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The city of Savannah, Georgia, long celebrated by tourists and natives alike for its charm, beauty, and cultural diversity, has just added another jewel to its fabled crown. ELEMENTAL: The Power of Illuminated Love is a celebrated gift book by two of the city’s most acclaimed creative artists: painter Luther E. Vann, whose work is currently on display at the Telfair Museum Jepson Center for the Arts, and writer Aberjhani, co-author of the award-winning Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance.
A perfect gift for graduations, father’s day, birthdays, and other occasions, ELEMENTAL: The Power of Illuminated Love contains more than 60 brilliant reproductions of Vann’s prize-winning work along with statements by the artist on his unique creative vision. In addition, the book also features introductory essays by Aberjhani and accompanying poetry, much of which has been showcased in ESSENCE Magazine and other publications.
Although born in Savannah, Vann spent much of his youth in New York City and took some of his first art lessons there with Harlem Renaissance artist Charles Alston, famed for his public murals, popular magazine covers, and paintings of African-American family life. Vann’s current show at the Telfair Museum Jepson Center for the Arts, on exhibit until August 17, 2008, is housed in the facility’s Lewis Gallery. The Telfair is the oldest public art museum in the South and Vann is the first African-American Savannah native to have a one-man show at its new state of the art Jepson Center.
FROM: Elemental: The Power of Illuminated Love (Library of Congress Control Number: 2008924222)
"Whereas New York had provided Vann--seemingly paradoxically some might think--with a collection of works detailing explorations of the inner self, the region of his birth would provide him with earthier visions of southern culture, family life, and, ultimately, representations bordering not so much on inner realities as emerging ones. Among the first fruits of his labors upon his return to the South was a second place Merit Award for his painting, Family Reunion, at the Black Heritage Festival in 1992, followed by an additional Merit Award in the Fourteenth Annual Arts on the River exhibition in 1993 for the acrylic portrait Family Ties.
Vann was and is a master craftsman was always immediately apparent. What may have been less so is his ability to function like a dynamo of inspiration that charges the creativity of others. In my own case, meditating upon his painted and sculpted visions served as an invitation to join him on a plateau of elevated consciousness and dive headlong into the same ocean of creative energies that had blessed him with much of his most compelling work. Within that region where creativity and spirituality join to give birth to art, I enjoyed the task of transcribing Vann’s visual works into the art of poetry, attempting not so much to describe the works themselves as to articulate the psychic realities that generated them.
It is very much a testament to the potency of Vann‘s creative dynamism that the poetry I wrote based on his art often inspired other visual artists to produce works based on my writing. Because Vann had been prolific throughout the long many years prior to our meeting, the images from which I worked to produce a literary equivalent were plentiful. Almost immediately, the poems began to see publication in various local and national periodicals. One of the first, published in 1993 in the Georgia Guardian, a weekly newspaper produced at the time by SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) was a four-part poem called Past, Present & Future Are One.”
BOTANICAL GARDENS #2
In the presence of beauty the soul
demands that one becomes beautiful.
The craggy shells of our faithlessness
and our coldly churning hunger for death
burst open like a pod full of promises.
That which is God within us
opens like a thousand blossoms
of purest starlight.
And we see ourselves as if
in the mirror of a true angel’s love.
Our chains drift free and dance
naked with our laughter. We float
from this world to the next and back
again, like children learning a game we
taught ourselves a billion years ago.
Art Breeds Art, Life Gives Life by Zinta Aistars
I have long, long been an Aberjhani fan. I came across his work many years ago online, as is more often now the case for many of us—to make our literary discoveries over the Internet. Yet how soothing, reassuring, to know that with all the changes and progressions and regressions of time and technology, some things hold true: art awakens and joins. No matter what the venue. Whatever our life experience, whatever our particular and individual view on the world around us, art illuminates and connects us. Art, one might argue, really is just the expression of love. Just as limitless, just as boundless, just as astounding.
And then this gift arrives, this grand and pleasingly heavy book. Unwrapping, I knew this would not be the kind of read that one zips through on a spare weekend hour. Elemental: The Power of Illuminated Love is the kind of book one places carefully on the coffee table, inviting visit after visit after visit, over time creating a bond. In some 140 pages, on thick, glossy paper that bring sensual pleasure in turning them for new discoveries, I found not only the expected poetry of Aberjhani, but also more than 60 vibrant art reproductions by artist, Luther E. Vann. Now, this was new to me. I relished the additional discovery. Even as I read the lush work of the poet, the corresponding reproductions reflected the words in yet another medium. The artist Vann works in paint that resembles colored fire—the kind that one knocks one’s head back to gaze upon in the night sky on Independence Day. Fireworks, nearly liquid fire, in every blazing color and few of them muted, but pure, in shivering and shimmering lines. On closer inspection, I learned the artist sometimes uses chopsticks to paint instead of conventional brushes. Ah, I thought, that explains it. I could envision the chopsticks dancing across the black canvas—for Vann’s work is always on a black canvas—and could imagine the sparks that traced their dancing path.
