Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Beauty and the Beast

JoAnne McFarland: Still-ed Life: Tamir Rice

I was visiting JoAnne McFarland recently before an open studio in her Gowanus studio in Brooklyn. Two walls were filled with uniformly sized cards-- they were her "race cards" and  "woman cards."  JoAnne is a published poet as well as an accomplished artist and these cards play with words as well as imagery. These powerful works of art are painted, collaged or stenciled, many with with words or phrases sewn on with beads. They are provocative, sometimes very direct and other times more subtle. Check out JoAnne's website here for more about her art.  

JoAnne McFarland: Still-ed Life, Michael Brown

As I took it all in I noticed this small 5" square painting of an artichoke. It seemed an anomaly at first, unrelated to the rest of the work. The colors and construction of the split flower/fruit were simply lovely and as I drew nearer I noticed the pale stenciled word: Tamir.  JoAnne then pointed out the second part of the name "Rice" painted on the wall outside the frame of the painting. Tamir Rice was the young 12 year old boy who was shot to death several years ago by police who were responding to a report of a man with a gun. Tamir had been playing with a toy pellet gun. 

JoAnne McFarland: Still-ed Life Amadou Diallo

JoAnne's art does this sleight of hand. Like a hammer cloaked in velvet or a filigreed but lethal letter opener, she draws us in with beauty, wit and wordplay and then tells a story of pain, death, abuse and loss. Her work embodies the idea that incredible beauty and unimaginable suffering often co-exist in an intense spiral: greed and grace, virtue and vindictiveness. JoAnne's work pierces the heart with stories of cruelty and injustice, but the understated narrative is the indomitable will to survive by wresting joy and beauty from  bitter soil.

 JoAnne McFarland: A Woman of Color