Thursday, June 5, 2008

Arturo Lindsay's LOVE

Love.  Are you rolling your eyes already?  Trite, clichéd, annoying – we think we've heard everything about love.  But love among people of color is still hardly discussed outside of magazines and private conversations.  And it is rarely the subject of visual art.

Thankfully, in his refreshing exhibit at MoCADA (the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts), Panamanian-American Arturo Lindsay gives us a wide and thoughtful range of work.  His humorous covers of a fictional men's magazine – all featuring him, of course, provide a light interlude between much more serious work.

The lush installation in the back room ties earthly human love to religious and spiritual love.  Thousands of shells are layered with other objects beneath floating feathers.  On the perimeter of the circle are four pillars topped with religious symbols from Yoruba-derived practices.  The entire piece is almost enclosed by white gauze, leaving just enough room for one person to walk in and pay her or his respects – if, of course, we were allowed to touch the artwork!

This gorgeous installation leaves you in a peaceful, quiet mood at the end of the exhibition, meditating on the different expressions of love in African/diaspora communities.

But quiet meditation was not the mood at the opening of the exhibit.  Several generations of the Panamanian community turned out to support their son with traditional singing, dancing, food, and lots of energy.  Even Laurie A. Cumbo, MoCADA's director and curator, was surprised by the turnout.  I hope she encourages more community-oriented openings.  Though the place was completely packed, that just forced people to mingle rather closely and have even more fun.

Several weeks after visiting the exhibit, Jujustring saw Lindsay give a talk at "Here & Now" a conference on African-American art and African film.  He was incredibly dynamic, pouring librations for the ancestors and speaking in English, Spanish, and everything in between.  He talked a lot about his own arts activism - check out the art colony and collective he founded in Colon, Panama via his website,

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