'Spirit, Rhythm, Blues' exhibit is now on display at HCC’s Gallery 221

And Kirk Ke Wang's “Snow in September" opens on Monday, March 20.

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click to enlarge 'Spirit, Rhythm, Blues' exhibit is now on display at HCC’s Gallery 221
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Gallery 221 at HCC Dale Mabry campus is, for the time being, bathed in blue. It’s a vibe, but if you don’t slow down, you’ll miss it.

That’s because there are only five works of in Le’Andra Leseur’s “Spirit, Rhythm, Blues”—four videos and a neon installation. They’re easy enough to take in at a glance, but only if you don’t care what they mean. For meaning, you’ll have to take pause, sit on the gallery bench, watch “Superwoman,” and read the materials that HCC Gallery Director Amanda Poss prepared for you.

In the words of Junot Diaz, “The whole culture is telling you to hurry, while the art tells you to take your time. Always listen to the art.”

“Spirit, Rhythm, Blues” is on display inside Gallery 221—located at 4001 W Tampa Bay Blvd., on the second and third floors of the college’s Learning Resources Center (DLRC)—through March 2. After that, the gallery makes room for snow.

It’s fascinating to hear how various ideas and concepts come together in Kirk Ke Wang’s head. This was especially true when Creative Loafing Tampa Bay chatted with Wang about “Snow in September,” coming to Gallery 221 this spring.

For this new body of work, Wang took inspiration from 9/11 and the classic Chinese play “The Injustice to Dou Yi That Moved Heaven and Earth.” For Wang, who’s developed a habit of processing past tragedies through his work, the two ideas came together on a recent trip to The National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City. Wang describes the memorial as a place where people can go to ponder the sacrifice and loss that go along with being human.

“Many times I meditate just sitting there in the waterfalls…” Wang said. “You remember that snow when the building collapsed. Everything nearby was covered in dust, powder, like snow falling down. "

Sacrifice, loss, and tragedy also have a home in Guan Hanqing’s “The Injustice to Dou Yi That Moved Heaven and Earth.” In it, Dou Yi is wrongly accused of murder and sentenced to death. Moved by her innocence, snow fell in midsummer. The snow in the story reminded Wang of the ashes in the air on 9/11, linking the tragedies together in his mind.

As always, Wang’s work aims to convert tragedy into something beautiful. Some of the paintings and collages coming to Gallery 221 contain bright colors despite their dark subject matter. And they’re abstract, so the 9/11 aspects could go unnoticed. But “once you know it’s 9/11, you can see it,” says Gallery Director Amanda Poss.

Another set of paintings/collages are primarily white, a symbol for mourning the past in Chinese culture. Site-specific blue paper cuttings will cling to gallery windows, creating unique patterns of light and shadow while a gallery projection casts snow upon visitors like the ash that clung to New Yorkers on 9/11—like snow in September.

“Snow in September” runs March 20-May 11 inside Gallery 221. More information on both shows is available via hccfl.edu/gallery221.

About The Author

Jennifer Ring

Jennifer studied biology for six years, planning for a career in science, but the Universe had other plans. In 2011, Jen was diagnosed with a rare lung disease that sidelined her from scientific research. Her immune system, plagued by Scleroderma, had attacked her lungs to the point of no return. She now required...
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