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LI exhibitions shine light on black experience, artistry

Hofstra University senior Rachel Davis, spoke about artwork

Hofstra University senior Rachel Davis spoke about artwork reconsidering The Oydessy story at the Romare Bearden exhibit at Emily Lowe Gallery at Hofstra on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018. (Credit: Newsday / Valerie Bauman)

Rachel Davis grew up in an area of Long Island with little exposure to art and culture that reflected her reality as an African-American.

An exhibit at Hofstra University’s Emily Lowe Gallery — like others across the Island — is seeking to change that by bringing the works of African-American artists to the fore during Black History Month.

The Hofstra exhibit is showcasing the works of artist Romare Bearden, who was active in the 1970s and became known for telling stories of the African-American experience. The free show will be on display this month, and through Aug. 17, at the Emily Lowe Gallery on Hempstead Turnpike in Hempstead.

“Things like this didn’t exist when I was a child,” said Davis, 26, of Holbrook. “You [traditionally] equate humanity or the history of culture with white people . . . Where are the black people?”

In a series called “Odysseus Suite,” Bearden depicted iconic images of Homer’s classic tale, but used black figures to represent the main characters.

“He’s putting our people . . . into classical mythology, and I’ve never really seen that before,” Davis said. “To be able to have that on my campus on Long Island, in a predominantly white culture, is really reaffirming.”

The Patchogue Arts Council also is promoting black culture with a showcase of more than a dozen African-American artists. Their work will be on display through Feb. 25 at 20 Terry St., in Patchogue.

The works are varied and include a detailed quilt by artist Faith Ringgold titled, “Tar Beach,” which depicts a black family on the roof of their Brooklyn apartment on a summer night.

Sharon Hutchinson, 52, of Patchogue, said she became teary-eyed while viewing that familiar scene: a black family together.

“Often we’re overlooked on Long Island,” Hutchinson said. “I see happiness and family, like my family. And I can see myself in it, too.”

Hutchinson, an artist, said seeing works by other African-Americans makes her optimistic about a future of equality on Long Island.

“We weren’t wanted here in the 1950s, and now we’re welcomed,” she said. “I’m very hopeful.”

Other exhibits showcasing black artists this month include:

  • “God’s Pencil Has No Eraser,”’ a showcase of work by Haitian-Canadian artist and writer Rafaëlle Roy, will be on display through Feb. 28 at Ruth S. Harley University Center, Adelphi University, 1 South Ave., Garden City.
  • The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation hosts a cultural art display through Feb. 28 at Jones Beach State Park, Field 4, Central Mall, Wantagh.
  • The Bay Shore-Brightwaters Library is displaying works of art featuring and by African-Americans through Feb. 28 at 1 South Country Rd., in Bay Shore.

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