Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Phoebe Beasley Daybreak in Alabama
Phoebe Beasley completed a collaboration with Dr. Maya Angelou in which she created several striking collage-like color silkscreen prints from poems by Langston Hughes for a limited edition portfolio and book. Dr. Angelou selected the poems and titled the masterful compilation, Sunrise is Coming After While.
The beauty of Beasley's work, lies in its truth. Her paintings tell stories about the lives of real people: the frailty of old age, the plight of the underclass, moments of intimacy, love, humor. Her work was described as "a visual facet of humanism," quoted in the Chicago Defender. "You have to subordinate emotion to good composition," Beasley described her approach to the Atlanta Constitution. "You try to put history in it but you need the composition, too."
Beasley's work is known worldwide and was showcased at the Holler Museum in Bonn, West Germany. Her work also appeared at the Eva Dorong Gallery in West Hollywood, California, the Phoenix Arts Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia, Howard University Museum of African-American Art, Artis Lane Gallery, American Telephone and Telegraph Exhibit and the Gallery/Tanner In addition, she has an impressive list of celebrity collectors, including Maya Angelou, Bill Russell, Oprah Winfrey, Ron and Charlayne Hunter Gault, Gordon Parks, and Marla Gibbs.
Among her many accomplishments, Ms. Beasley is the only artist to receive two Presidential Seals on her artwork, one from President Bush in 1989, and from President Clinton in 1993.  She was also honored by the State Department for her participation in the Arts in Embassies Program, and has been featured in many solo and group exhibitions in the United States, including a show mounted by the Smithsonian Institution entitled, In The Spirit of Martin, honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Langston Hughes, more than any other black poet or writer, recorded faithfully the nuances of black life and its frustrations. Although Hughes had trouble with both black and white critics, he was the first black American to earn his living solely from his writing and public lectures. Part of the reason he was able to do this was the phenomenal acceptance and love he received from average black people. A reviewer for Black World noted in 1970: "Those whose prerogative it is to determine the rank of writers have never rated him highly, but if the weight of public response is any gauge then Langston Hughes stands at the apex of literary relevance among Black people. The poet occupies such a position in the memory of his people precisely because he recognized that 'we possess within ourselves a great reservoir of physical and spiritual strength,' and because he used his artistry to reflect this back to the people. He used his poetry and prose to illustrate that 'there is no lack within the Negro people of beauty, strength and power,' and he chose to do so on their own level, on their own terms." 

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