Varied Works, Brenda Howell

My fellow Artessa artists have held me up
Made me laugh (a lot) AND
Made me get my butt in the studio
They’ve really helped me stay sane
I hope that everyone has had one special person or better yet a group of special someone’s to help them get thru our incredibly trying times.

My two pieces in the show, Gris Gris and The Black Atlantic, reflect MY ancestory and cultural heritage, my interest in all forms spiritual expression, my love of vintage photographs as well as my obsession with anything old, rusty, discarded or unloved.

Gris Gris

Gris Gris is an African word defined as an amulet, or small piece of jewelry that is believed to bring protection or good luck against danger, evil or disease.
I envisioned my sculpture to be something like a cross between a native American dream catcher and an African fetish object

I made this sculpture while mourning the lives of black males throughout the history of the US and specifically this past year


The Black Atlantic

The Black Atlantic is an encaustic mixed media painting about the Middle Passage, the forced voyage of enslaved Africans to the Americas

I was heavily influenced by a 19th century painting by JW Turner titled SLAVERS THROWING OVERBOARD THE DEAD AND THE DYING—TYPHOON COMING ON. I first saw this painting in college in an art history class.
Slavers did not collect insurance money if the slaves died of natural causes during the voyage….
In order to recoup their investment
slavers threw living human beings …men women and children overboard.
I wondered…..What If these men, women and children had lived?
What did the world lose because of this horrifying practice.
What would they have contributed?
AND a bit of fantastical thinking…..
What if they were able to survive their watery grave and and form their own underwater world in the Atlantic….. the myth of Black Atlantis?
If you look closely at the bottom 3rd of the painting there are collaged vintage photos of African Americans as they might have lived in Black Atlantis or the United States of America.

My heritage is a constant theme in my art, it fuels my creativity and reminds me that I’m a part of a much larger narrative.

Brenda Howell, The Black Atlantic

The Black Atlantic, 24″ X 36″, Encaustic on panel