness to the design of the subjects’ clothing, which shrouds the candid faces of the sitters. In a piece which Pearce says she has yet to title, we see two figures sedentary on what looks like a couch. The male stares out, not confrontational but somewhat addressing the viewer with his eyes, while the female figure lovingly wraps her feet around her partner looking almost annoyed by the observation as if unwillingly caught in a display of intimate domesticity.
Most of these paintings are portraiture and the vibrant patterns are reminiscent of Kehinde Wiley’s, which usually feature subjects rendered realistically but blanketed by forests of flowers or wallpaper-like designs. Pearce’s portraits in general capture her subjects in sometime majestic poses and seem to harken back to a fellow artist of Jamaican ancestry, Tamara Natalie Madden.
Pearce comments that her work is in fact influenced by her Jamaican heritage along with her racial identity. She just recently completed a two-wall mural in Brooklyn and is incorporating a mural into this exhibition which, from what I have seen, ‘screams’ with color and designs which complement while also animating her paintings and the space in which they are inhabiting.
Her bio states: “…in her work, she transfers her world onto her paintings and allows her imagination to bring forth the colorful language of identity, race, and womanhood, beyond a canvas.” I asked Pearce how this ties into "When the Color Heals the Rest."
“It is at the core of my show,” Pearce says. “My identity as a Black woman in a world that preys and creates our struggles. It has shaped the way I view the world and my work. My identity has given me the wings to my imagination. Using color, and my ability to create feeling with my work to embody what it means and how I feel being a woman and a Black woman at that in the art world. I’m hoping that in some way in all of my work really that there is at least one piece where they feel seen. I want those that come to leave feeling lighter and encouraged. I want them to experience joy when standing in a room full of my work.”
In the interest of keeping patrons safe against the spread of Covid-19, Washington and Mahall’s will limit the number of people allowed in the gallery at any given time using a slot system. Register by RSVP here