The need to repair, improve, and some would say beautify America’s aging infrastructure, helped U.S. President Joe Biden score some major political points with the passage of his $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill in November 2021. It will be a while before the majority of Americans get to experience actual physical results of the accomplishment and come to fully appreciate what it means.
The power of art, however, is such that it allows creatives like Lady Pink, Banksy, and Eduardo Kobra to apply their particular visions of future possibilities for public architectures more immediately. Even public areas subject to war can function as art installations which convey messages more aligned with hope and beauty.
The henry Street underpass in Savannah, Georgia, is a very unique feature of the city’s infrastructure. Its solid design appears more than capable of continuing for years to support the freight cars which rumble across the rail tracks above it nearly every day. The walls of the underpass have also long proven an ideal space for various visual artists to express themselves. I have not been as bold as some to place images directly on the walls of the underpass, but the structure has inspired creative efforts by me more than once.
The first time I shared the story of my enduring interest in the Henry Street underpass was in June 2018 when I completed work on two fine art photographs: “Henry Street Underpass Number 1 and Number 2.” With those images, I mostly wanted to document what stood out for me as the passageway’s amazing design largely defined by giant steel X’s. I had walked through it many times as a child but only much later, after leaving and returning for extended stays, did it strike me as something extraordinary.
More recently, I wondered what it might look like to utilize the space as the setting for an art installation. The prospect was an unlikely one to attempt on the street itself but completely doable as reimaginings presented on a mixed-media canvas. With that in mind, I have been able to produce a series of "Henry Street Underpass Art Portal” art pieces. A detail from Number 1 is seen above. Two complete images are now available for purchase on Fine Art America.com and Pixels.com.
It is obvious that art cannot accomplish the kind of work which machinery and engineering will over the next few years as different types of infrastructures are reinforced, or completely replaced. What it can do is help us remember that notions of progress do not have to come at the expense of beauty or mindfulness in our lives. In fact, each can help enhance the valued purpose of the other.
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Explore Black Music Month at Bright Skylark Literary Productions
The beginnings of the last few years––“arguably,” as some like to say––have presented humanity with more reasons to dread flipping the calendar from December to January that to celebrate it. But some of us insist on excavating beauty out of horror and looking forward with measures of hopefulness: regardless of reasons to do otherwise.
Prior to the beginning of Russia’s war in Ukraine back in February, the year 2022 had already started on a somber personal note due to the death of fellow author Robert T.S. Mickles, Sr., on December 31, 2021. While mourning his death, I celebrated Mickles’ life and legacy online at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated intentions to hang around much longer than anybody wanted. I then moved cautiously forward into the year addressing the following:
Some have actually criticized the outpouring of support for Ukraine, measured in billions of dollars and public expressions of solidarity, since the war’s beginning. They point out what they perceive of as a disproportionate response to violent clashes in other non-European countries.
These other equally abhorrent conflicts were already taking place in the world. They remain major factors in numerous international leaders and everyday world citizens belief that Russia’s brutal aggressiveness cannot stand unanswered. Responding to the threat of a potential world war 3 is something most have never anticipated in our age of technical wonders but respond we did:
In addition, dominating international political discourses as it did, there was no way to keep the war out of the Conversations with the World series here at Bright Skylark. Given that the pens of poets and brushes of artists have long been employed to make sense of human beings’ tendency to inflict destruction upon each other and planet Earth, it would have been irresponsible not to address Russia’s war in Ukraine on multiple platforms throughout 2022. The global ripple effects of the war have generally been unavoidable: the crippling inflation, food and energy insecurity, and increased ecological instability.
Confirmations of Beauty and Justice
In the midst of all the international and domestic rage, certain achievements have helped us to maintain faith in the better qualities of our collective characters. The breath-taking photos of double-deep space captured by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, with its remarkable images of barely-formed galaxies and developing stars, reminded everybody just how much bigger existence is than a single individual, nation, planet, or even universe.
Closer to the literary values promoted on this website: In nods to the often overlooked contributions of African-American women to their homeland, the late memoirist-poet-educator-activist Maya Angelou became the first Black woman to be featured on a U.S. quarter. Ketanji Brown Jackson stepped into history by becoming the first Black woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Moreover: an 18-year-old named Jaylen Smith became the youngest Black man in American history ever elected mayor when he won his bid for the position in Earle, Arkansas. And Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) became the first African-American voted to lead the House Democratic Caucus.
Defying the COVID Pandemic Lockdown Blues
The “Hidden Histories” Savannah authors and books collage by Hannah Brawley can be found on the Georgia Historical Society's website at https://georgiahistory.com/marker-monday-hidden-histories-2/. Located at top center of the collage is ELEMENTAL, the Power of Illuminated Love by Aberjhani and Luther E. Vann. Also included are works by authors: James Alan McPherson, Conrad Aiken, Johnny Mercer, Jack Leigh, Mrs. Wilkes, Murray Silver, Flannery O'Connor, and John Berendt.
I’m also glad to note advancements on different fronts here at Bright Skylark. Back in March, I had the honor of participating in a very successful Authors Day event. It was held in historic Lafayette Square, in downtown Savannah, Georgia, just across the street from iconic author Flannery O’Connor’s Childhood Home and the world-famous Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist. This was my first such outing since the pandemic hit in 2020 and turned me into a semi-comfortable recluse. The Authors Day event made it possible for me to finally make up for all the Greeting Flannery O’Connor at the Back Door of My Mind launch presentations I’d had to cancel due to COVID-19 surges.
In addition, later in the year, the long-awaited 2022 Flannery O’Connor Review spotlighting my artwork and poetry was published. Some celebrated the rarity of such an occurrence while others quietly dismissed it. For this author-artist, it helped bring some much-needed balance to public discourses on racial issues attached to O’Connor’s work and life. It also alerted readers to recently completed art, letters, and poetry book.
Later, in the summer, I joined fellow authors George Dawes Green, writer-poet Jon Goode, and Edgar Oliver on stage as a guest “raconteur” for a celebration of The Moth organization’s 20th anniversary and the release of Green’s novel: Kingdoms of Savannah. (Still need to carve out time to write my essay on KINGDOMS.) The sold-out Moth performance was enough to convince me to also participate in the Art on Bull Street fundraiser in October. Sadly, while I was invited to participate in The Oxford Union’s 2022 International Poetry Symposium on November 28, several developments prevented me from making the trip across the Atlantic Ocean for that event.
Which brings me to plans and works in progress for the year 2023.
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NEXT: The Years 2022 and 2023 (part 2): Looking Ahead
Contemporary award-winning American author of classically-styled works in history, poetry, creative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and journalism.