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It was in a Cameroon market, where the pervasive, chalky red dust seeps into every pore, that Wil Clay admired the tall Fulani women.
"They love to dress in bold, colorful patterns with big earrings," he said.
One of his large paintings at 20 North Gallery shows a cluster of women chatting under shade trees. Their muscular bare feet have a red tinge. In a sling on the back of one woman, a baby sleeps. Another mother isn't so lucky - on her back is a squalling child.
"When I saw these women talking I remembered what it was like in our malls - the adults start talking and the kids get bored," said Clay, renowned for his illustrations of children's books.
Clay's lively paintings and 50 canvases, sculptures, photographs, and clay pieces by a dozen artists are featured at this gallery's 10th annual Black History Month Art Exhibit. It opens tonight at 6 with a reception for the artists and continues through Feb. 28. Works range in price from $75 to $20,000, says Peggy Grant, gallery director.
Also featured are the lovely watercolor portraits of Aaron Bivens' family, paintings by Wade Harrison and Ronney Braziel, paper-collage by Pamela Jean Patterson, photographs by Ramon R. Tiggs and Thomas Vines, and large, African-themed ceramics by Beverly Ramsey-Levert of Cleveland.
The show is a tribute to "two of Toledo's greatest treasures," says Grant: LeMaxie Glover and Marvin Vines, both of whom inspired many people during the decades they explored and created art.
Glover was a railroad fireman when he decided to become an artist at age 34. He excelled at sculpture, and in the 1950s was among the first African-Americans to attend the prestigious Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., where he earned a master of fine arts degree in 1955. He taught at Scott and Woodward high schools.
Vines reveled in a smorgasbord of media; oil and acrylic paints, ink, charcoal and pencil, leather and plastic, and photography. He was a teacher, counselor, and tennis coach and he helped launch an annual multicultural art exhibition with the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo.
Spoken-word poetry will fill the exhibit at a free show Feb. 20 from 2 to 4 p.m., when Braziel and Andre (Dre Day) Knighten, a coordinator of the youth-oriented Madd Poets Society, will read their writing.
Tonight's reception is from 6 to 9 at 20 North Gallery, 20 North St. Clair Street. The show runs through Feb. 28. The gallery is open Tuesdays through Fridays, noon to 4 p.m. and Sundays, 1 to 5 p.m. Info: 419-241-2400.
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