In what feels like the spiritual heart of the exhibition, and its complex blend of transcendence and despair, are three indelible short films by Atlanta filmmaker Olamma Oparah.
Co-written by the equally talented cinematographer Colbie Fray, Oparah’s “Laundry Day” is a meditation on family framed against the quotidian task of laundry. Three generations of women are shown going about that chore, locked into the same cycle and shared action, but divided by past hurts.
In her film “The Importance of a House,” a luscious female body is juxtaposed against the commanding, sonorous baritone of singer Paul Robeson’s voice. And in probably the richest of the three works, “No One Heals Without Dying,” Oparah presents a masterwork in 13 minutes. Pairing Black grief and joy into one bittersweet whole, the short film touches on the painful, public experience of racism and the private, hopeful promise of birth.
In a crafty mix of humor and self-care, artist Mz. Icar has created a gallery wall of affirmations rendered in fabric — the kind of handmade, hand-stitched banners you might find on Etsy but with some of the spirit of Barbara Kruger. There are messages to “Defend Joy,” “Enjoy” and “Connect” that pulsate between goofy effusiveness and charming positivity. Some of the pieces are lo-fi one-offs like “Too Much Too Little,” a banner festooned with cheerfully bulbous decorative pompoms in every size that seems to pretty aptly convey the 21st century human condition of terminal restlessness: it’s always too much, or not enough.
Another standout is the talented Chattanooga-based Victoria Sauer who renders the ordinary extraordinary in photorealist paintings that riff on classical still lifes by the likes of Courbet and Caravaggio and their tropes of abundance, laced with caution.
Sauer gives those hoary chestnuts a winking, contemporary nudge and keeps it real with her paintings that hint at bad habits and a life of sometimes easy, cursory pleasures. “Cereal” features a bowl of someone’s sugary yellow breakfast being, strangely, heated on a gas stove. In a humorous still life, perhaps about the modern push-pull of health and self-indulgence or simply, a documentary slice of life, Sauer’s “Still Life” creates a tableau of water bottles and Oreos, sandals and Sharpies.
A female perspective on self-love and self-care reminiscent of Atlanta artist Antonio M. Johnson’s portraits of the affirmative community of Black barbershops, Tomesha Faxio offers up photographs that emphasize the solace of the human touch. In images of women having their hair washed, something ordinary becomes sacred; a sign of the fleeting but important connections between us.
In two complementary solo exhibitions hanging nearby and up through September 11, artists Leia Genis and Sanaz Haghani contemplate the idea of silenced voices and people. In “Erasing History,” Genis’s cyanotypes feature vaporous human figures that create a feeling of loss and absence. In similarly somber work for “Behind the Darkness,” Iranian-born Haghani — who also presents a mini-exhibition of contemporary Iranian women artists at Mint — displays a haunting series of shrouds imprinted with women’s and girls’ faces, hands and feet that hang from the ceiling. There’s a kind of erasure involved in those bodies lost inside all that fabric that feels tragically connected to the nightmare unfolding in Afghanistan, of women reduced to two-dimensional phantoms; voiceless specters behind their enveloping garments.
“Sweet/Discord” and “Behind the Darkness”/”Erasing History”
Through Sept. 25 and 11. Free. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays. Mint Gallery, 680 Murphy Ave. SW, Unit 2095, Atlanta. 404-680-8728, mintatl.org.
Bottom line: Contemplative work defines a group show and two solo exhibitions that feel like a complicated expression of the human condition itself.