Stories passed down from one generation to another are woven and retold so many times, that if they are unwritten, epic and small, they will change and morph with each telling and can carry weight well beyond the original intentions.
Bob Dilworth paints stories, as in Silvy Tory 2021, a painting of a woman born into slavery who later attained freedom and lived in South County, Rhode Island. Tory has been portrayed by actress Sylvia Ann Soares who modeled for Dilworth’s gradually developing image. There are no pictures of the real Silvy Tory, and there is little written material. It is mostly heresay that brings the story to us today. Accompanying Silvy on the canvas are portraits of Dilworth’s own son and grandson. Now, with this monumental painting, we can imagine the physical presence of the past, that Dilworth sees as a generational representation in which Tory acts as a spiritual guide.
Painting to remember and tell stories was integral to medieval artists. Fernando del Rincon, (Spanish, b.c. 1460), painted the Miracle of the Black Leg, where it was commissioned by the Monastery of San Francisco de Guadalajara, and is housed in the collection of the Museo del Prado, Madrid. The painting depicts an amputation of a Black man’s leg being grafted to a Spanish man’s thigh. The Black man is on the floor, while the Spaniard is flanked by haloed Saints Cosmas and Damian, who have amputated the gangrene leg. The interior scene is layered with gilded fabrics, floral tapestries, gold leaf wall paper, busts of Roman and Greek philosophers, and a central round painting of the Madonna and Child.
In his lush depiction of the human figure, Bob Dilworth surrounds his subject with equal amount of loving attention. In Margaret 2015-2019, Dilworth presents the seated figure in repose with her left leg and foot propped up and pointing towards the viewer. Margaret is joined by an outlined twin of her own body, perhaps her own attending saint, which counter the sorrow and dejection of the sitter, by being encased in joyous flower pattern and beautiful blue, coral, and grey hues. Her head is heavy in her left hand in exactly the same position the amputee has in the Fernando del Rincon. The left hand is supporting the head in both paintings depicting woe, sorrow, sadness, and a shared malady which indicates two bodies separated by hundreds of years but sharing the same humanity and human condition.
Nafis M. White: Hair(esis) εχηγεομαι
The Greek word hairesis (from which heresy is derived) was originally a neutral term that signified merely the holding of a particular set of philosophical opinions.
Nafis M. White, a multihyphenate artist, employs multiple mediums to create her work. Recently, synthetic hair has been a mainstay as she works in the manner of both Victorian hair weaving and Memento Mori creations combined together with African traditions and elaborate symbolic rendering that includes and interrelates to everything from stellar constellations to the patterns of plowed fields.
The largest works in the Oculus series are monumental at 8 feet in diameter and 8 inches in diameter at their smallest. They are majestic and powerful portals. The oculus is present in Medieval churches as vaulted ceilings, and in the Rose Windows in Gothic churches, such as Old St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. Additionally, the Oculus Sacerdotis translates as “priest’s eye” and references the 14th century book by William Pagula written in 3 volumes between 1320 and 1332 as a manual for the under-educated parish priests.
The Oculi represent a beautiful amalgamation of cultures created through incorporation of White's family traditions. She skillfully combines traditional braiding, Senegalese techniques, and English Victorian techniques in individual works. White states “it is a ritualistic process, a spiritual process, intuitive work with time, tempo, colors and unique individual identity. It is from love from which the work’s bloom.” The Oculi are considered portraits laden with DNA, history, love, care, and symbolism.