Art in Conversation: Dr. Kathryn Takara on 30 Americans

Arminda Gandara, HoMA Public Programs Manager:

Welcome to Art in Conversation. Dr. Kathryn Takara is an award-winning poet and scholar. Dr. Takara speaks on the expensive power of Black art in exhibition 30 Americans located in Galleries 27 and 28.


Dr. Kathryn Takara:

Art is a creative, stimulating, transformer. It engages diverse groups in a variety of open and contained spaces. It is a provocateur to seeing and feeling out of the box. It can be concrete or abstract. It can reflect interpretations of identity, cultural heritage and even politics. Art reflects beauty and disharmony of the worlds visible and invisible, of struggles sometimes between good and evil. Art imitates life and evokes new ways of seeing. Art is the teacher, a storyteller of heroes, diverse values. It creates growth. Art is relational between the artist, the subject, and the audience. It is a mirror of the heart, soul, vision, and interpretation of the world by the artist. Art connects the emotional, the physical, the instinctive and the intellectual parts of one’s self. It interconnects cultural, historical, and metaphysical ideas through the vision of the artist. Art touches and awakens different levels of being. It provides psychological openings to doors of harmonies and conflicts. Its influences are cross cultural.


Black art is a necessary part of American and global art and culture. It has expressionism and influences which I will talk about. Some of the influences of old African American art and new art is Africa, the Pan African movement, the Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights, the community, the family, the church, its often gendered. It can reflect folk lore and storytelling. It can be multimedia or not. It can be temporary, abstract, like street art, like rap, hip hop and graffiti and performance. It can be multi or mixed media using collage. Or detailed focused on one object, like a person.  On nature, like a huge watermelon. Music, dance, movement, even the minstrels come into Black Art, with a different perspective, a different historical perspective.


Black art includes the ordinary and extraordinary representations of nature and spirit. It expresses through movement, colors, stylized forms. Black art is often a political critique of society. It can be provisional, like jazz, reflecting different tones and moods. But it is grounded in tradition. A tradition of love, community, and survival. These rifts of originality, imagination, and new portrayal of forms can be decorative. Beads, sequence, carvings, cut outs, traditional oils, acrylics, but most often it reflects colorful juxtapositions. Black art offers new paradigms and new uses of dominant familiar subjects. New materials, space, use of space, and creation of new forms, sometimes distorted. It is interrupted through the lens of one’s own experience, community experience, or identity and relations. So therefore, I would call this exhibit and many Black exhibits a kind of Afro-Futurism. That seems to be the new construct that we in our community use and it is a kind of a label for continuing thread of black artistic expression, Afro Futurism. It goes from weeds to trees from faces to forms from community to world views. Across class lines. Includes tenements, and the ordinary, and the elite. It spans from urban to rural, from the individual to group.


Art soars, flies, leaves the trail of new paradigms and perspective, be them large or small views of the world or the human or the inner. But art invites participation, it evokes openness, and activism. It inspires the willingness to go beyond the usual correspondences, the usual understandings. Art deepens knowledge and our understanding of the world and the people in it as it offers new models of society and community. New models of human expression. New models of the cosmological universe. Black Art moves from the under belly of human experience to divine sanctions. It reflects thought and vision, emotions, the physicality of place, of people, all the realms to fantasy. Black Art creates footprints on the mind, heart, and spirit and I would say adventure. Art gives wings to new countries. New histories, new traditions, visions and interruptions. New reality. Art is a door to freedom.