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JBWC Youth Ambassadors Share Their Thoughts on LeRoi: Living in Color

In their own words, JBWC Youth Ambassadors Abuk & Theo share their thoughts on the LeRoi: Living in Color collaboration, currently on view at Burchfield Penney Art Center.

Abuk Aleu

“I feel as if a lot of the time, our creativity is directly linked to the very humane desire to be seen, heard and in tune with those around us beyond the surface level; to not only feel but to know that solid ground and 02 are not the only proof our existence, our plight—our struggle; to be both understood and to better understand.

“For me, the piece I chose was a manifestation of that, it mirrored a reality specifically one regarding racial injustice in America. So when I wrote my piece, I chose to write about now: resilience. Amplifying what I interpreted and took from the message presented in Leroi’s piece was at the core of my creation. There’s still so much progress to be made in regards to the topic of race relations and systemic inequity within America. Time and time again we see art utilized to make statements that spark and continue much needed conversation; it carries weight— because we were here, because we are here, because we are mirrors reflecting onto one another and what we say matters.”

Theo Bellavia-Frank

“The LeRoi: Living in Color exhibition was one of the most interesting and engaging poetic projects I’ve had the privilege of participating in. When I first came across the request for poetry related to LeRoi Johnson’s work, I immediately fell in love with it—both his unique hybrid ‘electric primitive’ style and the beautiful stories told through his art.

“That evening, I combed through his artwork until I found the one that I thought I could address best: a cosmic image composed of simplistic human bodies called “DNA I.” I’ve always been fascinated by the fractal state of the universe. “DNA I”’s premise of a star composed of bodies served as a reminder that all atoms in the universe are used and reused, and that the light of the stars we see is from so long ago that we could see a star whose atoms comprise us. I felt like this was something I could do justice.

“This project was important first and foremost because Johnson’s brilliant art and vital message deserve to be shared. But secondly, I believe that it is necessary to the artistic process to engage in this sort of collaboration: Johnson’s work went on to inspire a variety of art from BCAT as well as poetry, which, presented in the Burchfield Penney, hopefully went on to inspire other artists. As much as I loved the poetic process involved in the project, my favorite moments were those where I could appreciate others’ work. Combing through Johnson’s work in preparation for the poem; reading my poem as youth videographers made art out of it; walking around the gallery with other artists listening to them discuss their work. This state of collaboration felt somehow artistically true; complex and yet natural; electric and yet primitive.”

Check out the stunning, innovative digital publication, Eyes Tied Together, created by the youth arts program of Buffalo Center for Arts & Technology, to explore all the youth creations inspired by the LeRoi: Living in Color exhibit. Then head to the gallery by March 26, 2023 to see the exhibit in person!