Not many other universities can present an opportunity for their students to learn from a professor who is also an internationally successful artist. UMKC’s very own Adrienne Walker Hoard showcased her empowering artwork in The Dean’s Gallery of the Miller Nichols Library on Wednesday, January 25th. Her fine art consists of photography, gemstone jewelry, and various canvas paintings that depict her many life experiences.
Hoard’s exhibit starts off with a series of unique acrylic oil paintings over several framed copies of the identical inkjet print photos. One photo captures an aged African American woman in front of a contemporary U.S. flag with a broom in one hand and a mop in the other. Hoard painted a series of masks over each copy, illustrating a different identity for each one. She titled one red and blue mask painting “Bi-Partisan” and another winged blue and green mask “Butterfly Indian Woman.” Several other creative masks easily grasp the attention until the finale of the series, which is the original photo, unmasked, titled “American Gothic Too – Homage to 1942.”
“I had the idea to recreate Gordon Parks’ American Gothic, but had never acted on it,” Hoard said. “I wanted to use the contemporary flag of 1942 which was the time my father died. And I wanted to keep Gordon Park’s theme of the what they had called ‘charwoman,’ to represent that ‘calm resolve’ of a woman simply doing her job.”
Hoard had kindly asked a school custodian to be her subject for this photo. After the shoot for the project, she presented the photo of the custodian to students of the school; however, only a few of them recognized the woman.
“She had been working at that school for 13 years,” Hoard empathetically stated. “No one even knew who she was.”
This disheartening reality of the woman’s work life made for an ideal story behind what the artist was trying to capture: just a woman, doing her job.
After looking through the sorrowful eyes of “American Gothic Too,” a showcase of Hoard’s wearable art presents itself. This particular manner of jewelry-making is native to the Ndzundza Ndebele women of South Africa, who had initiated Hoard into their techniques while she had been teaching at one of the Universities in their country. The assorted gems used in these beadings are based off of Chakra, a school of Indian thought representing seven spiritual powers of the human body.
“I started using these gemstones to implement the Chakra system of energy into my jewelry,” Hoard explained. Each type of gemstone, such as Coral, Lapis or Jasper, is said to emit the particular energies they withhold to whoever may wear their stone. These energies range from inner clarity and self-esteem to expressive love and compassion for those around you.
Hoard meticulously fashioned several different forms of accessories for each energy of the Chakra. She was also been modeling these self-made body ornaments herself during the exhibit opening.
The remaining space in the gallery focuses on Hoard’s photography. Her series of photos primarily represents the working women of South Africa, and is titled “Woman Warrior Series”. Her largest frame captures the worn and tired hand of a South African woman. The photo is titled “The Hand That Holds the Universe.” From this, Hoard’s viewers can gather that these photos only scratch the surface of the stories that lie behind them.
The artwork of Adrienne Walker Hoard illustrates the essence of humanity, which is not only aesthetically pleasing, but soulfully emancipating. She is able to touch opposite ends of the spectrum of a whole world – it’s no wonder that she has been such a success across the globe as a not only a professor and artist, but a human being.