The final months of 2021 and all of 2022 will be the glory years for one of Tallahassee’s most popular painters, Eluster Richardson, who will be showing both here in Tallahassee and later at the Gadsden Arts Center.
With Quilts, Lives, Legacies (October 9 to December 29, 2021) at the Anderson Brickler Gallery in Tallahassee, Richardson closes the year with a personal look at the wonderful real quilts his mother created and the fascinating art into which he transformed not only images of the duvets, but also of the woman who made them.
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Since he was little, Eluster Richardson was never far from art. He found it among the rocks, earth, trees and water of the Ayavalla plantation where he was born. He created it in small sketchbooks, in which drawings of wrenches and hand drills appeared under his pencil.
And later he reproduced the natural art that he observed in his own home, a place where simple things, simple chores, the ordinary act of making beds or folding clothes became an existential meditation on life.
To be alive, yes, says the 70-year-old painter while looking at a painting by his mother who died at the age of 97, but a means of leaving a legacy that will say his mother, Amanda, forever Richardson was important – and that in his pictures of her and her quilts is an honor for the life she lived.
“I love the human figure”
Even when you see the oil paintings of Eluster Richardson’s wife, mother or daughter going about their daily life on his canvases, two things become clear. First, Richardson loves color. Second, he’s a master of the “color block” background – geometric panels that are sometimes part of a room or shadows, sometimes abstract shapes that perfect a piece.
As with a quilt, in which each square has a different shade and gives the choir of the whole its own unique voice, so do the colors and the designed background of its pictures.
Then there are of course the “quilting women” from Eluster, who deal with meticulous stitches, drape themselves in pixelated fabrics or smooth out fabric folds, even if time makes its own.
“I love the human figure,” says Richardson from his home studio. “I’ve been painting my daughter Jasmine since she was wearing diapers.” Sometimes dancing, sometimes pensive, Jasmine with a brilliant scarf around her head or posing as an African princess, brings her own drama to a Richardson work.
Homage to the painter’s mother
For the current Anderson Brickler show, it is Amanda Richardson’s turn. “After almost 30 years as a systems engineer with the telephone company, I had retired – just when my mother needed me. She moved into my house and we had time to devote ourselves to our passions … my art and her quilting. “
Richardson says his mother scattered scraps of cloth all over the living room, but he could see her patience and zeal for what she was creating. And together their lives became part of the legacy he always has in the back of his mind.
Fourteen of his paintings will adorn Anderson Brickler’s walls, along with four real quilts from his mother.
Another 19th century family from Marjorie Turnbull’s family and one by Valerie S. Goodwin, a former FAMU professor whose quilt deals with African burial sites, are on display.
The interest in quilts has grown over the years. Quilting societies have emerged, fine art galleries present them both as forms of folk art and as hand-made works of art, both primitive and highly detailed. ABG’s chief curator Kabuya Priscilla Bowens-Saffo has reached out to local quilt shops and organizations to share her own stories, quilts, and legacies.
She hopes to assemble her submitted photos and stories of her quilts in a separate room in the gallery.
Gallery founder creates glossy exhibition books
Dr. Celeste Hart, who is the fourth generation in the line of the formidable and acclaimed Harriet Tubman, and not just a practicing physician in the Brickler family tradition, founded the Anderson Brickler Gallery as part of her dedication to the art, history, and experiences the art can do. She also wanted to expand the appreciation of the moment of seeing deeply moving art by giving the viewer something tangible to relive the experience.
“I’ve been a collector of art catalogs for a long time. I often see things that I missed in the works when they were first viewed. Art is very specific to a particular time and place and captures history in a way that other documentary media cannot. “
Hart believes that in addition to “thanking” the artists for exhibiting their work, it is important to see their development and the time spent in their development. Her response was a glossy, bound book of two exhibitions by Anderson Brickler: Ken Falana and now Eluster Richardson.
“I’ve dreamed of having a book with my pictures for 25 years,” says Richardson. “And this one is beautifully produced.” Richardson will have a book signing at the gallery on November 13th.
And yet new work is always literally “on the drawing board”. From his home studio, just off the living room where his family gathers, Eluster Richardson can be found most evenings sketching, working in watercolors and oils, and even creating figurative sculptures that are turned into bronze.
“It’s like scratching an itch that never goes away,” he laughs. And everyone who sees his work is very, very happy that there is still no cure.
When you go
What: Exhibition of the work of Eluster Richardson, “Quilts, Lives, Legacies”
When: Exhibition opens Saturday October 9th and runs through December 29th
Where: Anderson Brickler Gallery, 1747 S. Adams, basement
Artist talk and book signing: 3 p.m. – 3 p.m. Nov. 13
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