A dormant virus can go undetected for years within the human body and later become activated by other infections. In 2020, as scientists and researchers studied causes and cures for COVID-19, another illness, seemingly dormant for decades, was also spreading through the nation and beyond.
Racism and racial injustices (although never eradicated), mutated and multiplied just as rapidly as the novel coronavirus, driving us to the intersection of pandemia and protests. Now, over a year later, though hospitals filling up, and Charlotte streets now quieter than they were in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, there is a new kind of protest taking place, and it goes by the name JOY.
Charlotte’s Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art recently debuted its latest exhibition, JOY – a collaborative showcase featuring four diverse women artists. Represented are Erin Comerford Miller, Carla Aaron-Lopez, Windy O’Connor and Lo’Vonia Parks, artists who not only believe joy is an act of resistance, but that we can all learn to cultivate joy.
MAIN IMAGE: A piece from Lo’Vonia Parks
Taking Steps Beyond the Mural
It all began when attorney-turned-creative-photographer Erin Comerford Miller found herself inspired by the artists of uptown’s Black Lives Matter Mural. Initially, the Beyond The Mural (BTM) project intended to document each artist by capturing them in a still image, and through Miller’s lens answer the question, “What does art mean to you at a time such as this?”
Receiving conceptual guidance from Elder Gallery owner Sonya Pfeiffer and curators Neely Verano and Jonell Logan, BTM morphed into JOY and included a select few of the photographs from this collection.
One such photograph is that of featured artist Lo’Vonia Parks. Parks, a classically trained SCAD graduate whose caricature work had dried up due to COVID, found herself resurrecting an old childhood pastime of roller skating to spark joy.
Miller captured that in an image now titled, Black Joy is Enough. Parks’ own contribution to the show includes a series of figure drawings on wooden panels depicting various yoga poses, a reflection of the joy and peace she finds in creation.
Finding JOY in Freedom
Carla Aaron-Lopez finds her joy in creative freedom. Lopez’s refusal to define herself as any singular type of artist allows her to play in multiple mediums, with the end result often being graphic text-based pieces that draw in the viewer from afar and necessitate pause for interpretation.
Aaron-Lopez is also responsible for bringing in abstract painter Windy O’Connor, a Camp North End neighbor of Lopez’s whom she invited into her studio unplanned to collaborate on a piece she was already engaged in creating. It is this collaborative energy that sparks the joy between them — and upholds the greater vision for the exhibition.
“Joy is enough of a hot topic all on its own,” said Miller. “It doesn’t have to be deep political theory.”
Indeed it does not. But what it can be, at its greatest capacity, is the onset of a revolution. JOY is on view at the Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art until Dec. 4.
Experience More JOY with these Creatives
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