Both artists, the painter and the poet, are from Savannah, Georgia. Various essays in the book describe the meeting of the two, pleasingly drawing a circle at the conclusion. In the first meeting, Aberjhani writes his poetry to correspond with Vann’s art. By conclusion, Vann’s art comes to life in illustrating Aberjhani’s poetry. Art breeds art, life gives life. Vann has also spent time in New York City, and it seems his artwork reflects this, too: the beat and pulse of the great metropolis, the life that is born of the street, the milling of color as it blends and separates and blends again. His work is at times like neon on canvas, bright lights, and has, too, a dream quality, perhaps because of the ever present black background, reminding one of those mysterious dreams that haunt throughout the day. His paintings are often crowded with figures that intermingle and overlap, seem born of one another, yet remain distinctly alone.
Aberjhani is also known as author of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, The Bridge of Silver Wings, and The Wisdom of W.E.B. Dubois. He publishes often in various publications, print and online. His poetry has an intensely intimate courage, the sort we would all wish to have, but too often hold protectively back.
Muscles stretch from star to moon to heart,
shrink to a single comet; the sweet
heave-ho of flesh awakens to higher intention.
Pain like an over-efficient android
builds metallic agonies of nerve and thought.
Joy like a forty-day flood of acrylic roses.
The two artists are a perfect match, words as vibrant as image, image as emblazoned with fiery color as poetry. The occasional essay enlightens as to the inner workings of each, building anticipation for the pages ahead and beckoning return to the pages behind.
I once watched Time grow fat
then explode in my face
as if too much pain
or too much love had gathered too fast
into a single small space.
The Universe said, “Let me show
your soul something beautiful.”
And I then recalled two things:
the Disciple who loved his Teacher,
and the main reason I was born.
I watched Time disappear and tasted
upon my fingers the colors
of a vision still hot with truth.
I return to this book time after time, as one does to art—for inspiration, for a reminder of what is still hot with truth.
by Zinta Aistars, Editor-in-Chief of Smoking Poet eZine
A DYNAMIC DUO OF ART AND POETRY
Born in Savannah, Georgia, and raised in New York City, Vann is an award-winning artist whose work has drawn praise for the artist’s use of different classic and innovative techniques as well as his unique integration of physical and spiritual dimensions. Although his work hangs in public and private collections around the world, ELEMENTAL marks the first published collections of Vann’s art, making the book itself an instant collector’s item.
Aberjhani, also a native of Savannah, is the author of several books, including: ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE; THE WISDOM OF W. E. B. DU BOIS; I MADE MY BOY OUT OF POETRY; and STRENGTH TO CARRY ON.
ELEMENTAL contains more than 50 reproductions of Vann’s art dating from the 1970s to the present. Like a number of other modern artists, Vann’s work celebrates such public ventures as New York City neighborhoods and black southern culture. However, Vann moves beyond these realms to capture the vitality and relevance of our inner selves. His powerful mapping of dreamscapes, subconscious intention, and spiritual transcendence has prompted comparison to such masters as El Greco, Michelangelo, and Salvadore Dali. At the same time, critics recognize his vision as solely his own.
--from PAINT MAGAZINE
Over time, Luther E. Vann’s work has evolved and changed. His early images are metaphysical, peopled with creatures and images that evoke the mystical and haunt the soul. After Vann returned to Savannah, his work began to represent the people he saw around him. He believes everyone on earth is imbued with spirituality and the mystical, and presents them as such…
The result is ELEMENTAL [The Power of Illuminated Love], a volume with more than 60 reproductions of Vann’s art dating from the 1970s to the present, and about 50 poems composed by Aberjhani, many specifically for the book.
--from CONNECT SAVANNAH
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Reader Reviews for "Elemental: The Power of Illuminated Love"
|Reviewed by Miriam Center
|The beautiful book graces the coffee table my living room, which displays on its walls other great artists I have known and admired. My life is enriched and surrounded by beauty of colors and words by Luther and Aberjhani|
|Reviewed by M. B.
|Oh goody, another masterpiece to add to my growing Soulsinger collection.
I reiterate Nordette's review, especially since the last two books I've read of yours, The Encyclopedia of HR and The Wisdom of WEB DuBois, both, are integral contributions to accurately documenting the history and growth of Black America specifically and its influence on American culture in general.
I have no doubt, in turn, ELEMENTAL will also be an integral contribution to the cultural and Arts communities throughout the world. This is not to mention my anticipation in reading your poetry which always inspires me to higher creative visions.
I am off to order my copy.
|Reviewed by Nordette Adams
|Aberjhani, congratulations to you and Luther E. Vann on the release of ELEMENTAL. The book is an important contribution to the Arts community, the documentation of a rich American culture, humanity's spiritual journey, and the global village. I look forward to owning a copy. ~~Nordette|