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De'Angelo Dia takes joy in the art of drawing
Works on display at Mint Museum
 
Published Wednesday, September 2, 2020 10:54 am
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

PHOTO | LYDIA BITTNER-BAIRD
Twelve of artist De’Angelo Dia's drawings are part of Constellation CLT at the Mint Museum's Uptown location through Jan. 2, 2021.

De’Angelo Dia uses art as a way of reclaiming joy.

A Goodyear Arts collective artist, he earned a bachelor’s degree in applied communication and sociology from Appalachian State University, master’s in literature from UNC Charlotte and a master’s in divinity from Union Presbyterian Seminary. He is a theologian, writer, performer, poet, and photographer. His message of social conscience remains the same, but the medium changes.  

Twelve of his large-scale drawings are part of Constellation CLT at the Mint Museum’s Uptown location, which are on exhibit through Jan. 2, 2021. Museums are permitted to reopen at half capacity under North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s Sept. 1 executive order, which goes into effect Sept. 4 at 5 p.m. and runs through Oct. 2.

Constellation CLT is in its second year and designed to activate the Mint Museum’s public spaces while also connecting local artists, the institution and museum-goers. Three of Dia’s pieces can be found on the Plaza level, four on the second floor, two in the mezzanine, two on the third floor and two on the fourth floor.  

“It’s him grappling with the systemic racism that he experiences every day of his life in every aspect of his life,” Mint Museum chief curator Jen Sudul Edwards said. “There was this urgent social message attached to it, but also this profoundly beautiful craftsmanship. He’s a beautiful drawer. His ability to combine color is so masterful and again on one hand there’s this really urgent sociocultural message where he is celebrating different manifestations of African culture and the African diaspora, and how that finds itself uniquely in the culture developed by Black and brown people in the United States. There’s that aspect of it, which is beautiful and moving, but there’s also this merging of all of these different techniques. It’s the graphic illustrations that he has picked up out of his love of comic books, but also that really masterful blending of color and line that he learned as an art student.”

COURTESY DE’ANGELO DIA
De’Angelo Dia’s “Betty,” on left, and “Charlie.”

These works stemmed from late night creations at Goodyear Arts, which served as Dia’s escape from insomnia. It allows him to explore a social analysis but also an analysis of self.

He is a self-described content-driven artist, meaning whatever point he believes will best express his point at a particular time dictates the type of medium he chooses to use.


“The content for me typically always stays the same,” Dia said. “The content for me is examining my identity, my embodiment. Where do I stand in the universe, and what is my understanding of what it means to nurture community?”


Said Edwards: “The best creative productions often come out of responding to a need, and what more urgent need than one when you’re seeking solace and respite when you most desperately need it and can’t find it.”  


Dia’s drawings became a space for him to express his energy and concern as 2020 continued to shift from a pandemic to a world where social and racial justice demanded more and more attention.


“I was creating these characters late-night after work at Goodyear Arts,” Dia said. “No one was there. I could create in isolation. I don’t get that opportunity in my day-to-day life often. There was no intent of showing anyone these characters. I was doing them for myself. We’re dealing with so much now worldly that I needed an outlet not only to process for myself, but I also needed an outlet to reclaim joy for myself. Although I am writing about serious topics on the background, I smear that out. I rubbed the writing out so that it almost becomes illegible, and what you are left with is the character.

“The reclaiming and the joy is that these are very similar structure and designed characters from my childhood that gave me a lot of joy. It’s an idea of looking at joy as a revolutionary act, and joy as something that we can reclaim in the midst of storms, and joy as a rebellious tool in many ways. Not that we should be dancing through the flowers and forgetting about the horrible things that are happening currently, and have always taken place on some scale, but in the midst of doing the work for systemic and social change, I needed that space for joy for myself because I was getting exhausted. Creating these characters allowed me to reclaim some of that joy that had been taken away.”


Dia has created a performance for this body of work with choreographer Reba Bowens and sound artist Dylan Gilbert called “Apnea,” written by Dia. A timeline for the performance is to be determined due to COVID-19.


“I try to be very intentional when I am trying to sleep and when I am trying to create these characters that I am processing, in spite of all that is going on there is something to celebrate,” Dia said. “This performance around what’s keeping me up, and how do I celebrate in the midst of these horrible things keeping me up.”


For more information: https://mintmuseum.org/constellation_clt/fall-2020

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