Visions of History and Culture

By Jazelle Artman

The Judith Rae Solomon Gallery, located in Bliss Hall, is currently showing two exhibitions to commemorate Black History Month as well as Women’s History Month. 

The 16th annual African American History exhibition is on display until Feb. 23 within the gallery.

Samuel Adu-Poku, a Youngstown State University art professor, has been curating the annual exhibition for the past fifteen years. Adu-Poku said the artwork is unique because it’s a wooden collection from an ethnic group called The Makonde. 

“The Makonde is an ethnic group that resides in the South Eastern part of Africa. The Makonde sculptures are distinct from the other sculptures from the western part of Africa,” Adu-Poku said. “This is the first time we excavated artifacts that are solely wood carvings from Africa … These artifacts are traditional. They’re very indigenous, some of them have been used for rituals and ceremonies.”

In past years, Adu-Poku picked national artists to be featured. However, Adu-Poku said a member within the Youngstown community named Tazim Jaffer has donated these artifacts to the university. 

“She [and her husband] have recently retired. When they retired, they felt that Youngstown had been so kind to them that they [wanted to] donate these artifacts to Youngstown State University,” Adu-Poku said. 

Adu-Poku said Jaffer has shed light on the importance and value of the Makonde sculptures. 

“This show has opened our eyes. They have made these sculptures beyond just the tourist aspect of it,” Adu-Poku said. 

A new exhibition will soon be on display from Feb. 27 to March 30 featuring artist Carolina Alamilla to celebrate Women’s History Month. 

Claudia Berlinski, director of the McDonough Museum of Art, said she wanted to curate a fun and silly exhibition to brighten up the winter months.

“I now have the opportunity to schedule where there [have been] holes in the calendar and I thought, ‘We have done Black History Month, we’ve done Hispanic Heritage Month, and why not do a Women’s History Month exhibition?” Berlinski said. 

Berlinski said Alamilla uses nostalgia from her life in order to create her artwork. 

“This exhibition will feature some sculptural pieces that imitate a poolside area and fun photos of her wearing bathing caps. Just sort of silliness,” Berlinski said. “Alamilla deals a little bit with fantasy. She sort of takes nostalgia from her life, events that have happened, objects and she renders them useless. There’s a little bit of fantasy and fun.”

Berlinski said she discovered Alamilla by reading local, daily newsletters. 

“I get a newsletter from Pittsburgh city paper, which has a lot of articles about artists. There was a little story there about how she was projecting a video onto her apartment window … so people could see this artwork from the street as they’re walking by it at night. I thought that was really fun and interesting,” Berlinski said.

The Judith Rae Solomon Gallery is available for viewing Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the first floor of Bliss Hall.