by Gina McKlveen
A line of passengers waiting by the bus stop along Liberty Avenue chatter amongst themselves or stare at their phones, meanwhile behind them at The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s 820 Liberty Avenue gallery, BOOM Concepts presents a visual conversation with ceramic, photographic, illustrated, painted, fiber and videographic works in an exhibit titled BLACK ON BLACK LOVE. The exhibit is designed to be a multidisciplinary survey of different expressions of Black love and how its force is expressed within and amongst the Black Community.
The title of the exhibit pays homage to Queen Latifiah’s song with the same name. Within the center, or heart, of the exhibit is a portrait of the artist’s mother with a quote of another ‘queen’ who has exemplified Black love through the arts and music in Pittsburgh–Jacques Mae, a Pittsburgh native and international singer, actress, artist, activist, business owner, and teacher. Mae’s inspirational words, “Her love is so sweet so powerful like thunder yet soft like spring’s rain,” are written to the left of a black and white rendering of the artist’s mother. The artist, Camerin “Camo” Nesbit, stylistically and intentionally chose to outline his mother’s portrait with gold paint, emphasizing the silhouette of her hair which gives his mother a regal presence like that of Queen Latifiah.
Jacques Mae is also an art royal in the Pittsburgh community. She is integrally involved in several local arts organizations and efforts including Assemble, a Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (S.T.E.A.M.) nonprofit organization based in Pittsburgh’s Friendship, Garfield, and Bloomfield neighborhoods. Using her well-versed vocal background, she has also served as a teaching artist at 1Hood Media and The Corner Pittsburgh, inspiring the next generation to use their voices in art and advocacy.
On the wall opposite of Camo’s portrait of his mother is a nearly 20-minute videographic art display by KINSELLAND, a husband-and-wife visual retelling of their love story. Through poems, spoken words and visual imagery, viewers are welcomed into intimate settings and storytelling. The pair of headsets help make the experience more intimate between listeners and the artists, closing off the sounds of the external world, but allowing each one to perceive their own experience with their own ears.
Over the shoulders of these two displays are a pair of dangling jackets and hanging prints by the artist, Sakony Burton. The back of the matching jackets have embroidered letters with the same phrase that reads: “I CAN ALWAYS BE MYSELF WHEN YOU’RE AROUND.” A welcoming phrase that allows any viewer below to be themselves in this space, to explore the depths of the love the artists here have sought to portray.
Other works featured in the exhibit are those of artists Norman Brown, Dominick Mcduffie, KINSELLAND, atiya jones, Staycee Pearl, Junyetta Seale, and Marce’ Nixon Washington.
“Black on Black Love” runs from now until January 8, 2023. Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s 820 Gallery, 820 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. For more information click here.