Les Amis de Beauford Delaney is partnering with the Wells International Foundation (WIF) to take the Beauford Delaney: Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color exhibition to the U.S.!

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Saturday, August 26, 2017

Sunlight Drifters

By Hanna Gressler

Untitled
(1966) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

My inspiration for this prose poem comes from the shapes created by the bright yellow and deep red colors in Beauford’s painting, Untitled, that seem to be telling a story. When I look at this painting, the bright colors radiate like the sun, and I am overcome by a sense of humility as I am reminded of the beauty of nature. In my prose poem, I wanted to evoke this sense of beauty and humility by describing one of the stories I find in the painting.

The sun rose as the peasants gathered. Above scattered fields, a wind blew, whistling under the wakening sky. Sunflowers flowed in the wind, brushing against each other’s petals as if swaying to a song underneath the sun. The peasant women trotted along unpaved roads with only the footsteps of previous mornings to guide them. Here, in the downtrodden streets of an impoverished French countryside, they gathered, religiously, with bare heels poking out of torn shoes, early morning on their backs and babies underneath their breasts, hovering together as if to protect one another.

Their heavy steps pressed into the mud, on and on, toward the rich yellow of the sunlight awakening above them. Gradually, limb by limb, the women could feel the sun’s warmth fill their bodies, reminding them of another life. With mouths shut tight, for it was too early in the morning to speak yet, only creases along their faces spoke of distant memories, when struggle was not a part of survival. And if both their hands were not safely holding the bums of their children, naked underneath the cloth that held them close to their mothers’ wombs as if to help them retreat back inside, then the rugged skin of the other hand, beaten and clumsily stretched onto their bodies, swung along beside them, free, the only limb not yet put to use for the day’s work. They leaned into this arm with the weight of two bodies, depending on it to hold them together, like the last surviving branch of a tree in winter that must succumb back to earth.

Like this the women walked, moving further and further toward the edge of the countryside, forming a horizon of their own where the earth will not end, but continue on for centuries, like the rise and fall of the sun, like the mothers, like these mornings. And beyond the women and the flowers, laid thick layers of hills overlapped into more distant spectacles. They glistened with such a tender texture against the dewy sky that if one were to point his finger toward the green grass wrapped around the hills, he would feel the bodies of nature rise like strokes of thick paint on a canvas, prickling the bottom of his finger, touching him with their own reality; and for a moment, intertwined with nature, he would become one with the hills, the sunflowers, the women, everlasting.

Hanna Gressler is a rising senior at the American University of Paris. She is serving as a 2017 summer intern for the Wells International Foundation.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Beauford's Reflections on Leaving New York

In August 1953, Beauford left New York City for what he planned as an extended visit to Europe. A week prior to his departure, he wrote the following in his journal as he pondered his upcoming voyage:

reflecting on many things—feelings of nostalgia and apprehension, of love and sorrow, of joy and regret, of things known and unknown, of a rededication of faith hope and love, of willingness to accept the challenge and do the best I can with it*

He never returned to New York.

Today I present several images of works from Beauford's New York years that, in my view, reflect some of the emotions expressed in this poignant passage.

Can Fire in the Park
(1946) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Earth Mother
(1950) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Dark Rapture
(1941) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Portrait of Delia Delaney
(1933) Pastel on paper
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Burning Bush
(1941) Oil on paperboard
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

*Passage quoted from Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney, by David A. Leeming.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Untitled, 1959: Finding the Light

By Hanna Gressler

If you compare a painting by Beauford from the 1920s with a painting by him from the 1950s and onward, there is a chance you may think the paintings come from two different artists. The older he became, and the more art he produced, the more Beauford moved toward abstraction.

In the 1930s, Beauford found himself heavily influenced by the French artist Henri Matisse, whose use of saturated colors and distorted spaces inspired Beauford’s own artwork. Paris was the perfect city to allow Beauford to indulge his passion in modern art as he frequented galleries and studios in La Rive Gauche and looked at Greco-Roman sculpture at the Musée du Louvre. In this culturally artistic environment, Beauford’s painting style matured and flourished as he developed a new sense of color and space.

We can see this flourish of color and space in Untitled, from 1959. Dark shades of green, blue, and purple outline this painting. The colors then become lighter as they move across the canvas - a clear white and bright yellow - creating an inward movement toward the center of the painting.

Untitled
(1959) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

As a viewer, your gaze is immediately drawn to this center of white and yellow, whose light seems to be swallowing the darkness of the colors around the painting, suggesting the image of a black hole. But instead of a black hole infused with darkness, this hole is infused with light, and we must enter into it in order to discover what we become on the other side.

This inward movement of the bright colors also suggests a sense of home, the image of a womb in which the light of life exists. The viewer feels a desire to return to this home, where she can be lulled by the painting’s “gentle blue and darling yellow.”

The brush strokes of the painting, Untitled, are also particular in their loose and musical style. Instead of serving to fill up bodies of space with the color, the brush strokes form spiral-like bodies of their own. Across the canvas, the white colored strokes develop a lyrical aspect as they form shapes akin to letters, as if they are trying to speak to the viewer.

These white bodies of color hold a mystery the viewer must solve in order to see past them and become engulfed by the bright yellow in the background. The sun-pierced yellow holds a spiritual power as it evokes the spirit Helios, providing a sense of holiness. In fact, each color contains a symbolic meaning.

It is Beauford’s combination of colors in this painting that creates a personal narrative and informs the imagination of the viewer. The inward movement created by the bright white and yellow colors pull the viewer toward a place she can call home, a place of light and rebirth, resulting in a sense of regeneration and redemption.

Throughout his entire life, Beauford was forced to face racism and homophobia, two potent forms of social rejection. In his more abstract paintings, Beauford paints his escape from this rejection, flying toward colors of light with the same movement as his brush strokes. The energy in his paintings comes from the visible and invisible interactions that happen between the many shapes and colors. These interactions evoke a universal spirituality that allows the viewer to look inside herself and discover that she is her own source of light and power.

Hanna Gressler is a rising senior at the American University of Paris. She is serving as a 2017 summer intern for the Wells International Foundation.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Life

By Hanna Gressler

My inspiration for this poem comes from the painting Nativité (Nativity Scene) by Beauford Delaney and the bright yellow color that illuminates not only the painting, but also the scene that is taking place. Through my poem, I wanted to explore the transfer between the darkness of the womb and the all-encompassing light of life that is portrayed in this painting.

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

The night you were born, there was a light
that shined so bright, it blinded
the stars.

Released from the pressure around your body,
you moved toward its brightness,
only capable of finding it
through the dark.

Suddenly, the universe
revealed itself –
a vision of those you love –
and your arms and legs began to move
in their newfound freedom.

Goats danced in the soft green grass.
Wind chimes sang distant melodies.
I held you beneath the stars where,
in this moment of eternity,
we bathed in the transcendent light of life.

Hanna Gressler is a rising senior at the American University of Paris. She is serving as a 2017 summer intern for the Wells International Foundation.