The “Songs of My People” art exhibition, featuring fifteen new works by Savannah and New York artist Luther E. Vann, celebrated co-creator of the landmark art and poetry book ELEMENTAL, The Power of Illuminated Love opened November 11 at Penn Center’s York W. Bailey Museum on St. Helena Island, South Carolina.
“Songs of My People,” which will remain on exhibition until January 7, 2012, is Vann’s first major art exhibit since his triumphant ELEMENTAL show at the Telfair Museum’s Jepson Center for the Arts in Savannah, Georgia, in 2008. The event is part of Penn Center’s Heritage Days celebration. Vann has been honored as the 2011 Heritage Days Featured Artist, a distinction which places him in the company of such previous honorees as: James Denmark, Diane Britton-Dunham, Allen Fireall, Amiri Geuka Farris, Jonathan Green, and the artist called “Saint.”
His new show has been described as one that reflects the artist’s appreciation for the musicians of the Harlem Renaissance and the traditions of Gullah music in the American Southeast. As far as how viewers experience the very vibrantly painted canvases for which he has become famous, the artist said, “I want people to jump in there and experience the art for themselves" as opposed to relying on his or anyone else’s interpretation of it.
Vann is among the few living artists who can actually claim a direct link to the Harlem Renaissance as someone who was once a student of artists of the period. Much of his growth and development as an artist has been chronicled in both the essays and poetry published in ELEMENTAL. The following is an excerpt from the essay “Living Art, Living Poetry,” which discusses the significance of ELEMENTAL, the Power of Illuminated Love, not only as a major event in Vann’s career but as a powerful example of “the legacies of visual art in partnership with literary art...”
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Songs of My People Art Exhibition Opens at Penn Center