Curator’s Corner – June 2019

New Exhibits Celebrate African Heritage

One of the things I love most about art is that “wow moment” when you first see a work you really connect with; that is how I felt when I first saw artist Sharon Kerry-Harlan’s art quilts.

Raised in Hollywood, Florida, Kerry-Harlan studied at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and growing up was heavily influenced by the paper and fabric collages created by her uncle, who worked as a graphic artist. One of the first things that drew me to Kerry-Harlan’s pieces was the colors—a striking black-on-brown color scheme filled with amazing designs and faces–lots of wonderful, expressive faces. Her large textiles are so stunning and dramatic, in part, because they are heavily patterned with scarcely any empty space (called negative space in the art world). The abundance of design can make the viewer think of a rushing, bustling city full of people and excitement so it’s no surprise that the show is named Urban Chatter.

Even though they are very modern, Kerry-Harlan’s art quilts have firm footing in history and heritage because they are influenced by traditional mud cloth, which is cotton fabric dyed with fermented mud that has been created in the African country of Mali for centuries. Also, many of the patterned images on her pieces are reminiscent of cowrie shells, cloth and body painting motifs, and the decorative patterns seen on dwellings, further tying them to African traditions.   

In addition to beautiful art quilts on view at the Appleton, photographer Stephanie Brown’s terrific work Do Not Bleach is also featured. Created to promote melanin positivity, the installation features Brown’s color photographs of people wearing her signature Do Not Bleach T-shirt.  The photos are wonderfully moving because they show black people of all ages and skin tones showing pride and delight in being and looking like exactly who they are. Included in Brown’s conceptual installation are multi-hued soaps referencing Rihanna’s “Fenty” makeup line and an interactive selfie area where visitors can try on the signature T-shirt and pose for photos—thereby becoming part of the art themselves.

Both exhibitions are on view from June 8-October 20, 2019, and we invite you to our opening reception from 5-6pm and to participate in our Spoken Word event from 6-7pm on June 8.

Learn more › Appleton Museum of Art › 4333 E Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala › www.appletonmuseum.org(352) 291-4455


A former professional archaeologist, Patricia Tomlinson joined the Appleton Museum of Art as Curator of Exhibitions in 2016 after having served as curatorial staff in the New World Department at the Denver Art Museum for eight years.

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