Mostly African Market exhibit features seven Natchez artists

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 19, 2000

The Mostly African Market held an open house Sunday afternoon to kick off an exhibit of works by seven Natchez artists.

&uot;This is the first time we’ve had so many Natchez artists together in an exhibit,&uot; said Thelma Williams, director of Project Southern Cross, which is based at the market. &uot;We hope this will bring Natchez artists together as a kind of collective to exchange ideas.&uot;

Packed into the market’s two exhibit rooms were works of every subject and medium. They ranged from elaborately dressed dolls and a wedding portrait drawn to photographs and pencil and ink drawings.

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Works by artists Ray Brown, Leon Hollins, Tony Lucas, Joseph Johnson, Deborah McNeal, Evans Ardella Rucker and Amber Warren were featured in the exhibit.

Directly in front of the door to the first exhibit room is a pastel drawing of Brown’s wife in a flowing white wedding gown. To the right of the door is a portrait of his three children done in vinyl on a mirror.

Nearby, Joseph Johnson’s pen drawings depict local scenes and landmarks that are important to him, including Mr. Walter’s Barber Shop, where he got his first haircut.

&uot;That’s actually going to be the start of a series,&uot; Johnson said of the drawing. Johnson’s drawing of the Angelety House, which he drew for his art students at Central Alternative and Natchez High schools, is also displayed.

McNeal’s works include a doll named Faith, which was so difficult to make that McNeal acknowledges that she had to have faith. A quilt in the front room features cloth scraps sewn into concentric circles.

Tony Lucas’ pen and pencil drawings feature rural scenes, including a portrait of a family in front of their home to drawing of a mother hanging laundry to dry and children jumping rope.

Another of Lucas’ works, &uot;God’s Gang,&uot; uses vivid acrylic colors to show gang members giving up their weapons and being baptized in front at a church.

The exhibit also includes works that Rucker displayed as part of an August exhibit at the market. &uot;God’s Child,&uot; is made of cotton, cloth, coat hangers and fabric and mounted on a wood block with springs so that it &uot;flies.&uot;

Girls’ faces figure prominently in two photos by Hollins, including a portrait of a little girl.

The other is a photo of women sitting at a Los Angeles bus stop, listening to another little girl tell a story. Even a girl in an ad poster posted nearby seems to be listening to every word.

Last but not least is Amber Warren, a recent art history graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, to whom Williams referred as &uot;the least senior&uot;&160;of the exhibit’s artists. In the works Warren has contributed to the exhibit, she uses charcoal to draw two women with wings, one reclining and another lifting her arms upward.

The show will run through March 10 and will then be available to visit schools, churches and groups throughout the area. A second phase of the project will involve the creation of a mural based on historic African-American themes.

The project is a partnership of artists, the market and the Historic Natchez Foundation. Alternative R.O.O.T.S., an Atlanta artists’ group, provided a project grant with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.