The walls of the Haley Gallery in fall 2020 were transformed into enormous canvases for the exhibition On the Wall, which included murals by Amanda Jane Burk, Shanequa Gay, David Hale and Chris Johnson.
Complementing the murals were paintings by Sarah Emerson from her O, Smithereens series. On the Wall opened Nov 3, 2020 and continues through Feb 19, 2021.
“Wall painting has been central to culture and environment from the beginnings of human civilization,” AMA Guest Curator Didi Dunphy said, adding she wanted to acknowledge and show respect for the Muscogee Creek people who are native to Southwest Georgia.
“Murals reflect the place and people a piece of their story, images of the now and here,” Dunphy said. “Not lasting, still and unmovable monuments, murals express this moment and how we got to this place in this time through dynamic artist interpretation. These works in the galleries are grand endeavors and temporal. How wondrous it is that we can contemplate this scale, color, image and subject.”
Gay’s mural, titled Uninterrupted, I Can Give Birth Over and Over and Over Again, is a giant Rorschach Test with repeated images of a woman, evoking thoughts of reproduction and repetition.
“The piece is basically about creation and time, and the ability to give birth,” Gay, a multimedia artist from Atlanta, said. “I’m interested in old world, antiquated thought processes. I borrowed from the indigenous mindset of ‘all are thou,’ meaning animals and women are just as holy as men, and the thought process that creation can repeat itself over and over again, that we’re constantly in a process of giving birth and time is continuing and circular.”
Gay said she related those ideas “through the Rorschach Test in which you may see things that someone else may not see. The way black women have been perceived through mainstream media, I’m looking for ways to create counter narratives to that.
Johnson, a mural painter from Columbus who is an associate professor of art at Andrew College in Cuthbert, has created more than two dozen murals, including the one on Lincoln Elementary Magnet School in Albany that was made possible through a Vibrant Communities Grant the AMA received from the Georgia Council for the Arts. He created a large Albany “postcard” that highlights the community’s roots in the river system, as well as Albany’s history.
“I reflected on my time in Albany when I was young and growing up,” Johnson said. “I lived on the Marine Corps base, and they have this great wildlife refuge. I spent hours and hours each day out there. This is based on the river, which is a huge part of the identity of Albany. I picked animals and things that are around the river and the wildlife refuge on the Marine Corps base, and the postcard is filled with historical figures, places of importance and cultural icons from Albany.
Amanda Jane Burk
Burk, a printmaker who lives and works in Athens, focused on idioms and colloquialisms in her mural, which is reminiscent of the marks she makes when creating a woodcut print. “I liked the idea of making a mural that had the mark making of my printmaking,” she said. “A lot of my printmaking is very graphic in nature, almost posterized, because I do a lot of screen-printing, but also a lot of relief printing and woodcut printing.”
“I became kind of obsessed with the idea that they (the idioms) are so commonplace that people don’t finish the whole phrase anymore. I decided to illustrate the idioms. I had a list and narrowed it down to the few I put in this mural. What I find interesting about idioms is they are very visual. If you had to learn the English language and you came across an idiom, I would think it would be difficult to understand the meaning behind it. The meaning is not the same as what’s implied.
Hale’s work—a massive and colorful stylized alligator—brings to mind Native American art with its vibrant colors while also focusing on a creature that is native to the Flint River eco-system.
Hale and his family reside in a creek-side cottage at Athens, where he and his family—Love Hawk—engage in creating art.
The exhibition includes seven paintings by Sarah Emerson, an Atlanta artist who teaches at Agnes Scott College in Decatur.
”Emerson’s works dive into contemporary landscape and how it is transformed by human intervention and natural phenomenon,” Dunphy noted. “Each painting abandons the peaceful landscape horizon in order to reassemble eco debris detached from any stable ground. These highly stylized paintings contain images of mud and pollutant spills, flowers, smoke, disembodied eyes, and limbs that jut out from the clouds of dust and destruction.
“Emerson’s camouflage of beautiful colors explores themes that reflect on the fragility of life, the futility of earthly pleasures, and the disintegration of our natural landscape.”