Pennsylvania artist brings art exhibit to National Mall
When she pondered what the National Mall missed, Pennsylvania artist Vanessa German quickly realized it was a monument to the human heart.
Driving the news: German is a self-taught artist who made a name for herself in Pittsburgh. She is one of six artists whose work will appear at "Beyond Granite: Pulling Together," a month-long exhibit debuting this weekend at one of America's most hallowed venues.
- The Trust for the National Mall partnered with Philadelphia-based public art nonprofit Monument Lab on the project, which runs through Sept. 18.
The big picture: German's piece "Of Thee We Sing" is a statue of Black opera singer Marian Anderson singing at the Lincoln Memorial, where she delivered her famous 1939 performance after being barred from then-segregated Constitution Hall.
The intrigue: Hands rise above the mirrored cube images of Anderson's face. The base is photos of the diverse crowd of 75,000, intentionally staring out at visitors, and a bed of Sandhof lilies that only bloom every few years.
- The flowers are illustrative of a rare moment when Black and white people convened together during a time of deep racial divide.
What she's saying: German said her late mother, Sandra, loved Anderson, and she hopes visitors are similarly moved by her art installation.
- "Nobody melted standing next to Black folks," German says. "Nobody's eyes bled like they were in front of the Ark of the Covenant. … People walked away with her voice inside of them."
Zoom in: German inherited her love of art from her mother, a gifted quiltmaker who instilled lessons of self-reliance, creativity and bravery in her children. She'd place art supplies on the dining table for her kids to use while she worked in her studio.
- Later, art became a lifeline for German to endure the struggles that accompany her life as a Black, queer woman.
She encountered racism from residents when she moved from Pittsburgh to a farm outside Asheville, North Carolina, to escape the drumbeat of death and gun violence.
- One neighbor installed a barbed wire fence near a walkway bordering their properties.
The bottom line: Whenever she needs an uplifting message, German hears echoes of her mother's voice from her childhood: "You're gonna have to work that out. Here's some paint."
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