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Black Appalachia: African American Art in Northeast TN at Tipton Gallery
Start Date: 8/12/2017Start Time: 3:00 PM
End Date: 8/12/2017End Time: 7:00 PM

Event Description:

The Slocumb Galleries and ETSU Department of Art & Design in partnership with the Multicultural Center, the Alfonso Family Art Collection and the Tennessee Arts Commission through the Arts Build Communities (ABC) grant and the First TN Development District proudly presents ‘Black Appalachia: African American Art in Northeast Tennessee’ from August 4 to 28, 2017, at the Tipton Gallery in Downtown Johnson City. The public is invited to view the exhibition during the reception on First Friday, August 4th from 6 to 8 p.m., and during the Little Chicago Festival on August 11 and 12, Friday and Saturday from 3 to 7 p.m.

The exhibition features work by Northeast Tennessee artists Jonathan Adams, Kelsie Dulaney-Hayworth, V. Kelsey Ellis, and Shalam Minter, Calvin Nicely, and Lydia Wilson, with special feature of work by legendary African American artists Sammie Nicely+, and Bessie Harvey from the collection of art benefactors Bob & Martha and Allison Alfonso. The exhibition celebrates diversity in the Appalachian region, with focus on artists with African American and South Asian descent whose work in contemporary art explore the nuanced issues of identity, beauty and the reinvestigation of racial history.

Sammie Nicely+, one of the most prominent African American artists from the region, founder of the African Appalachia was originally from Morristown. His work in ceramics and mixed media masks are reminiscent of tribal communities, with use of diverse media that provide very contemporary and innovative in forms.  In parallel, Bessie Harvey, one of the most famous Tennessee folk artists (she migrated from Georgia to Alcoa, TN) employed found materials in her deeply spiritual and nature-inspired sculptures. Both Harvey and Nicely are considered the stalwarts of African Appalachian visual art. Continuing these creative traditions are Johnson City-based Lydia Wilson who also works predominantly on mixed media sculptured ‘dolls’ informed by racial history and spiritual texts, and Sammie’s nephew, glass artist Calvin Nicely, who forges his own path in similar yet distinct expressions; both ‘heirs’ continuing the important legacy of visualizing the African Appalachian heritage.

Younger generation, and emerging ‘black’ Tennessee artists include Jonathan Adams, whose ink drawings of figures and warriors from his series ‘Reactions to Innate Stimuli’, are large-scale works on paper of figures and warriors as visual response to everyday stimuli, filtered through the lens of history with embellishment of theatricality and pop culture. Strong visual work about beauty, and hybrid cultural identity are further reexamined by female artists Shalam Minter, Kelsie Dulaney-Hayworth and V. Kelsey Ellis in their own distinct ways. Minter is a metalsmith and mixed media sculptor whose work on life-sized female busts are distinctly characterized by its ‘colored’, bald figures with parched, earthen skin. Her body of work illustrates the third person narrative of her observations, feelings and contemplations, as a woman of color. Dulaney-Hayworth is a fiber artists from Kingsport whose contemporary quilts utilizes digital imaging to explore issues of personal identity and cultural ambiguity, while Ellis’ installation series entitled Danae are mixed media collages that explores ideas of, and redefinition of beauty, as it reveals itself in various forms. Minter, Dulaney-Hayworth and Adams, all received their Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), and Ellis conferred with Master of Fine Arts (MFA) from the Department of Art & Design, at East Tennessee State University.

This exhibition is in support of the effort to promote the Northeast Tennessee Arts and Cultural Alliance, a collaborative effort by regional artists, art groups with the Tennessee Arts Commission, the Tennessean for the Arts and First TN Development District, and inspired by the Umoja Festival to foster and promote African American culture in the region.

The Tipton Gallery is located at 126 Spring St., Downtown Johnson City, open on receptions from 6 to 8 p.m., Fridays from 5 to 7 p.m., Little Chicago Festival from 3 to 7 p.m., and by appointment. For more information, contact Slocumb Galleries’ Director Karlota Contreras-Koterbay via email or call/text 423.483.3179. Parking and handicapped access are available. Please visit the ETSU PlanIt Calendar under Exhibitions or for event updates.

Location Information:
Tri-Cities/Community - Tipton Gallery
Contact Information:
Name: Karlota Contreras-Koterbay
Phone: 423.483.3179
Rumination by Shalam Minter
Web Address (URL):

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