Black women ‘rise’ to the occasion, artist says of new exhibition open for Mother’s Day weekend


HARLEM, Manhattan — It’s a love letter to African American female artists at an art gallery exhibit opening Mother’s Day weekend.

Nestled in the first floor of a Harlem brownstone, the Heath Gallery is showcasing the work of 12 Black women, ranging in age from their 20s to their 70s, in a show called Rise.

“Rise is the story really of the historical resilience of African American women,” Saundra Alexis Heath, the Heath Gallery director, told PIX11 News. “Black women in the past and also now.”

There’s a sculpture titled “Flowers for George from the Village of Enchantment” featuring photos of Emmett Till, Breonna Taylor and Trayvon Martin. There are also quilts about the African slave trade.

“It started with one quilt that had a slave ship that was beached and taken over by the Africans,” Laura Gadson, a quilt maker, told PIX11 News. “The legend goes that the water brought us, the water will bring us back.”

Other artists, who are all mothers or caregivers, captured their own experiences in their art.

“My paintings are based on music,” Eunice Kindred, who has a painting called Throb, told PIX11 News. “I’m a dancer and choreographer, so it it’s more conveying music and sound.”

Sade Boyewa El, a photographer, said: “In a very marginalized industry and society, it really informs the work we do and the stories that we do tell.”

It’s an opportunity for expression for these talented artists that also showcase a bit of their identity.

“Because I am a quiet person,” artist Heather Williams, told PIX11 News, “I am interested in adding quiet as part of the social narrative of the Black female.”

At times, the message can be universal.

“When I painted this painting, I was thinking in terms of  bringing beauty and dignity to our Black women everywhere on the planet,” Patricia Stuart, another artist, told PIX11 News, in describing her painting, Daughter of the King.

And the name is a message in itself.

“I am thinking Black women always rise to the occasion,” Gabrielle Baker, another artist, told PIX11 News. “That’s what we’ve always done throughout history.”

The exhibit, Rise, a celebration of African-American female artists, just in time for Mother’s Day, will be at the Heath Gallery through the end of May.

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