You’ve probably heard of ‘The Green Book’ by now, even if you haven’t seen it yet – no idea how or why it managed to bag the Oscar for best picture, particularly given the calibre of its contenders, but I won’t get into that controversy here… Suffice it to say that it’s an enjoyable, feel good movie inspired by the true story of a tour of the American Deep South by African-American musician Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and his Italian-American driver and bodyguard Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen).
The film is named after The Negro Motorist Green Book, a yearly guide for African-American roadtrippers written by postal worker Victor Hugo Green between 1936 to 1966. Its purpose was ‘to give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trip more enjoyable’ by listing hotels and restaurants that would welcome them. This book caught the eye of multidisciplinary artist Derrick Adams, probably long before the film was made, and inspired him to create ‘Sanctuary’, a powerful art installation I saw at The Museum of Arts and Design in New York last year. Watching the film reminded me of this exhibition so I thought I’d take you on a short virtual tour through this post.
The experience of walking through the installation, which involved crossing from one section to the next as if travelling through the exhibit, evoked a sense of being sectioned off, of moving from unsafe spaces to safe havens. The sense of travel was further alluded to by tracks populated by miniature cars topped with the driving caps that would have been worn by motorists at the time, doors and door frames, and -my favourite- collages depicting elements of leisurewear such as driving gloves, bag handles, and combs combined with dollhouse windows and a printed brick fabric that represented buildings and travel vessels at the same time.
Part of the exhibition space was wallapered with facsimile pages from The Green Book, which I found fascinating to read even if the artist’s intention may not have been to educate us about its contents but to address the wider remit of cultural and political issues still pertinent today.
And while ‘Sanctuary’ was very much about examining the recent past, it also made me think about questions of freedom and human rights in the present day, particularly in relation to the position of migrants and displaced people throughout the world. This second layer of the exhibition was what I found so very powerful on reflection, and part of the reason why it has remained in my memory since I saw it – and will probably stay with me much longer than the Oscar-winning film. If you would like to find out more about Derrick Adams’s art you can visit his website here.
ARTIST & MAKER
My work is often humorous and whimsical – unless my romantic side takes over and then we enter into a fairy-tale territory of old-fashioned script, pages of books and music scores populated by chivalrous gentlemen, glamorous ladies, butterflies and rabbits.
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Would you like to explore your creative side? I use the wonderful techniques of decoupage and collage in much of my work, and now I can teach you how to create your very own masterpieces!