Vanessa German

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Vanessa German

Vanessa German (b.1976[1]) is an American sculptor, painter, writer, activist, performer, and poet based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Her sculpture often includes assembled statues of female figures created with their heads/ faces painted black and a wide range of attached objects flowing outward including fabric, keys, found objects, and toy weapons.[2]

Her work is held in numerous permanent collections including the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and has been reviewed by Sculpture[3] and discussed in The New York Times,[4] O, The Oprah Magazine,[5] and on NPR's All Things Considered.[6] Her art has been featured in a wide range of galleries, museums and traveling exhibits, including the 2012 "African American Art 1950-Present" touring exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution.[7] She was a 2015 recipient of the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Biennial Grant.[8]

Early life[edit]

Vanessa German was born in Wisconsin and raised in the Mid-City area of Los Angeles[9] and Loveland, Ohio[3] by her mother, a fiber artist,[1] quilter and costume maker.[10] She is the third of five children.[11] She moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2000 and began to perform and exhibit her work locally.[12] She describes her work as heavily influenced by her childhood in Los Angeles, where her mother encouraged the children to make their own clothes, and she was also impacted by the AIDS epidemic and drive-by shootings.[13]

Artistic career[edit]

A self-taught artist, much of German's artwork is collage and sculpted assemblages.[12] German's sculptural work frequently includes female figures that she calls "power figures" and "tar babies".[14] She creates them by decorating and painting large dolls and figures, then sculpting outward, and adding a wide range of materials including, for example cowrie shell lips, plastic guns, feathers, bottle caps, seashells, toys, and vintage products.[12] She often uses found and donated materials from her Homewood neighborhood.[1] She describes discovering that her work included elements similar to the central African tradition of nkisi nkondi, guardian statues pierced with nails and other materials.[15]

Her materials list for works often include both the physical (e.g. cloth, paint, keys) and non-tangible materials (e.g. "the names of all the dead boys that I know," "tears").[2] Recurring themes addressed in her work include food, birds, violence, injustice, poverty, and Black Madonna imagery.[16][17] In her artist statement for 2016's dontsaythatshitoutloud, she describes the impact of finding two men murdered outside her house within a four-month period.[18]

Her work includes the symbolic use of color throughout. Describing beads from one work, she said “If they’re red, they're holding rage and love simultaneously. If they’re white -- they're holding ghosts - the presence of your ancestors ...and they're also holding forgiveness and peace."[19]

ARThouse and Love Front Porch[edit]

German also leads the ARThouse and Love Front Porch, a community art institution, in the Homewood neighborhood in Pittsburgh, PA.[5] She started the ARThouse when she needed to create her art on her porch due to a low basement ceiling,[1] and neighborhood children began gathering on her porch to watch her at work. This expanded into a dedicated community art space, which moved twice before moving into its permanent location, a house purchased with donations and proceeds from her art sales,[5] dedicated in December 2015.[12] In 2012, Love Front Porch received a $4,000 grant from the Sankofa Fund of Southwest Pennsylvania, which highlights empowering grass-roots African-American community projects.[20]

Homewood was described as "The Most Dangerous Neighborhood in America" by MSNBC journalist, Rachel Maddow.[21]

Collections[edit]

German's work is held in the following permanent collections:

Notable Exhibitions[edit]

Documentary[edit]

"Tar Baby Jane". Filmmaker Gregory Scott Williams, Jr., 2010.[12][31]

Selected Reviews[edit]

"Vanessa German." Sculpture magazine. July/ August 2012.[3]

"Cut-and-Paste Culture: The New Collage". ARTnews. December 12. 2013.[32]

"Exhibition Review: Unloaded." afterimage: The Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism. May 22, 2015.[33]

"i take my soul with me everywhere i go". The Georgia Review, September 13, 2016.[15]

"Review: “Africa Forecast” shows how convention inspires Black women’s spirit". ArtsATL, November 11, 2016.[26]

Notable Appearances[edit]

  • "The City is Ours Today" (poem). Inauguration of Pittsburgh mayor, Bill Peduto. January 2014.[12]
  • "Root" (performed and written spoken word opera) Martha's Vineyard Playhouse, 2011.[34]
  • Performance poem. Fashion Africana (2004), Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh Music Hall.[35]

