The seven-year old Northwest African American Museum has a broad mandate, one facet of which is to present and preserve connections between the Northwest and people of African descent. Its latest exhibition, “Onyx Fine Arts Collective: A Decade of Art,” focuses on the art of 16 award-winning local African-American artists and is timed to correspond with the 10th annual juried show of these and other Onyx artists that will open at the Seattle Convention Center in October.
The name “Onyx” comes from the black gemstone, and, according to Onyx members, represents positive energy, guards against negativity, fortifies self-confidence and sharpens the senses. In addition to sponsoring exhibitions, Onyx also helps its members with artistic and marketing development.
The almost 50 pieces on display at NAAM are done in various media and have been chosen to exemplify the diversity of the art and the motivations that worked to create it. Curator Esther Ervin, an artist herself, taught and curated at Seattle Central College for 30 years and continues that work throughout the region.
Included in this exhibition are photography, works on paper and canvas, mixed media, collage, metal work and ceramics. Though few of the Onyx artists are able to practice their art full time, their devotion and talent shine through in their creations.
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For example, Lisa Myers Bulmash, a mixed-media artist, does small-scale assemblages from recycled cigar boxes, paper, printed materials, metal and found objects. “The Plumber’s Jealousy” on display in this exhibition has a story to tell. Imagine that he’s under the sink and can see “her” legs. It would be hard to miss noticing his jealous heart. What’s that about? It’s up to the viewer to fill in the details of the story told in Bulmash’s miniature constructions.
There’s no mystery in Jay Taylor’s photograph of the fishing bald eagle. The massive bird is captured as it swoops down to grab its lunch, its wings raised, and its intent is clear.
Another artist, Valencia Carroll, a classically trained painter and Gage Academy graduate who works in oils, charcoal and graphite, is particularly admired for her luminous still-life paintings. In this exhibition, however, she presents “Mastercopy of The Moorish Chief, After Eduard Charlemont.” His face is almost hidden in the shadows, but his pale robes stand out in stark contrast to the dark background. She’s particularly gifted in the manner in which she plays with light.
Onyx, by celebrating and promoting the visual work of local artists of African descent, and the Northwest African American Museum, for displaying their work, provide a service to the entire community.
Nancy Worssam: firstname.lastname@example.org