Exhibition in the Maine State House July - Dec. 2020
ASHLEY BRYAN | Virtual Gallery
Presented in Partnership with the Ashley Bryan Center
The Ashley Bryan Center was created in 2013 to preserve, celebrate and share broadly artist Ashley Bryan’s work and his joy of discovery, invention, learning and community. The Ashley Bryan Center promotes opportunities for people to come together in the creation and appreciation of visual art, literature, music, and the oral and written traditions of poetry. The Center is fiercely committed to fostering cultural understanding and personal pride through scholarship, exhibitions and opportunities in the Arts.
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"Ashley Bryan is the quintessential humanitarian. He states his guiding principle as, 'I can never do as much for you as you can do for me.' Yet, he has given all of us an extraordinary gift that will endure long after we are gone."
- Nick Clark, Executive Director of the Ashley Bryan Center
ART IN THE CAPTIOL
The Ashley Bryan virtual exhibition has been organized by the Maine Arts Commission with the cooperation of The Ashley Bryan Center.
Born in 1923, Ashley Bryan grew up in the Bronx during the Depression. His parents emigrated from Antigua in the Caribbean and settled in New York after the First World War. Bryan began making books at the age of six and has never stopped. Trips to the public library—where he sought out folktales, fairy tales, novels, biographies, and poetry—fueled his passion for storytelling. There were, however, few opportunities to identify with African Americans: “At that time I knew very little about books by or about black people.”
Drawing helped Bryan maintain his humanity, even when drafted from art school into a segregated unit of the U.S. Army during WWII, where he served in the D-Day invasion and beyond. Bryan later studied philosophy at Columbia University, won a Fulbright to study in Germany, and taught art in high schools and universities. In the summer of 1946, while at Maine’s Skowhegan School of Art, he visited Acadia National Park and saw the Cranberry Isles; he has called this island community home for the past 70 years.
As a celebrated teacher, author, and artist, Bryan is committed to filling the void of black representation, creating children’s books about the African and African-American experience.
Bryan’s art is as varied as his stories. His accomplished draughtsmanship is evident in his paintings that range from the family portraits to the still-lives and celebrations of the natural world on view. All these works exude vibrant celebrations of linear movement and energy. He also fashions colorful paintings from his block prints that impart a similar visual intensity. Bryan also creates puppets from found objects and returns to one of the earliest forms of visual narrative in the stained-glass windows he fashions from sea glass and papier-mâché. He has scavenged all the materials for these creations from the island.
You can learn more about Ashley on The Ashley Bryan Center website ashleybryancenter.org
Artworks in this exhibition are not available to purchase.
Photos Courtesy of The Ashley Bryan Center
A Journey of Infinite Hope, Faith, Art—and Prejudice
In his new memoir, Little Cranberry Island artist Ashley Bryan depicts the lives of Black soldiers during World War II.
By Carl Little
This year marks the 75 anniversary of the end of World War II. As Lauren Katzenberg noted in the New York Times “At War” newsletter last August, “There will be many commemorations: the liberation of the concentration camps, Victory in Europe Day, the dropping of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Victory Over Japan Day and more.”
Katzenberg asked for ideas for World War II stories to cover during the year. My suggestion: the crucial but largely unsung role of African-Americans in the effort to defeat fascism in Europe. The inspiration for this recommendation? Ashley Bryan’s remarkable new autobiography, Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace (A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019, hardback, $21.99).
The award-winning artist, storyteller and writer, who turned 96 in July and makes his home on Little Cranberry Island, provides a riveting and revelatory first-hand account of his experiences as a stevedore (or longshoreman) in the all-Black 502 Port Battalion. Bryan shaped the story around letters he wrote and drawings he made during his three years in the service. READ MORE>
"Ashley Bryan’s gifts to the world are numerous and diverse, from extraordinary puppets created from Islesford beach gleanings to a library of brilliant children’s books, from paintings of dahlias to church windows made from sea glass. He has resurrected spirituals and rescued slaves from oblivion; he has amazed audiences around the world with his poetry and storytelling performances. Bryan’s humanity enlightens everyone."
-Carl Little, Maine author