Back to Stage

Oh 'Sweet Freedom' through spring

The Harriett Tubman inspired show extends at B2 Gallery

"HALLELUJAH SHORES": Fiber artist Mary Johnson's woven work is on display at B2 Gallery in Tacoma's Triangle District. Courtesy photo

Recommend Article
Total Recommendations (0)
Clip Article Email Article Print Article Share Article

B2 Gallery has extended the exhibition "Sweet Freedom's Jubilee" through June 9. The show features fiber artist Mary Johnson and sculptor Mar'zil Davis with works celebrating the 99th Anniversary of the death of Harriett Tubman.

Johnson's woven tapestries are breathtaking. Her depictions of the lives of slaves, it almost goes without saying, touch the heart. Visiting this show is almost like - albeit on a much smaller scale - like visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. or like, I can only imagine since I've never been there, like visiting the Cape Coast Castle Museum in Africa where slaves were once held before being brought to America. The plight of slaves and the heroism of the Underground Railroad cannot but touch the hearts of any who visit this exhibition.

Johnson's tapestries have an intimate and homely feel. There is warmth of emotion even though the surface quality of her pieces has the crispness of a snowy winter morning.

Many of her scenes are in a long horizontal format, which creates the feeling of a story unfolding over time as in a scroll or stills from a movie.

In none of her works is the crispness I alluded to more pronounced than in "Following Harriett," a scene of Harriett Tubman leading a family to freedom. They are trudging through fields of scrub pines in the snow. The background is stark black and white, and only the figures of Harriett and the family are in color. Harriett carries a rifle, and she reaches back to halt the family - three adults and two babies - in a gesture indicating danger approaching. The tenseness of the moment is strong.

"North Star" is a picture of hope. An escaped slave wearing a bright red bandana on her head holds a child who is holding a rag doll. They stand in a field of tall grasses and reeds, beautifully pictured with rhythmical patterns in tones of blue and green, and look across a still river at the promised land of freedom on the far shore.

"Hallelujah Shores" shows the next step in the journey, but with a different family. Three men and two women have just crossed the river to the north and are stepping out of their little boat onto the marshy ground. The women still huddle together and the men step forward fearfully as if none of them can believe they are actually free. And as history tells us, many of them were not free or their freedom was short-lived as many were caught and sent back into slavery even after arriving in non-slave states.

The faceted way much of the background scenery is patched into this scene adds attraction.

Davis's sculptures are interesting as historic notes as they show the way many of the slaves lived, the tools they used and the way they dressed. But they are nowhere near as artistically satisfying as Johnson's tapestries. They look like typical porcelain figurines from an earlier era and - I hate to say it but it's true - they look so stereotypical and cartoonish that they would be seen as racist if done by a white artist.


Read next close


Religiously low fidelity

Comments for "Oh 'Sweet Freedom' through spring" (3)

Weekly Volcano is not responsible for the content of these comments. Weekly Volcano reserves the right to remove comments at their discretion.

User Photo

Ruby Dotson said on May. 08, 2012 at 11:56am

These are some of the most beautiful fiber displays of Art I have ever seen!!!!
Mrs. Johnson certainly has a talent. Where can one find more of these fine pieces of Art? This scene brings tears to the eyes of those of us that understand their story.
Be Blessed~~~~~

User Photo

Dan Johnson said on May. 09, 2012 at 6:26pm

Mary has the great talent of bringing things to life in her art. As I view these tapestries, I feel like I am right there with the characters. The faces of each individual portray to me what they are thinking and the emotions they have. This not only explempliary , extraordiary art, it shows that the artist has empathy, emotion, and a good heart and soul.

I can see that the artist is overflowing with ideas on how to express society and historical facts. The great volume of work that she completes shows that she is very prolific. Bring on more!

User Photo

Claudine Johnson said on May. 09, 2012 at 9:13pm

I love her work and have purchased some prior pieces, but not on this theme! Her work to me is usually beyond the average imagination! As I look at this piece I am struck by the details, especially the expressions on their faces, the coloring of the trees, brushes, and slight of sun on the clouds! I feel drawn into the situation at hand and the emotions of what they are facing! I see and feel the sadness, the fear, but yet courage in their faces!! The details of the clothing, the era, and the culture, is pure experienced artistry! I want to see more!

Leave A Comment

(This will not be published)


Respond on Your Blog

If you have a Weekly Volcano Account you can not only post comments, but you can also respond to articles in your own Weekly Volcano Blog. It's just another way to make your voice heard.

Site Search