The Art of Home Care
by Chenoa Baker
“To enter black homes in my childhood was to enter a world that valued the visual, that asserted our collective will to participate in a non-institutionalized curatorial process” –bell hooks, Art on My Mind, 61.
The Black home is a place where creative décor meets resistance. My parents willfully curated my childhood home. It was full of celestial Black angels, ceramics my mother made, Spike Lee movie posters, a print of Ellis Wilson’s Funeral Procession popularized by The Cosby Show, paintings, African masks, multicolored baskets, pictures of family, and positive quotes—these were my “snapshots” of Black family life. This practice informs my aesthetic choices and proclivity towards art and ephemera collection.
COVID-19 forces us to reimagine the home space. During the present circumstances, the home transforms into a work space, an entertainment space, and most importantly, a place of refuge and healing. If nowhere else, my family instilled that the home is a place of affirmation, comfort, and wholeness. I encourage that you curate your household with the same intentionality, especially during this time. The best part is you do not have to be an established collector to be a part of this process but rather a budding Black aesthetician.
Artwork fosters wellbeing when a viewer admires its visual qualities, as it can ground them when facing anxiety and lift their spirits during bouts of depression. Art improves mood, helps to cope with racial trauma, and produces joy. Here is a selection of available artworks that showcase the essence of beauty and triumph in the home:
Hyperallergic calls Mayhew’s work timely because it is “as if [he was] anticipating a time when people would be sheltering inside, yearning for nature and an escape from the news of the day.” It certainly has a transcendental, rich, smooth, and vibrant quality that calls us out of the home and into nature-induced reverie. The abstract landscape provokes positivity and fits in the home décor for any season because of its color scheme and effective pairing with other works of art.
James Taylor painted in watercolors to conjure healing, “the spirit of the people he encountered,” and nature scenes while coping with an illness. Quite literally, Taylor incorporates his own healing process and expression in his artwork. Still Life exudes freshness, nature, and the fluidity of the organic form. Viewing it reminds me of a great summer day with fresh floral essences. Though winter and quarantines are upon us, it reminds us of growth and progress in nature. The wonderful quality of this painting makes it like a vase of fresh flowers that never die, but become immortal.
Love is a great aura to invoke in household curation. Black love is beautiful and motivating. The complimentary colors of the figures emphasize them in the work and showcase how they lean into each other. Love and community have to do with leaning in, albeit not always literally during social distancing, but metaphorically. Ann Tanksley was an illuminous storyteller through her artwork. The story of love she shares in this work is palpable and its curvilinear lines are soothing. This, along with the other artworks, offers a daily dose of healing through its visual components.
Elizabeth Catlett’s Sharecropper embodies a survival spirit engendered by ancestral power. Our communities have always found a way to adapt, overcome, and preserve in adverse circumstances. This is the transforming power of the image. The woman in the print looks away from the viewer upward and peripherally while envisioning a goal she is pressing towards. This aspirational print is an amalgamation of the past, present, and future as we represent our ancestors’ wildest dreams. It can be displayed next to your vision board or wherever you see fit.
Using the same terms as hooks, the curatorial process and stewardship of home items as snapshots of black life allows us to remember and embrace Black life. Even the great playright, August Wilson, said in The Ground On Which I Stand, “ [A Black person] could create art that was functional and that furnished him with a spiritual temperament necessary for his survival.” While he was referencing plays, visual art and curation are a part of the tradition. It carries on the practice of a people whose domestic sphere was the only place of control. As the home becomes our central place of operation, it is imperative we claim this terrain by ushering in love, joy, and peace through curation. A great way to do so is by intentionally collecting art and purposefully curating spaces that inspire and motivate us during this tumultuous time. Shop BAIA offers a great selection of paintings, exhibition posters, gallery merchandise, and a variety of garden decorations available to you for this purpose.
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Chenoa Baker is an emerging curator and arts journalist. She provides curating, advertising, employing Google data analytics in her blog content, and research services. Her educational background in Cultural Studies, Art History, and Museum Studies from Chatham University provides a broad base from which to approach collection stewardship and visual critical studies from a critical race methodology. Her writing skills may be confirmed on Sugarcane Magazine, Pulse@ChathamU, and other publications. She especially enjoys exploring the intersection of art, race, and psychology in her work. You may learn more about her services on LinkedIn, Instagram, or by contacting her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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