"Bridge of Time"
mixed media on canvas
My name is Laela Estus, and I am a graduating senior at Huston-Tillotson University.
I decided to create a visual bridge using words, pictures, glass, paint, cloth and other textiles to illustrate my take on the Harlem Renaissance while adding an Austin twist.
I believe that history repeats itself. Just as the important figures that are featured in my piece from the Harlem Renaissance have helped to strengthen and inspire a generation of Black singers, dancers, actresses, writers and musicians, the same holds true for people around me in this present time.
I chose four images to feature from the archives, of Alvin Ailey, Maudelle Bass, Ethel Waters, and Dizzy Gillespie. Each image spoke to me without knowing much about the person. I researched how extraordinary each were through teaching, activism, composing and creating space for others to follow.
The other four images have a personal sentiment to me. They are my mother, Olga Johnson, who is a glass artist, gardener, and herbalist, and who has inspired me my entire life. My father, who recently passed, is Deon Estus, who was the third member of Wham. His solo album, Spell, reached 15 on the billboard charts. His music lives on forever and continues to impact this world. My late sister, Yahel Johnson, who was a model, actress and blogger, journaled her battle with cancer and was an inspiration to so many and a shero to me. Last, my son, Adeas James, who is the future and one of the reasons I continue to push myself to be an inspiration.
I wanted each of my images to come alive and leap from the pages just as their stories leaped into my heart. I used different media to create a tactile visual experience. Having never worked with some of the different materials, I had to go through several trial-and-error stages. That same challenge also became my greatest victory because when I would get the idea to work, I would be so excited.
Writing is and always will be my first love. I wrote Black Gospel as a homage to Black people in all stages of development. The other poem featured was inspired by a book in the archive called The Negro in Literature and Art in the United States, from a chapter called Negro Genius, and when I read it I knew I wanted to pull pieces of that story out and reuse it for this project.
Lastly, the bridge is the most captivating piece of my project: it ties everything together. It’s made of kiln formed glass pieces, created by glass artist Olga Johnson, my mother. The bridge for me symbolizes the past, present and the future and means to me that Black people had and will always have the power to inspire and uplift people in the form of any creative arts they choose.
I appreciate you all for taking time out to support art. Remember Black Art Matters!