Canada

Art exhibit in Richmond, BC celebrates black expression and connection

Mary Wilson (center) has been organizing events for Black History Month in Richmond, BC since 2016.  This year she is showing the artworks of John Hall (left) and Crystal Noir (right) at the Richmond Cultural Centre.  (Missy Johnson/CBC - photo credit)

Mary Wilson (center) has been organizing events for Black History Month in Richmond, BC since 2016. This year she is showing the artworks of John Hall (left) and Crystal Noir (right) at the Richmond Cultural Centre. (Missy Johnson/CBC – photo credit)

Mary Wilson has been organizing Black History Month events in Richmond, BC since 2016.

A retired social worker, Wilson says she still feels a commitment to connecting with others and bringing people together. This year she’s doing that through art, collaborating with the Richmond Cultural Center to showcase the work of local black artists Crystal Noir and John Hall.

said Wilson The Early Edition Missy Johnson hopes the exhibition will bring “encouragement and strength” to all visitors and give Black creators a boost of energy and inspiration.

“We can help and care for each other over time and also show some amazing things black people have done in BC,” she said.

“People don’t know anything about us. And I think some people have one [stereotypical] Idea about blacks. Those stereotypes need to change.”

Art with a message

Crystal Noir developed a passion for painting during the COVID-19 pandemic and says it has become a way of documenting her personal experiences. The series of works she is presenting in Richmond this month is called Metanoia.

“It’s really a transformative journey to finding self-love,” she said of the pieces on display. “The paintings show that you never really reach that goal, it’s just an evolving road.”

One of Noir’s paintings on display at the gallery is called Choose wise. It depicts a black woman with a justice scale on her head and a heart and brain on either side of the scale. The question is whether to follow her head or her heart.

Missy Johnson/CBC

Missy Johnson/CBC

“I never really saw myself as a creative person before,” Noir said. “I think I’m still learning.”

“For me, painting is really my form of meditation and my form of therapy. No matter how I feel before I get on canvas, once I start painting I forget all about it.”

John Hall says he usually paints in an expressive style but takes a different approach in the work he is exhibiting in Richmond, creating mixed media collages.

“I started with cut out shapes from cards and built and layered on top of them,” he says, explaining that in some work he added stenciled shapes made from oil paint and used charcoal and kaolin clay.

“The idea here was simply to create visual depth to engage the viewer and give the subject some of the seriousness it deserves.”

Missy Johnson/CBC

Missy Johnson/CBC

Hall said he wanted the pieces to feel unplanned and open-ended, with some tribal nods to the past but evoke a sense of timelessness.

Wilson says she finds the art inspirational.

“I think artwork speaks to the person looking at it — and it’s your interpretation,” she said.

“Look at the picture. Take it in and then 15-20 minutes later, over a cup of tea, reflect on what’s on my mind.”

The Black Artists and Creators in our Community exhibit runs January 30-February 27 at the Richmond Cultural Center’s Upper Rotunda Gallery, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. PT and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT.

For more stories about Black Canadians’ experiences—from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community—see Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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