Black Art Showcase Features Visual, Vocal and Literary Student Talent

By Luke McCann, The Dartmouth Staff | 2/13/14 3:00am

On Tuesday evening, the Dartmouth NAACP chapter hosted a Black Art Showcase of the various visual, vocal and literary talents of the black community at Dartmouth. At first, I thought the event was going to be like any other art showcase I’ve ever been to – a room full of people walking in silence as they looked at the pieces, each artist dutifully but awkwardly stationed next to his or her work. There’s always that one jerk commenting on every third piece with “How is this art? I could do that.”

How very wrong I was. In true Dartmouth student fashion, I showed up a few minutes late to the event. As I climbed the stairs to the Top of the Hop, I heard a powerful-sounding speech, and as soon as I rounded the stairs I saw several large bright paintings of Disney characters. The fact that there were pieces at the show that drew me away from the buffet table of free food, where I generally spend most of my time at receptions, is a true testament to the power of the artwork. While all the participants were incredibly talented, I don’t have the space to write about them all, so I’ll sum up some of my personal highlights.

“Daddy Issues” by Calandra Jones ’15 – As you can probably tell, Calandra’s spoken-word piece addressed her relationship with her father, and also focused heavily on her identity as a biracial woman. She called out others who always ask her, “What exactly are you mixed with?” One of the most powerful parts came near the end, when her voice rose with passion as she asserted that people were too concerned with her being mixed – “as if blackness could only be beautiful by supplement.” Calandra has me dying to go to the next Soul Scribes meeting so I can get on this slam poetry thing as well.

“A Change is Gonna Come,” Jamilah Mena ’14 – Next up was Jamilah’s cover of the popular Sam Cooke song, “A Change is Gonna Come.” Maybe I’ve had too many awkward experiences with high school talent shows, but I always get nervous when people get on stage and start singing. It seems like everyone thinks they’re the next American Idol, and sadly they aren’t. Jamilah, though, probably should be. The minute her mouth opened and that giant voice came out of her small frame, my jaw hit the floor and I still haven’t been able to pick it up. She had me turn from a Simon Cowell to a Paula Abdul in a matter of seconds.

Disney/Pixar Mini-Collection by Kayla Gilbert ’12 – A personal favorite for obvious reasons, Kayla’s display featured four individual portraits of various Disney and Pixar characters. She painted Dot, Jack-Jack, Pascal and Dory, from “A Bug’s Life (1998), The Incredibles” (2004), “Tangled” (2010) and “Finding Nemo” (2003), respectively. The brightly colored background behind the characters made them eye-catching to all who entered the room, but their detail and realism was even more impressive up close. Kayla, who is a digital arts apprentice in the computer science department, said she likes to blend her love for animation with the detailed aspects of renaissance art. I’m not an artist so I’m not exactly sure if HD painting exists, but that’s certainly what that looked like to me.

“Untitled” by Sabrina Yegela ’13 – This is the quintessential art show piece that people gather around in hushed whispers, while someone says, “Well, I could do that.” Of course, that’s not because just anyone can actually do it, but because it’s oddly imposing and personal. The piece makes you feel both connected to it and detached and voyeuristic. Sabrina’s unfinished work currently consists of a solid white dollhouse, a black shoe and a black rope, or noose, all suspended on rods. A book is left open to a page describing the “alleged murder” of a black teenager, where Sabrina crossed out the word “alleged.” The artist says her work will ultimately be a collection of spray-painted objects, some she makes and some she finds, that are a manifestation of “thoughts, observations, feelings and experiences with Black Identity in America, in particular the politics of affirmative action and the treatment and identification of Black bodies vs. White bodies in America.” Whatever it’s going to be, I can’t wait to see the final product. While unfinished, it still had me coming back to it every four or five minutes for another look.

Luke McCann, The Dartmouth Staff