The artwork presented by storyteller artist and quilter Vanessa Johnson is an extension of her being. The outstretched arms of this humanoid fabric art are inviting, welcoming and loving, connecting the women they represent, the artist and the viewer in a heart-warming embrace. She is honoring women as she visually interprets their struggle while contemplating her own life journey as an African American with roots in Ghana.
Vanessa begins with the bodies – sewing cloth to cloth, much of it found in West Africa. This becomes her canvas and from it sprouts limbs, heads and the detailed decoration of meaning that produces emotionally-charged and animated floor-to-ceiling quilts.
Last night was the opening reception for Unwrapping Vanessa at ArtRage, 505 Hawley Avenue, Syracuse, New York. The art exhibition continues through March 25, 2017. ArtRage is a gallery that focuses on social issues. They hold several exhibitions a season and coordinate them with other events – lecture/discussions, musical performances and poetry readings, film screenings and theatrical plays. There is a pancake breakfast on Sunday, March 5, 2017 beginning at 9:00 am. On Wednesday, March 8, 2017, Vanessa Johnson will give an artist talk at 7:00 pm.
Vanessa has been creating art quilts for over twenty years and has exhibited her work all over Central New York. She displayed work at the Chittenango Middle School library a few years ago! Since then her work has evolved considerably.
There is so much raw emotion to be discovered. Of the love of identity, of the power of friendship and of the joy of knowing a world where so many women of color are respected in their achievements. She is certainly inspired by these women and by the strength of the community in which she lives.
The artwork is combined with stories, text in quilted books and woven into the tapestry. In addition, pouches of soil from her homes here and in Ghana are lovingly added as a type of talisman. She calls them “gris gris”. It is this narrative that blurs the lines between artist and artwork, iconography, environment and inspired action. So much beauty in the richness and flavor of her life! <3
ArtRage is open Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 2:00 – 7:00 pm and Saturday noon – 4:00 pm. They are available for school tours as well, and are always seeking submissions from artists for future exhibitions. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website is www.artragegallery.org.