5 stunning works you need to see from “All Things Bright and Beautiful” at the BMA

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All Things Bright and Beautiful
“All Things Bright and Beautiful” by Amy Sherald serves as inspiration for the exhibition. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

In a year marked with sadness, All Things Bright and Beautiful seeks to celebrate the joy you can find even in the darkest of times. Learn about this stunning exhibition at the Birmingham Museum of Art (BMA) and why it serves an important purpose.

The joy you find in sorrow

All Things Bright and Beautiful features a variety of artists with diverse backgrounds. One of the goals of the exhibit is to expand the narrative of joy.

It isn’t to say that difficult topics are not represented in the exhibition. But, it’s looking at how people have found power in joy, and even leisure and relaxation, and used that as acts of resistance.

  • What: All Things Bright and Beautiful
  • Where: Birmingham Museum of Art, 2000 Reverend Abraham Woods Jr Blvd, Birmingham, AL 35203
  • When: Now through March 2021
  • Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10AM-5PM | Sunday Noon-5PM
  • Price: Free

1. All things bright and beautiful by Amy Sherald

All Things Bright and Beautiful
Amy Sherald takes inspiration for her work from her neighborhoods. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

Serving as the inspiration for the exhibition is Amy Sherald’s All Things Bright and Beautiful. Her work affords the same type of portraiture to a Black sitter that’s usually associated with portraits of white sitters in museums.

Amy, who works between Baltimore and New York, paints scenes from her neighborhood. She ran into the little girl depicted in All Things Bright and Beautiful, Morgan, by chance one day while walking her dog.

“I think that there’s something to the magic of running into the right person—it’s like meeting your soulmate…It brings a deeper meaning to me.”

Amy Sherald
All Things Bright and Beautiful
“All Things Bright and Beautiful” Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

Yes, All Things Bright and Beautiful features the Amy Sherald

Amy is the same artist whose portrait of Breonna Taylor made headlines after Vanity Fair featured it on the cover.

2. School of Beauty, School of Culture by Kerry James Marshall

All Things Bright and Beautiful
School of Beauty, School of Culture” features many symbolic elements throughout the piece. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

Kerry James Marshall is a contemporary artist and Birmingham native. His work reimagines European history paintings through black centered perspectives. School of Beauty, School of Culture is celebratory by featuring community and companionship.

It highlights another narrative, too. Take a second look. The distorted image of a blonde woman made almost to look almost like a Disney princess is representative of the dominant notions of white beauty even within a Black beauty salon.

This part of the scene also references the skull, a symbol for death lurking in humanity, in The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein the Younger.

3. Imperishable Stars by Erin Mitchell

Erin LeAnn Mitchell’s is a local interdisciplinary artist and Alabama School of Fine Art’s grad. Her work gained international recognition in 2018 when the hit Fox television series Empire featured it on the show.

Recently, Birmingham experienced the one-year-anniversary of Kamille “Cupcake” McKinney. Erin’s tribute in Imperishable Stars forever remembers the three-year-old, whose passing put Birmingham in a state of mourning.

Erin references Cupcake in the patterned feathers of the winged figure. If you look at the night sky you’ll see several feminine silhouettes to symbolize the number of lost girls and women.

All Things Bright and Beautiful
Imperishable StarsPhoto via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

“The most colorful part of the wings are actually cupcakes and…of course with Cupcake being the highlight of the work, the main reason why I started the work, I wanted her to be in there as much in as possible.”

Erin Mitchell

4. What you doing? Just chilling with some friends by Curtis Talwst Santiago

In tiny spaces, Curtis creates broader images of life. Inside the ring box, view a small environment displaying intimate, leisurely scenes.

According to an interview with SITE Sante Fe, when Curtis was in South Africa, he always saw Black citizens in moments of labor and work; whereas with his white South Africans friends with he noticed so much leisure in their lives.

Several artists are referenced on the walls of this little room, including Kerry James Marshall. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

When displaying What are you doing? Just chilling with some friends in an exhibition in South Africa, Curtis wanted to show his Black friends just relaxing in their beautiful homes.

There’s also a bit of art inception happening in the little display—did you notice the miniaturized Kerry James Marshall on the wall?

5. ’63 Foot Soldiers by Joe Minter

Joe Minter’s extraordinary “scrap-iron elegy” caught the attention of many crowds, including the New York Times.

His sculpture garden, which he deems “African Village in America,” is no longer available to visit. However, you can find a piece of his work represented in All Things Bright and Beautiful.

Visit All Things Bright and Beautiful now through March 2021.

While you’re there, don’t skip the phenomenal series Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle on display now at the BMA through February 2021.

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