Graduating senior Herschel Orum’s exhibition, “Afro Punk,” is hosted by the Department of Fine Arts and is on view in Goodwyn Gallery from December 6th, 2017 through January 12th, 2018. Hershel’s mixed media works are inspired by the collaged-materials aesthetic of Afro Punk Fest and engage with social, aesthetic, and historical issues, such as the African diaspora, Southern art history, the legacies of slavery in America, and African American cultural syncretism.
Herschel’s lengthy artist statement succinctly outlines his artistic inspirations, historical references, and personal vision. He writes:
“The inspiration behind this exhibition is derived from a cultural phenomenon – AfroPunk Fest. For those unfamiliar with this event, Afro Punk is known for bringing individuals with varied backgrounds together via music and fashion to inspire, inform and provoke liberal freedoms of expression. The allure behind Afro Punk spurs from the aggregation of great music and cultural education. The melodic entertainment is often the appeal that draws the crowd to the annual festival; however, audiences are also informed of the struggles in the African diaspora on a massive scale at the event. I have comprised this ensemble of sculptures and paintings as an abstract approach to facets of this cultural event.
In the summer of 2017, I took a class entitled “Art in the South” at Auburn University at Montgomery. This insightful class influenced me a great deal as I learned about Africans that were brought to the Americas. In addition to learning more about the journey of Africans, I acquired more knowledge into their innate creativity and homeland influences that traveled with them through art, fashion, music and folklore. I often found myself feeling emotional and proud throughout my time in this class. It was through this class that I found more confidence and creativity in my artistry because I realized that I was born into my creativity – creativity stemming from a beautiful place that pulses with rhythm and color.
It was my newfound inspiration in artistry that led me to discover the Afro-Punk Festival. I chose the Afro-Punk Festival to be my muse because of the all-inclusive and liberating freedoms the patrons are encouraged to express. I believe that freedom of expression is essential in my craft because as a creative it’s crucial to have the ability to express the world through my personal lens. Whether it be expressions of love, injustice or acceptance of self and others, art serves as a historical key using sensory stimulation. The expressive elements are the bases of ethnic displacements in America.
My initial introduction to the inspiration behind this exhibition stemmed from watching my grandmother make large, beautiful quilts as a child. This time with my grandmother helped me understand the essence of taking what appears to be useless material and transforming it into beautiful masterpieces. I fused this very pertinent lesson with my sculptor’s perspective to fashion materials that have seemingly been discarded to help reflect the concept of Afro Punk here. The exhibit is a combination of several assorted styles of art used to express the beauty of the festival.
I wanted to focus on the messages that are central to AfroPunk Fest – political awareness, social activism, expression through music and fashion and safety for all. As in the times of my African ancestors, music is often a medium used to communicate important messages to the masses. As such, many of my pieces are connected to song titles and music artists that use their platform to communicate messages of awareness to the masses. These artists exemplify the fact that while we are all different, we all have the ability to make a statement through the passions and skill sets we each possess.
I created these pieces to express the diversity that is America and to demonstrate how music is a universal language that connects us all. The way that people choose to adorn themselves at the AfroPunk Fest is an outward expression of how the music connects with each person individually. As such, the blend of patterns and materials in this exhibit reflects this ornate demonstration at the festival. I believe that highlighting both the music and fashion associated with this event is a crucial element to this exhibit.
I hope my audience will gain inspiration from this exhibition. Inspiration to not only express their creativity and individuality but also to find ways to interact with the world around them in a proactive and positive way. While we do not all share the same world view, it is imperative to take the time to understand the perspectives of those around us and find creative ways to come together.”