You’d expect an exhibition called Colors of the World: An Artistic Expression of Culture at Chesterfield Arts to be diverse, but I was pleased to see the sensitive inclusion of a minority group whom many of us overlook: the Amish. That said, any multicultural show which features the Amish is sure to have a wide variety of subject matter (not only people from Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America; but also elephants, water buffalo, palm trees, and non-figural works); and media (painting, photographs, and ceramics) Below are some of my favorite pieces in the show.
We see the pride and dignity of the Maasi culture in the photograph Maasi Woman – Tanzania by Jan Pfeifer. The Maasi are semi-nomadic cattle-herders who live in Kenya and Tanzania. Pfeifer’s subject looks directly at the viewer and wears long elaborate earrings, a matching silver and beaded necklace, and a red shawl over a blue garment. The wall of earth behind her gives her solidity and stability.
Sumi Shah’s porcelain vase and serving dishes all possess beautiful shapes. Shah set down a decorative glaze in a contrasting color over each piece. The iridescent gray Square Sectional Serving Platter is overlaid with a dark green or black glaze in an elaborate curlicue pattern. The four sides of the Platter undulate, appearing to move. The Round Platter is gray with a green glaze, dense with spirals and curls which cover the platter like a lace doily. Shah’s pieces have an organic quality and are pleasing to behold while functional at the same time.
In the United States we tend to think of minorities as people of color or those who practice religions other than Christianity, but Catherine Ebbesmeyer’s photograph Amish Heritage reminds us that Amish people are a minority, even though they are white Christians. In the photograph, two children peer out the back of a buggy parked in front of a harness shop. In what may have been an ironic comment, Ebbesmeyer set up the composition to include a sign on the shop that says NO CAMERAS. The sign’s presence implies that townspeople here have had problems with tourists photographing them, treating them as an attraction and not as regular people.
But in this image they are regular people – the curious kids look out of their parents’ vehicle in much the same way as American kids in the dominant culture look out of car windows as they wait for their parents to finish errands.
Colors of the World is on view at Chesterfield Arts through November 9. Gallery hours are Monday – Friday, 10:00am – 5:00pm; and closed on Saturday and Sunday. The gallery is located at 444 Chesterfield Center in Chesterfield. For more information, call 636-519-1955 or visit www.chesterfieldarts.org.