Reasons for Joy and Reflection
Dear Friends of HRM,
As we round the corner of another year, and especially a year like 2021, it is worthwhile to take the opportunity to appreciate the people, places, and experiences that lift us up and fill us with positive anticipation.
These do not need to be big, extravagant affairs. For me, it’s exhilarating to witness people experiencing artworks in person, some seeing an object for the first time, others being reacquainted with a painting or sculpture that feels like a dear friend. Those interactions have a lasting impact on our work at the Museum, and help us deepen our understanding and plans for the future.
Portrait of the Black Madonna by Benny Andrews, on view in African American Art in the 20th Century, is one such revelatory work. At quick glance, this portrait seems to be a straightforward painted image of a woman. Looking closely however, we see that her arms, the shawl around her shoulders, and the flowers are formed of pieces of painted cloth. The spout of the coffee pot is three-dimensional—Andrews worked in a scrap of fabric around a piece of wood. A small zipper confirms that the fabric was cut from a discarded item of clothing. The collaged elements—a hallmark of Andrews’ work—give subtle dimension and tactile reality to this scene of great expectation.
Portrait of the Black Madonna is a picture of a woman awaiting the birth of her child. She possesses the strength, reflection, and resilience of women everywhere who face the joys, as well as the responsibilities and uncertainties, of parenthood. Though she cannot possibly possess all the answers at this moment, she will go forward with great care and will learn and grow with each new experience.
I hope that during this holiday season you and those dear to you can take some time to reflect on those quieter moments of revelation and promise, and appreciate the importance of connection and community.
Best wishes for a joyous holiday and a healthy new year together,
Director and CEO
Benny Andrews, Portrait of the Black Madonna, 1987. Oil and collage on canvas. Collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Gift of the Andrews Humphrey Family Foundation, 2012.3.2. © 2021 Estate of Benny Andrews / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY, Courtesy Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York, NY.