Portfolio Gallery exhibit features 200 works from African-American artists

The Portfolio Gallery gathered from artists from across the country, including several regional and Metro East residents, for its latest exhibition.

All Colors is a visual arts invitational and juried exhibition that showcases images and colors that tell stories. Opening Saturday at the St. Louis Artists’ Guild, the exhibit features nearly 70 African-American artists displaying 200 works of art. The exhibit, which will be on view through Feb. 28, and its opening reception are free and open to the public. Both take place at the St. Louis Artists’ Guild, 12 N. Jackson Ave., Clayton, Missouri.

The Portfolio Gallery and Education Center’s mission is to educate, enrich lives and foster a greater awareness of American artists of African-American heritage. The Portfolio Gallery and Education Center is located at 2029 E. Fair Ave., in St. Louis.

East St. Louis resident Edna Patterson Petty,a textile artist, has four pieces in the exhibit.

“I wanted to do something relating to my internal changes. For ‘New Beginning’s,’ I used the image of feathers, because for me, feathers are symbolic of ‘change,’” Petty said. “At this time in my life, I feel anew. The voice of my own heart is very critical, and I create to maintain my sanity, to nourish my mind, body and soul. My existence is linked or tied to my ability to create.”

She first became inspired to work with fabrics after learning to sew when she was 15 years old.

“It was amazing to be able to take a piece of cloth and turn it into an article of clothing,” she said. “My mom made bed quilts to keep the family warm in the winter, and palettes for the floor when cousins stayed over. I enjoyed helping her cut up old clothing and recycle them, or up-cycle them into fabric for her quilts. She made her quilts by hand. Once I learned how to sew by machine, I was able to teach her.”

Petty continues to draw inspiration from many things, like movies, people, life’s challenges, her own personal growth, friends and opportunities.

“I am an avid recycler, and I love giving items of clothing, as well as pieces of furniture, a new life. I look at them and wonder, ‘What do you want to be?’ Years ago, I made a quilt for President Obama’s inauguration, and I used an old silk drape that I had on hand. The fabric had a rich, but subtle color, and it made a statement without being over the top.”

Petty said she can’t imagine life without art, or art without life.

“When I am not physically creating art, I am mentally playing around with ideas, colors, found objects, paints, et cetera,” she said.

Artist Robert Ketchens, of O’Fallon, Illinois, who has several pieces in All Colors, said he worked with watercolor as a medical illustrator for 21 years. As a fine artist for 26 years, he uses oil and acrylic paints.

“I was first inspired by seeing the work of artists who had unique abilities that produced paintings that spoke, like a great poem, about the complexities of being human,” Ketchens recalled. “Now, I’m inspired by the challenge of creating paintings that have the power to speak poetically on the complexities and contradictions of being human.”

Each of Ketchens’ pieces contains its own story. They are not part of a “series,” but yet, they are all part of his overall narrative on what makes people “tick.”

Edwardsville resident Darnell Malone uses mixed media in his work.

In 1982, he started painting with watercolor and acrylic. In the late ‘90s, he came up with the idea to add charcoal.

“I believe I was born to paint,” Malone said. “I recognize it as a gift from God. I took a painting workshop in 1982, and produced 16 paintings in four weeks. I saw the transition in my paintings. Two of those pieces were purchased.

“My imagination is an inspiration,” he noted. “That is where my titles, techniques and ideas flow from.”

His “Colorvision No. 4” was the first title that came to him in 1982 when he produced his first piece. He said it can be viewed as a concrete art piece.

“It is about beauty. It is also about what the viewer sees in the piece — some have mentioned music,” Malone said.

His “Satin Doll Emerging” is a mixed media piece, created with handmade paper, watercolor and acrylic. It was based on Duke Ellington’s “Satin Doll” — definitely music. Some may view it as a woman or women emerging, he said. Women demanding the respect they were always due. Women becoming strong in several arenas or simply a man paying tribute to a woman he finds beautiful.

Malone’s “Stacked Up and They are Still Outweighed” is one of his pieces that speaks volumes, he said.

“It is possible that many people have experienced this type of victory. It is also about defying the odds.”

“Survive and Rise” represents the fact that no matter what you encounter in life — if you are alive — you can survive and rise.

One of the two jurors for All Colors is Dion Dion, who has served as an adjunct art instructor with St. Louis’ Maryville University, and recently served as director of the Emerging Artists as Entrepreneurs program for the Saint Louis Art Fair. She also served on the board of directors for Manchester Arts, operating as the visual arts director. Dion was executive director of Art Saint Louis for 18 years. She has served as president, program director and on the board of directors of numerous arts organizations.

The second juror for the exhibition is Vernon C. Mitchell Jr., PhD, the curator of Popular American Arts and Culture in the Department of Special Collections, housed within the university libraries at Washington University in St. Louis. He earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in American history, focused on African-American history, from Cornell University, in the state of New York, and his bachelor’s from the University of Missouri. Mitchell teaches courses centered on social movements and the impact of African-American art and culture on movements and popular culture.

The St. Louis Artists’ Guild inspires art experiences through extraordinary exhibitions, interactive art education, outreach to diverse audiences, and by fostering creativity throughout the community. Proceeds from the All Colors exhibit will allow the nonprofit Portfolio Gallery and Educational Center to provide grants to St. Louis artists, small nonprofits and community-based organizations.

The opening reception begins at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13, at the St. Louis Artists’ Guild at 12 N. Jackson Ave., Clayton, Missouri. Regular gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, visit www.portfoliogallerystl.org, email portfoliogallery@att.net or call 314-265-0432.

Darnell Malone, “Colorvision No. 4,” mixed media

Darnell Malone, “Stacked Up and They are Still Outweighed,” mixed media

“Mrs. Robinson,” watercolor by Dean Mitchell

Ed Johnetta Miller, “Cuban Dancer,” mixed media

Kenneth Calvert, “Faces of Eve,” acrylic

“Marcus (uplift race),” acrylic by Raymond Thomas

Robert Ketchens, “Music is a Painting You Can Hear,” acrylic and photos on canvas

“Thank You Note to God,” pencil by William Perry

Robert Ketchens, “SEE ME., SEE ME, SEE ME!” acrylic

Robert Ketchens, “World Bank, Don’t Leave Home Without It,” acrylic on canvas

Reach writer Vicki Bennington at vbennington@sbcglobal.net and Twitter @vicben1.

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