Awards[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Rao, Mallika (2014-10-06). "This Sculptor Is Using Trash To Inspire One Of Pittsburgh's Toughest Neighborhoods To Make Art". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2017-03-05.
  2. ^ a b "Artist Vanessa German displays her love for Homewood in NYC". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2017-03-04.
  3. ^ a b c d Amy, Michael (July–August 2012). "New York: Vanessa German, Pavel Zoubok Gallery". Sculpture: 75.
  4. ^ Rosenberg, Karen (2014-03-06). "Booths Devoted to Women Multiply at the Art Show". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-03-04.
  5. ^ a b c "A Sculptor Creates a Bright Spot in a Struggling Community". Oprah.com. Retrieved 2017-03-04.
  6. ^ "Young Artists Find Home And Healing At Pittsburgh Art House". NPR.org. Retrieved 2017-03-05.
  7. ^ a b Villarreal, Ignacio. "African American art since 1950 from The David C. Driskell Center on view at the Taft Museum". artdaily.com. Retrieved 2017-03-04.
  8. ^ a b "Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Unveils 2015 Biennial Grant Awardees". artforum.com. Retrieved 2017-03-04.
  9. ^ "Vanessa German: Helping to Heal Traumatized Youth Through Art". Carnegie Museum of Art: Storyboard. Retrieved 2017-03-05.
  10. ^ Fredrickson, Erika. "Roots and juju". Missoula News. Retrieved 2017-03-04.
  11. ^ a b "American Visionary Art Museum - Our Visionaries: Vanessa German". www.avam.org. Retrieved 2017-03-04.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h Lidji, Eric (May 18, 2016). "Citizen Artist: Vanessa German". Pittsburgh Magazine. Retrieved March 4, 2017.
  13. ^ Fredrickson, Erika. "Roots and juju". Missoula News. Retrieved 2017-03-05.
  14. ^ a b Albritton, Ann (November 2015). "Sarasota, Florida: "Re-Purposed", The Ringling Museum". Sculpture: 72.
  15. ^ a b "i take my soul with me everywhere i go". The Georgia Review. Retrieved 2017-03-04.
  16. ^ DUNNE, SUSAN. "Wadsworth Atheneum Exhibit Confronts Violence Against African-Americans". courant.com. Retrieved 2017-03-04.
  17. ^ Berger, David S. "Vanessa German's sculptures continue to impress in a new show". Pittsburgh City Paper. Retrieved 2017-03-05.
  18. ^ O'Driscoll, Bill. "Vanessa German shows off powerful print-based work at AIR". Pittsburgh City Paper. Retrieved 2017-03-05.
  19. ^ a b Record, MARGA LINCOLN Independent. "The transformative power of art and love: 'Vanessa German: Bitter Root' opening reception is today". Helena Independent Record. Retrieved 2017-03-04.
  20. ^ "$4,000 grant to 'Love Front Porch'". New Pittsburgh Courier. 103 (38) (City ed.). September 19–25, 2012. p. B3.
  21. ^ NewsPoliticsInfo (2011-05-26), Rachel Maddow Goes To America's Most Dangerous Neighborhood (Part 1/2), retrieved 2017-03-05
  22. ^ a b c d "Vanessa German "i am armed. i am an army."". www.nyartbeat.com. Retrieved 2017-03-04.
  23. ^ "Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation - Past Exhibitions". www.weismanfoundation.org. Retrieved 2017-03-04.
  24. ^ "Vanessa German | Pittsburgh Biennial 2014". pittsburghbiennial.org. Retrieved 2017-03-05.
  25. ^ "Vanessa German: The Ordinary Sacred". New Pittsburgh Courier. 106 (6). February 11–17, 2015. p. B5. ISSN 1047-8051.
  26. ^ a b "Vanessa German | ArtsATL". www.artsatl.com. Retrieved 2017-03-04.
  27. ^ "German and Human". Hartford Magazine, Hartford Courant. June 2016. p. O25.
  28. ^ "Critic's Choice". Hartford Courant (Main ed.). May 29, 2016. p. G2.
  29. ^ "Exhibition Spotlight: Vanessa German at the Everson Museum of Art". syracuse.com. Retrieved 2017-03-24.
  30. ^ "Mattress Factory: ActiveArchive". www.mattress.org. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
  31. ^ German, Vanessa (2000-01-01), Tar Baby Jane, retrieved 2017-03-04
  32. ^ "Cut-and-Paste Culture: The New Collage | ARTnews". www.artnews.com. Retrieved 2017-03-05.
  33. ^ "Exhibition Review Unloaded | Afterimage: The Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism". vsw.org. Retrieved 2017-03-04.
  34. ^ "Root : Martha's Vineyard Playhouse". mvplayhouse.org. Retrieved 2017-03-04.
  35. ^ Norrell, Debbie (November 21, 2004). "Fashion Africana!". New Pittsburgh Courier. 95 (93). p. B1.
  36. ^ "2017 Art Award Winners – American Academy of Arts and Letters". artsandletters.org. Retrieved 2017-03-23.
  37. ^ "Four recognized at Urban League's Ron Brown Gala". New Pittsburgh Courier. 105 (51) (City ed.). December 17–23, 2014. p. B8.
  38. ^ "Community supporters feted at leadership reception". New Pittsburgh Courier. 98 (10). March 7–13, 2007. p. C3. ISSN 1047-8051.

External links[edit]