Tuesday, June 2, 2015

TRANSITION: Lady Bird Strickland (1926 - 2015)

Lady Bird Strickand. Image via Facebook.

Artist who felt calling to paint black heroes is dead at 88

BlackArtistNews | June 2, 2015

BlackArtistNews has learned of the passing of artist Lady Bird Strickland. The announcement was made today through the Instagram feed of her daughter, legendary fashion icon Pat Cleveland:

“My mom Lady Bird the artist just passed away in peace at 88. God bless her for all her talents.”

No other details were available at the time of this post.

I have this to share about Miss Strickland:

In early 2013, I was fortunate to see an exhibition of her paintings at the Warden’s House Gallery in Mount Holly, NJ.

A decent number of Strickland’s representational works filled five small rooms on two levels of the gallery space. I wanted to document my visit but photography of the artwork was not permitted. The policy annoyed me, but in hindsight, it turned out to be a blessing: it allowed me to study -- even absorb -- the work with deeply committed engagement.

I admired the light and graceful impact of the paintings. They were uplifting. Even Strickland’s compositions on the indignities of American slavery possessed a noble quality.

How can that be?

There’s nothing “noble” about slavery.

I know that.

For me, the paintings were noble in idea and execution.

Strickland’s use of soft, controlled brushstrokes personified the “romantic” notion of the South, but as your eyes read the canvas, you realize the intent of the work is to expose the horrific reality of antebellum south, not romanticize it.

That’s some real black history.  

This realization was a way more powerful take away than any installation photograph I would have taken.

The gallery attendant told me that it was Lady Bird Strickland’s dream to have one of her paintings added to the permanent collection of the Smithsonian.

Truth be told, she deserves that and much, much more.

I hope that dream is realized because Americans will benefit from the valuable history lessons embedded in her work.

I know I have.

Lady Bird Strickland and her daughter Pat Cleveland photographed by Carl Van Vechten

1 comment:

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