This Visual Artist Reminds Us of the Importance of Communitycsudhbulletin November 17, 2021 0 COMMENTS
Visual artist, Toni Scott, asks the question, “How can we come together as one race, the human race, in greater unity?” through her exhibit, “Transcend.” Photo courtesy of the visual artist Toni Scott.
By Serena Sanchez, Staff Reporter
In her exhibit titled “Transcend” at California State University, Dominguez Hills, artist Toni Scott displays seven art pieces that encompass her ancestry, and questions our unity as humans with her visual art.
The ongoing multimedia collaboration began last year, after President Parham’s daughter Kenya, who, at the time, was working with Red Sea Entertainment, Scott’s management, introduced the two. After a lunch and a tour of the campus, both Scott and the university had an interest to collaborate.
According to President Parham, this continuous collaboration goes much further than how this will look as a campus.
“[Scott] has a lot of visibility, obviously. But the one thing I can think of was, ‘How great would this be for our students?’” he said. “It was always done with students in mind, how great would it be for faculty to have access to a colleague and a peer who was doing, you know, some other work as phenomenal as Toni Scott’s work.”
According to Scott, the exhibit aims to build a bridge of understanding between individuals and the cruciality of community and honoring our environment. “And it’s to inspire and encourage us to reconnect to the themes of freedom and liberty and to rise and ascend past obstacles, and to celebrate our achievements,” said Scott.
There are various ways to create art, and all artists work in their own ways–Scott is no different. Not only does she have so many skills under belt, such as sculpting, painting, etc., she manages to combine numerous thoughts and feelings into her final product.
But the end goal of said partnership is not solely for those who walk campus grounds.
“[It’s also] to bring us to the attention of folk who are external, who might not have considered having this kind of work displayed at a place like the museums, because we want not only our students and faculty and staff to take advantage of looking at that, but also our community…This campus belongs to the public. So we try to make sure that it’s a welcoming space for the public,” Parham said.
Born in South Central, L.A., Scott achieved her Bachelor of Science in International Relations from USC, and her Master of Fine Arts from UCSB three years ago.
Her art has been shown in multiple museums around the world, and featured in the book, “Creative Souls: African-American Artists in Greater Los Angeles.” “Transcend”, as well as her other exhibits, such as “Bloodlines,” “American History 101,” “Resilience,” have a major focus on her ancestry, which is a combination of African-American, Native American, and European heritage.
Scott feels a sense of belonging and servitude toward where she grew up, which is what brought her to CSUDH. “Its [CSUDH] commitment to students, and the community coexisting is a part of my goal to support growth, education, push past inequity…have a place…, a forum to flourish, where we can all be the best that we could be,” said Scott.
On the fifth floor of the University Library–in the Multicultural Art Gallery–a step off of the elevator, and a slight right, houses the new art exhibit built up of queen palm fronds, wood, acrylic paint, and fiberglass.
Similar to her other works, for the last five years, Scott has enjoyed incorporating natural materials into her art.
“It’s part of seeing the beauty in the world around us,” she said. “Recognizing natural elements do have a story, a journey, a contribution, and have energy and have their own unique being and healing properties.”
Seven of Scott’s art pieces live in what feels like a small, glass box that looks out to the rest of the library’s floor. After grabbing a brochure containing all you need to know about the journey you will be taking, you are faced with Scott’s cement, wood, and linen sculpture, I Can’t Breathe.
This art piece in particular is a recast of the 2009 sculpture, I Can’t Breathe, which was originally a response to the death of Oscar Grant. Scott brought it back in 2020 due to the death of George Floyd. What was once cast in plaster, was recast in concrete because of its role in the lives of people of color.
“Concrete is the material of the street and I think it’s the foundation in which all of us come in contact, at some point in, you know, in our day-to-day journey. Also, so many deaths of people of color have occurred, violently, on concrete streets and pavements,” said Scott.
On each wall on the far-ends of the room where Scott’s art resides, two twin-like Indigo Paintings of water and acrylic canvases mirror each other. Thunderbird and Thunderstorm on the right and Bodies of Water and Tributes & Tributaries on the left immediately catch your eye with their smeared blue acrylic paint that looks to create different shades over a white background.
Also facing the glass toward the lobby of the fifth floor, as is its concrete partner, is Scott’s fiberglass sculpture, the Mangbetu Woman. This particular beautiful, bronze-colored art piece is part of Scott’s The Heritage Series, “a collection of paintings and sculptures celebrating the African diaspora,” as noted in the exhibit’s brochure.
Each of said pieces surrounds the statement, almost centerpiece, in the middle of the exhibit, Ascend. The combination of queen palm fronds, wood, and acrylic paint is arguably the most all-consuming aspect of “Transcend”, especially as its haunting, strong textures are reflected on the wall in blue and yellow lighting from bulbs from above.
The materials used in this piece, specifically, are a testament to how strong humans cannot help but be, as they bounce back from challenges that get in the way of their survival.
“Also…palm fronds are objects that are discarded, but they are still a part of life, they still feed the earth, even as they disintegrate, they still provide elements for the earth to continue to grow and to support the insects and so forth to be able to survive,” said Scott.
In a time where racism, white supremacy, sexual assault, discrimination against LGBTQ+ and Latinx individuals, police brutality are so prevalent, bringing people to the realization that what we need is each other, is crucial.
“We all need each other,” said Parham. “And…anytime you have an artist like Toni Scott, who can remind us about the interconnectedness and interrelationship between different members of the human family, irrespective of your diversity, I think that that’s something we want to celebrate and illuminate.”
Through her hope to inspire the CSUDH community to understand empathy, humanity, civil liberty, Scott also believes the tenacity and family dynamic of both students and community have been an immense inspiration to her.
As all seven art pieces are nestled close to her heart, Scott carefully picked them to be in the exhibit, with one sole goal.
“My hope is that all the works in the exhibition, “Transcend,”…emerge from the confines of archived history, and rise to a role that gives precedence to the narrative around people of color in America,” said Scott.
The multimedia art exhibit, “Transcend,” is currently open from now until April 30, 2022, and is accessible Mondays and Fridays by appointment, with walk-ins on Tuesday through Thursday.