When I first visited Gallery Aferro about a year ago, my attention was grabbed by a series of stained glass windows. I was delighted by these colorful little mandalas. Shortly after, I learned these were a small part of a much larger project: Kea Tawana’s ark of Newark.
For some, maritime imagery signifies freedom and adventure; others see it as emblematic of displacement and oppression. The beauty of Kea Tawana’s ark was that it could unify the two opposing ideas. Her massive, self-made ship represented survival and stability in an otherwise turbulent moment in Newark’s history. Through this exhibit, I realized that art could bring age-old– and perhaps biblical– questions to the surface and re-contextualize them so that the conclusions we draw from them may stay afloat towards a vast, indefinite future.
Many residents at Gallery Aferro have since drawn inspiration from the nautical. Today marks the last day of resident Amanda Thackrey’s aptly named PORIFERA at the neighboring Index Art Center. Some may remember Tasha Lewis’s giant whale tail from earlier this year, or her more recent work, inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
While the beaches are still open and the weather is at its hottest, now is a great time to find some sea-themed inspiration. You should consider starting in Gallery Aferro’s book room, located on the second floor of the building. And I, as your captain on this wild and wonderful journey, have already found the books to help you set sail:
A wise art professor once told me it’s important to understand the history behind your content. Pictured above is a copy of the all-encompassing 20,000 Years of World Painting, in which I found a small blurb that explains the 17th-and-18th-century European obsession with ships at sea in painting. Hint: it’s colonial expansion!
If you’re looking for a sensational story about a sea-faring war hero, look no further than Homer’s Odyssey. You may already be familiar with the ninth book, in which the hero Odysseus and his men meets the Cyclops.
Although the books can not be checked out like a library, there is a large selection of books– poetry, art, fiction, nonfiction– that you’re welcome to sit and read during our normal hours of operation. If you happen to see one of our residents, ask them what books lead them through their creative process. You’d be surprised to learn that literary arts often inspire visual arts.
Happy reading, sailors!