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Saturday, May 7, 2016

Melancholy, Sorrow, and Joy - Part 2

Last week, I shared comments by two individuals on the range of emotions expressed in Beauford's art:

We might talk about the way a canvas painted by Beauford could imperceptibly take you through all the colors of the prism and express all the possible nuances from deep sorrow to exhilarating joy, from the indelible sadness of the flowery wallpaper of a cheap hotel room to a whirlwind of bright and vivid colors, the large solar festival promised to the blessed of all religions and faiths.

- Marc Albert-Levin, art critic

...I am drawn to Beauford's colors--something seems so melancholy, yet on the verge of joy.

- Cary Alan Johnson, writer and human rights consultant

I then presented images from the recent Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color exhibition that I believe many people would interpret as joyous.

Today, I'm presenting images of works from the exhibition that could be interpreted as representing melancholy or sorrow.

(1961) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

The palette that Beauford chose for the muddy-colored, untitled painting above is quite atypical of his work. Dark greens with numerous touches of grays, browns, and black mostly obscure a yellow background with a few orange-red highlights. For me, this conjures feelings of turbulent melancholy.

(1961) Mixed media on paper
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Beauford used bold and vibrant colors for the mixed media work shown above. For me, it evokes a storm, perhaps even a storm at sea. Cobalt to midnight blue bands at the top, middle, and bottom of the painting could represent sadness, and the acid yellow-green zigzags bring to mind frayed nerves superimposed on persistent melancholy.

Beauford created both of these works in 1961. We know that this was a particularly stressful year for him - as early as March, he wrote to his brother, Joseph, to say that
However sad at times we might be we have come through great trials and tribulations but must never lose sight of our sainted parents and God's great gifts...

As for the latter part of the year, he spent much of it in hospitals in Greece and in Paris due to a mental breakdown, including two suicide attempts, as well as severe liver and kidney problems.

(undated) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

One of the most intriguing works from the exhibition is Beauford's undated self-portrait. More than one person visiting the exhibition commented that his head appears to emerge from a planter, an urn, or a cooking pot. I find his expression to be haunted, but others commented that his eyes appear to be wide with amazement or casting a piercing glance.

And I wonder why Beauford chose green as the predominant color for his skin tone. I thought the color might reflect physical illness or mental unease, but an artist friend of Beauford found it to be beautiful and not at all disturbing.

I welcome your comments on these works and those from Part 1 of this post. What emotions do you see in them? What emotions do they stir in you?

Video of Beauford Delaney art exhibition!

Because of the tremendous success of the Beauford Delaney: Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color exhibition held at Columbia Global Centers | Paris (February 4-March 15, 2016), Les Amis and the Wells International Foundation (WIF) are creating a video documentary of the show and the associated cultural and educational programs. We plan to use this documentary to encourage U.S. and European museums to host the exhibition.


To contribute to the production of the video, click HERE.

To sign-up to receive the latest behind-the-scenes news about the show, click HERE.

1 comment:

Teri said...

When I saw the self portrait emerging from an urn, I instantly thought he was feeLing bound up, not able to reach out...just stare and watch what was happening around him. Lot of emotion in his glare....at least to me. Thank you for all your hard work in sharing a glimpse of this creative's contribution to the world in the form of his art.