By Matthew Pitcher
In honor of Black History Month, the Gallery at SUNY Broome is presenting “ORIGINS: Traditions of African Art.” The Bundy Museum in Binghamton generously made items from its private collection available to the college. Library archivist Robin Valashinas, assisted by several students, selected approximately three dozen pieces from Mali, Cameroon, Burkina Faso and Congo, and the finished display is nothing less than amazing.
As one of Valashinas’ assistants, I have been in and out of this exhibit at least a dozen times since it opened earlier this month. I’m always surprised by the lack of visitors to the gallery. My fellow students are missing out on the chance to see art in person. No pixilated image can compare to the real thing.
African art encourages movement around it and is full of mystery. There is a balanced array of pieces around the room, each highly individualized. Some are carved in wood; others are made of metal. I’m instantly drawn to a wooden carving of a tall, slender women with a pot on her head. She stands as tall as me (about 6 feet).
Another standout in the show is the set of masks hanging from the ceiling. One can only imagine the stories behind each piece. How and when was each used? What spiritual energies are connected with them? Who wore such things? I could admire the craftsmanship for hours.
Pedestals showcase highly decorated pieces around the middle of the exhibit. Art varies from culture to culture and what is presented here may not even be considered art in the creators’ eyes. Nonetheless, from a western perspective, the pieces are breathtaking.
Overall, this exhibit, which is open to the public, is a “must see.” Unfortunately, it will only be on display until March 1.To get an idea of what is on display, here is a link to a video prepared by the college’s marketing and communications department:
Editor’s Note: Three SUNY Broome students — Pitcher, Alanna De La Cruz and Miranda Buckland — helped select the pieces from the Bundy collection. Pitcher, a second-year liberal arts major who heads the campus Art Club, recently joined the BAMirror staff to write about visual arts.