Eyedrum's exhibit 'Stars and Feelings' shines a light on Black women artists

jasmine nicole williams
This piece is by Jasmine Nicole Williams, one of the artists featured in "Stars and Feelings." (Courtesy of William Downs)

Atlanta is home to many accomplished Black visual artists, including William Downs. He has created an exhibition to showcase six Black women artists who express their identities either through hair, heritage or community in their works. The show “Stars and Feelings” is on view at Eyedrum through June 19. William Downs joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes to talk about how he came to gather these inspiring artists and celebrate their work.

An artist out of the spotlight, shining it on Black women creators:

“I feel like in my long years of making art and traveling around; there hasn’t been an exhibition that was this focused on particularly young Black American women who explore different media, mediums,” Downs said. “But I was influenced also by the way that they produce work. Not only do they make drawings and paintings and sculpture, they all make murals. So I thought that was a really beautiful connection that I drew everybody together with.”

A nod to the great Nina:

“The umbrella, the female that really possesses me in my studio, is Nina Simone,” said Downs. “Her voice, her power, the way that she maneuvered herself through the music world and through traveling made me feel like each one of the artists in this show had a little slice of her in their life and work.”

“The show title came from the titles of two of our songs, one called ‘Feelings’ and one called ‘Stars.’ So I thought that was a really beautiful connection, to connect these two songs that mean different things, but her voice and her words have so much power. And I feel like that kind of oozes out of all of these artists’ work.”

On selected featured artists:

Ash McNamara, she is from New Orleans,” said Downs. “She makes paintings on mirrors, and she makes sign calligraphy work on found objects. The piece that’s in the show is one of those; she made a sign on top of a puzzle, so that’s really great. The next one is Sofa Hood; she floats between or blurs the lines between graphic design and painting and color theory. Her works are about femininity and gender. She’s a very good colorist, and she highlights the sensibility and sensitivity of the female form, and the spirit and the unity of women.”

“Then there is Danae Antoine. She makes drawings on paper and collage works. She mixes cultures and art history together but highlighting the female form. The works that are in the show are very beautiful … She’s using Renoir paintings to kind of cut them up, and some of the painting pieces are in the collage, so she’s mixing that with the female form, and they’re very ambiguous when you look at them.”

Downs continued, “Then we have Nneka Kai … She’s a fiber artist, but in the show, she has four drawings and a really beautiful fabric piece that she’s been working on for a couple of years that talk about hair. It stretches between line, gesture, collage and actual weaving hair into the work, or making large scale sculptures that are made of different types of hair.”

“Stars and Feelings” is on view at Eyedrum through June 19. More information can be found at www.eyedrum.org/calendar-events-performances-art-music/stars-and-feelings.