Home > African-American Culture, Art, Loves Jazz & Arts Center, North Omaha, Writing > Inner City Art Exhibition Tells Wide Range of Stories

Inner City Art Exhibition Tells Wide Range of Stories

Here’s another art story about some African-American artists in Omaha. I did the piece a year ago or so for The Reader (www.thereader.com) in conjunction with an exhibition at the Loves Jazz & Arts Center. Some talented folks had work featured in the show and due to space considerations I chose four to focus on. One of these, Gerard Pefung, is increasingly making a name for himself.
Inner City Art Exhibition Tells Wide Range of Stories
©by Leo Adam Biga
Originally published in The Reader (www.thereader.com)

Loves Jazz & Arts Center’s 4th Annual African-American Art exhibition, Telling Our Stories, displays work by some two dozen artists.

The stories of four of the featured Omaha artists follow.

Art saw Yolanda Williams, aka Ms. Yo, through an abusive childhood and early adulthood. Today, this accomplished single mom studying for her master’s in leadership still uses art as “therapy.”

Of her intuitive, self-reflexive approach, she said, “I get consumed with the emotion in the piece of work. When I’m painting I’m talking through my problems, I’m talking through my past. Every paint stroke for me is, OK, this happened, how do I deal with this?’I want every single thing to be based on what I’m going through. When I look at my artwork from when I first started to now I can chart where I was in my life.”

With “Enojado” (Spanish for angry) she flung paint on canvas to release the primal rage she endured with the death of her father and a bad breakup. “Serene” pictures a poised woman standing her ground, sure of herself. It represents self-affirmation. Said Williams, “I love who I am — as an artist, as a parent, as a professional, as a community leader.” “Ra” is her meditation on life, mood, energy, faith and her affinity for the warm orange glow of sun and spirit.

Williams mentors school kids through her North Omaha Youth Art and Culture Program. She also writes and performs music.

Gabrielle Gaines Liwaru, aka G. D’Ebony, infuses threads from her life — family, multiculturalism, social connectivity — in her work, which incorporates found objects.

“Tribute to Lila” is an acrylic portrait executed on an old projector screen she salvaged. The subject is her grandma Lila Gaines, “a pillar” for several generations of South Chicago family and community. Working from an old black and white image, Liwaru’s choice of gray, black and white for the skin palette and regal purple for the backdrop imbues the work with sweet nostalgia.

The mixed media “Human Frailty and Salvation: The Wheat Perspective” ruminates on the fragility, interconnectedness and renewability of sustainable resources, human and otherwise. “The Thaw” is a watercolor/mixed media ode to the rite of spring, as the frozen winter gives way to the free flow of life again. “I Am, I Was, I Shall Be” poignantly renders the dimensions of a young girl on the path to maturity.

Liwaru is an Omaha Public Schools art teacher. She and husband Sharif Liwaru are African Culture Connection board members.



Gerard Pefung, from touristinmyhometown.blogspot.com, ©photo by Abby Jones



The dreamlike imagery of 20-something Cameroon native Gerard Tchofor Pefung  variously pays homage to the tribal culture of his homeland and to the urban environs of his adopted country. Vibrant color schemes, kinetic shapes and familiar rituals celebrate life. In “Farm Watchman” a villager’s thoughts commingle with the flame and smoke of a fire. In “Music Festival,” a saxophonist holds sway over a jiving crowd. In each, a conjuring and communion occurs. There’s a deep spiritual fervor and electric immediacy in the work.

Though often starting from a sketch, he said “when I go to put it on the canvas I just let the canvas be itself until the work is complete. I’m not in control of what it’s going to be. Sometimes I’m guided by personal life experience, or by music, or just by the aura that surrounds me.” He works in acrylic and mixed media but mostly spray paints. Pefung, who has a Hot Shops studio, does diversion work with kids to channel them from destructive graffiti to positive modes of expression. Part of the proceeds from sales of his art go to his foundation that supports young people in West Africa.

DeJuan Cribbs, whose day job is at Metropolitan Area Transit, produces “digital paintings” entirely on his home computer, working from found images or from memory. Trained in fine art and graphic design, he melds traditional and nontraditional styles. Many of his images, such as “Native Omaha Legends,” salute a gallery of hometown heroes, including Malcolm X, Ernie Chambers and Mildred Brown. “Native Omaha Days” is a shout out to the biennial heritage event and the family reunions it spawns.

Some of his graphic design prints are abstract but most are figurative, including straight up portraits, caricatures, anime-like imagery, poster art-inspired work and more fine art-like studies. When he uses color it pops with an intensity and richness that comes from deft layering. His non-color work has an engaging older aesthetic to it.

Besides loving black culture, Cribbs said he wants his celebrations of high achieving blacks to show youngbloods the possibilities for success. He hopes to produce a coloring book of black Omaha legends and a digital graphic novel set in urban Omaha.

Other works of note in the show, which continues through May 22, include: Wanda Ewing’s whimsical “Black Catalogue” embrace of ebony women; Sebron Kendrick’s funkadylic religious inconography; Bob Duncan’s stark black and white photos; Jason Fischer’s gangsta rap Pop photo art; and Tina Tibbs’ sublimely textured digital photo collages.

The LJAC is at 2510 No. 24th St. Call 502-5291 for hours. Visit lovesjazzartcenter.org.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: