I have a long-standing interest in Charlotte-born artist Romare Bearden, so I keep a lookout for new books about Bearden. I am pleased to report the publication of a new and lavishly illustrated biography of Bearden by Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore. Titled Romare Bearden in the Homeland of His Imagination: An Artist’s Reckoning with the South, this biography was published by the University of North Carolina Press in May 2022. For more information about this biography, please click on the following link: https://uncpress.org/book/9781469667867/romare-bearden-in-the-homeland-of-his-imagination/
I recently discovered that Kathie Collins, the co-founder and creative director of the Charlotte Center for Literary Arts (more commonly known as Charlotte Lit), shares my interest in Bearden. She and the rest of the good folks at Charlotte Lit are organizing a series of events this fall to celebrate Bearden’s art and his Charlotte roots. I contacted Kathie and asked her for more information about this celebration. Here is what she sent to me:
In October, Charlotte Lit will celebrate the art and legacy of acclaimed artist Romare Bearden, who was born and spent his early years in Charlotte. Though Bearden’s working years were spent primarily in New York, he understood himself as a Southerner and gradually reconstructed his memory of life in Charlotte’s historical Brooklyn neighborhood, eventually claiming, “I never left Charlotte, except physically.”
In iconic collages created in the last 15 years of his life, Bearden reckoned with his homeland in a fusion of memory and mythic imagination that depicts the rich and complex daily lives of African Americans in an early 1900s Charlotte. We’re calling Charlotte Lit’s celebration “Artists Reckoning with Home.” We invite creators and community members of all backgrounds to engage in a similar reckoning through a series of events that provide opportunities to learn about Charlotte’s past and re-imagine its future.
The foundation of the celebration is a new book, Romare Bearden in the Homeland of His Imagination: An Artist’s Reckoning with the South (UNC Press), by Glenda Gilmore, professor emerita at Yale University and herself a former Charlottean. The book is gorgeous, not just scholarly but captivating and readable, with many full color plates of Bearden’s work.
In the introduction to her book, Dr. Gilmore quotes an interview with Bearden in which he says, “Time is a pattern…. You can come back to where you started from with added experience and you hope for more understanding.” Gilmore goes on to write, “His concern was always with the universal human experience, not with his individual human life as exceptional.” I believe this striving for understanding and the seeking of a universality of experience live at the heart of all the Humanities, no more so anywhere than in the literary arts, so this was a natural fit for us. At Charlotte Lit, we love to extend the conversations between the artistic disciplines.
Charlotte Lit is grateful for our partners on this event: NC Humanities, Albemarle Foundation, the Mint Museum, and UNC Press. With their help, we’ve created four free public events, to which all are invited.
• October 12: A Night in Brooklyn: Kevin Jones Experience and other artists perform and converse about generative intersections between visual art, music, and poetry. Studio 229 on Brevard. Doors open 6:30 pm.
• October 16: Writing with Bearden: An Ekphrastic Workshop. Mint Museum Uptown, 2:00 pm.
• October 19: Reading and talk by Dr. Glenda Gilmore on her book Romare Bearden in the Homeland of His Imagination. Mint Museum Uptown, 6:00 pm.
• Brooklyn Neighborhood Walking Tour, dates TBA.
Links for more information and registration: https://www.charlottelit.org/bearden.
I commend Kathie and Charlotte Lit for organizing this series of public events related to Bearden and his legacy. I think it is appropriate that these events will take place in Charlotte. Although Bearden created most of his art while living in New York, much of his art speaks to roots in Storied Charlotte.