The Metamorphosed: Willie Cole exhibit opens at AEIVA
“Finding beauty in the commonplace — some may even say banal — is one of artist Willie Cole’s strengths,” wrote Hrag Vartanian editor-in-chief of art blog Hyperallergic. “His ability to rejigger the consumer world around us into something more fantastic creates the illusion that his art springs from the mystical intersection of folk culture, utility, design, contemporary art and mythology.”
The creator of the “mystical intersection” will share his perspective with a lecture, and the opening of Willie Cole: Transformations at the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts on Friday, June 5, as part of AEIVA’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.
An internationally recognized artist, Cole is best known for his work in mixed media, transforming ordinary objects into sculptures and compositions inspired by African American history and the artist’s personal experience. Shoes, bottles and cellophane receive Cole’s breath of life and forge their own histories: radiant and tragic and epic.
“Stowage Study,” on display at Beta Pictoris Gallery in 2013 as part of Cole’s FIRE/FLY exhibit, is woodcut image branded with a most menial household item: the iron. Inspired by history book images depicting slave ships, the clothing irons are laid out (“stacked like sardines,” according to the artist) in the blueprint of a ship shaped like an ironing board.
“I think that when one culture is dominated by another culture, the energy or powers or gods of the previous culture hide in the vehicles of the new cultures,” Cole said in his artist’s statement. “I think the spirit of Shango (Yoruba god of thunder and lightning) is a force hidden in the iron because of the fire, and the power of Ogun — his element is iron — is also hidden in these metal objects.”
The powers emanating from Cole’s Transformations are, of course, open to interpretation: gods of light and air may be bottled within the chandelier “Red Spirit Light;” spirits of nostalgia and desire fill the soles of the shoe sculpture “Man’s Best Friend III;” and Hope and Hate wrestle in Cole’s fire hose pieces, “Civil Constrictor” and “Birmingham Rattlesnake.”
Cole’s lecture will begin at 4:30 p.m. and will be followed by the opening of Willie Cole: Transformations, The Freedom Exhibition: Two Countries One Struggle, and Focus 1: Identified at the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts, located at 1221 10th Avenue S. Free. For more information, call (205) 975-6436.
THURSDAY, JUNE 4
Aldridge Gardens En Plein Air — Aldridge Gardens. 3530 Lorna Road, Hoover. En plein air translates from the French to “open air” and refers to painting or drawing outdoors in the open air. Last May, 10 local artists, including Amy Collins, Diane Newsome and Amy R. Peterson, created pieces depicting Aldridge Gardens en plein air. Their artwork will be on display in the Eddie and Kay Aldridge Arts & Historical Collections Museum through June 8. Open daily, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Free. For more information, visit aldridgegardens.com.
ArtCard — Oasis Counseling for Women and Children. 1900 14th Ave. S. Oasis Counseling’s Junior Board presents this fundraising event to support Oasis’ psychological counseling programs offered to low-income, uninsured or under-insured individuals. The benefit will include a blind art sale of local artwork with the artist’s name covered, live music and complimentary food and beverages. 5:30–8:30 p.m. $30. For more information, visit oasiscounseling.org.
ARTFix! — Space One Eleven. 2409 2nd Ave N. Space One Eleven is offering an ongoing figure drawing and portraiture class led by artist Andy Jordan. Participants will experience drawing from a live model. Classes will include demonstrations, discussions and critiques. Thursdays, 6:15–8:45 p.m. $25. For more information, visit spaceoneeleven.org.
Open Welding Night — MAKEbhm. 4500 Fifth Ave. S. This weekly free-form welding workshop is recommended for beginning to experienced welders with prior experience. A MAKEbhm artist will be available for assistance while attendees work on their independent projects. 5–9 p.m. $30. For more information, visit makebhm.com.
FRIDAY, JUNE 5
Focus 1: Identified Opening — Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts. 1221 10th Ave. S. AEIVA presents a new series of exhibits spotlighting local and regional art collections. Birmingham contemporary art collectors Jim Sokol and Lydia Cheney will share their collections in the first round of Focus, available through July 25. 6–8 p.m. Free. For more information, visit uab.edu.
The Freedom Exhibition: Two Countries/One Struggle Opening— Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts. 1221 10th Ave. S. In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, AEIVA offers the stirring photography of Spider Martin and Peter Magubane. Fifty comparative photographs by each artist depict segregation in American and the South African apartheid. 6–8 p.m. Free. For more information, visit uab.edu.
MONDAY, JUNE 8
Sew-Op Open House —Bib and Tucker Sew-Op. 210 41st Street S., Woodlawn. The Woodlawn-based sewing and quilting non-profit is offering monthly open houses for those who cannot attend sewing classes during the day. During these evening sessions, attendees may connect with sewing enthusiasts, get tips on sewing projects or offer skills to beginners. Guests can try a simple sewing activity or bring projects of their own to work on. 6–8 p.m. $5. For more information, visit bibandtuckersewop.org.
Painting Class — Alabama Art Supply. Birmingham artist Troy Chrisswell teaches this all-levels class. Chrisswell instructs a variety of artistic media such as oil, acrylic, watercolor and drawing. Students bring their own materials and will receive instruction on original ideas. 12:30–3:30. $30. For more information, visit alabamaart.com.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 10
Paperworkers Local Open Studio — PaperWorkers Local. 3815 Clairmont Ave S. Every Wednesday evening PaperWorkers Local hosts this open studio for creating and discussing art, group projects and community building. 5:30 p.m. Free. For more information, visit PaperWorkers Local on Facebook.
FRIDAY, JUNE 12
Halcyon Opening — Red Dot Gallery. 1001 Stuart St. Red Dot Gallery’s newest exhibit features the oil paintings of Mary Compton available through August 1. Compton developed her portfolio as a student at Red Dot for five years. Her tranquil pieces evoke wistful musings through their detail and soft light. 5–8 p.m. For more information, visit reddotgallery.com.
Selma to Montgomery: A March for the Right to Vote — Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. 520 16th St N. The photographs of Spider Martin depict the nonviolent actions taken toward equality during the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham. A native of Alabama, Martin’s photography is known worldwide. The BCRI highlights the march from Selma to Montgomery through Martin’s lens. For more information, visit bcri.org.
The Amazing Art of Local Curiosities — Birmingham Public Library. 2100 Park Place. Birmingham artists Cory Casella, Melissa Shultz-Jones and Paul Cordes Wilm share their iconic and unconventional perspectives on life in the South in this exhibit in Birmingham’s downtown library. The exhibit will be available during library hours through June 26. Free. For more information, visit bplonline.org.