Grand Opening of the Blacks in Classics Museum, Alexandria, VA

This past Juneteenth we celebrated the grand opening of the Blacks in Classics Museum located in Alexandria, VA, a show curated by Dr. Anika Prather, Lecturer at Howard University. The show is dedicated to showcasing Black people throughout the world that have either contributed to the Western canon or are somehow connected to it via study of the Classics. When we think of Classics we think of works by Aristotle, Homer, and Plato, but there were so many Black people that have contributed to high works of culture and literature including Frederick Douglas, Terrence the Playwright , and Phyllis Wheatley, just to name a few. This ongoing project featuring my artwork will continue to expand in the coming years and will feature more contemporary Black figures, like James Baldwin and Barack Obama.

Here are some images of the grand opening:

Intern Museum Coordinator: Alexandra Zeppeiro
Dr. Anika Prather and V.W.(artist)

Apples Study: Oil on 11″ x 14″ Panel

Apples Study: Oil on 11″ x 14″ Panel by Artist V.W., 2021

I hope everyone is enjoying their holidays! As the year is coming to a close, I wanted to reflect on the blessings experienced this year despite all of the negative things happening throughout the world. I am grateful for my health, family, and home. I also am thankful for all of the opportunities granted to me this year and the coming year. I think it is important to remind ourselves daily that many of the things we have are blessings and luxuries instead of focusing on what we don’t have and need. Having something as simple as clean water and food is a blessing.

This will be my last painting for the year and will be taking a break until next week or so. I painted this from life in alla prima (wet-on-wet). I will be posting a full demo of my still life in the near future. I wish everyone a safe and blessed Happy New Year!

www.vanessawithun.com

Lady Nakeeda – Oil on 30″ x 40″ Canvas

I decided to use chiaroscuro, once again, for this oil painting. It is hard to capture everything in a photo due to the size. My recent project has been focused on trying to depict the seven different types of love described in Greek. I love combining Classical Realism with more contemporary styles. As we know, love is not one thing. You have love of self, love between friends, lovers, and more! This one is based on Philautia, or self-love.

Lady Nakeeda-Philautia: OIl on 30″ x 40″ Canvas by Vanessa Withun

See more: http://www.vanessawithun.com

What is an Artist?

Defining what an artist is can be quite difficult to do. Some would suggest that it is subjective, while others may believe it is not worth overthinking or labeling one’s creative act. However, I often wonder what is the nature of art and the artist.

According to Plato’s The Republic, art is an imitation of the nature and the things around us. According to the Plato’s vision, there exists a perfect form of everything and what we paint, or draw, are only imitations of that perfect thing. As someone who has read the entire work, I do not agree entirely with his philosophy, but I do believe his work is an essential read. Although, his vision of the art, but really literature, is difficult to grasp in a time where arts purpose is currently identified as self-expression rather than pointing to something ideal, it is worth considering what that means.

plato1

Most art in fact imitates something, whether it be from the imagination, something real, or something abstract. The artist is like a scientist in that they seek to test ideas out, and explore them. The artist then seeks to perfect something. Defining what that something is what may be difficult to do.  Maybe it is making something appear realistic, maybe it is finding the perfect combination of colors, maybe it is depicting a concept, or an idea perfectly, or maybe includes more than one thing. Either way, they are imitations of something perfect, and this perception is innate in humans.

How do we reconcile this view of being imitators with the idea that we are unique individuals? Perhaps the answer to this can be found in exploring what a human is and understanding what Plato means by “imitation.” An artist has the power to depict things in their perfect form. A painting, therefore, serves as windows to the soul of the artist, but also serves as a window to something more and something unseen with the naked eye. It is the search for some truth that allows the artist to become creative.

I have been reading Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s book Man’s Place in Nature and he proposes that to understand our place in nature, we must accept our place as the most complex living thing and act accordingly. Accepting this place allows us to understand how other living things relate to one another. Creativity comes with the knowledge and acceptance of our unique place amongst other living things.

In the end, I believe art’s purpose is to allow the artist to find meaning in their own lives, but also to bring others to something transcendent. What about art that is not “meaningful?” Well, even something that is said to lack meaning is attributing a meaning. In a world that is saturated with cheap things, and cheap thrills it is difficult for the artist to lose sight of what is important. It is important that the artist stay true to the notion that they are a part of something greater than they know.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.