The Center for Visual Artists is stepping out boldly in 2020 with a unique and thought-provoking exhibit, “Self-Recognition Through The Other” opening with an artist reception on First Friday, Feb. 7, from 6-9 p.m. The exhibition runs through March 28. Curator, photographer and community builder Kunjo, of Brooklyn, will be revealing seven unreleased pieces along with paintings, sculptures, video, photography, textiles and mixed media works of 23 mostly-local artists. Kunjo and fellow artists created all-new art specifically for this show based on a theme to share “the artists’ relationship with self-awareness through understanding feelings, shared experiences, and navigating how we heal individually and collectively.”

These personal and intimate revelations of the human spirit will be explored in more depth through conversations in a CVA-hosted “Crash Talk” on Feb. 8 at 3 p.m. with Kunjo, Zalika U. Ibaorimi, and Korinn Annette Jefferies. Ibaorimi is a visiting multidisciplinary artist from Texas and a doctoral student of African and African Diaspora at the University of Texas at Austin, and Jefferies is a visiting playwright from Durham, who focuses on the black experience as both an analyst and creator. The talk and exhibit are free to attend, and all are welcome to come experience an emerging evolution of building community understanding that begins with “self-awareness” as expressed in the works of this show.

In selecting the artists to “best represent the theme,” Kunjo said he played a major part in the juror process and worked virtually with CVA Gallery Director Devon McKnight, whom he gives a big part of the credit to, along with CVA Director Corrie Lisk-Hurst. He said he personally scouted, contacted and spoke with several artists in-depth “to mindfully make these selections.” He said it was important to him to “keep our community in mind while doing so.” Kunjo serendipitously met McKnight in 2017 in Oakland, California, where he lived from 2015-2018, getting involved in that community’s art scene. He said he was intrigued by North Carolina through McKnight’s conversations and was happy to accept her invitation to visit and do a show.

“I am so grateful to Kunjo and especially for his honesty and how he shows up in all he does,” McKnight said. “I could not have done this without him. He really speaks to what we are doing at CVA to create diversity and build community. We also want to send out a big thank you to The Proximity for sponsoring the show.”

Kunjo, a native of Milwaukee, has shown his work in multiple artist exhibits in San Francisco, Chicago, Milwaukee and Bay View, Wisconsin. His photography encourages viewers to “address past issues that are a result of our current state in time.” He has been featured in numerous publications, including Glamour Magazine. His portfolio website features “The Funeral” – a procession of images under the umbrella of “Film Did Die.” Kunjo said he believes that film is making its way back, just like vinyl records. Since 2017, he has gone full-time as a freelance photographer and is very interested in exploring ad agency collaborations.

Kunjo said his goal with his most recent work, “Sleeping Beauty, The Healing Process,” is to photograph 100 black men while sleeping (he has photographed 64 to date). While working with film, Kunjo said he “creates intimate portraits that explore the unexamined and unrecorded emotions of black men to humanize black men to be more relatable.” He is looking for 36 more “sleeping beauties” to complete this project and hopes to photograph black men in the Triad while he is in town.

Kunjo said his idea to publish this “coffee table book” is challenging, as he doesn’t want to sell the images of these sleeping black men in such a way that may exploit them in a vulnerable state. Even with their permission to do so, before the photo shoot, he is still grappling with the idea. Kunjo enjoys volunteering and now helps facilitate young people in the “Resilient Advocacy Project” (RAP) in Brooklyn. He has also done work at ReStart Academy.

“With this show, I would hope for people to become more self-aware, to move through being afraid and to explore what that means to them and the people around them and to value community – that’s a really big one to me,” Kunjo said. “I will be at the opening for people to ask me questions and to accept their responses to the show and my work. I can’t ask for too much. My photos create a lot of doors open to questions that I hope to answer. It’s a lot of love. The whole purpose of it all is to love one another. No one can deny that being in love is the most blessed feeling in the world. I love the energy.”

TERRY RADER is a freelance writer/editorial/content/copy, creative consultant/branding strategist, communications outreach messenger, poet and emerging singer/songwriter.

Wanna go?

“Self Recognition Through the Other,” Feb. 7-Mar. 28, “Crash Talk” with Kunjo, Zalika U. Ibaorimi and Korinn Annette Jeffries, Feb. 8, 3-5 p.m., all at Center for Visual Artists, 200 N. Davie St., (336) 333-7475. The gallery is located on the second floor of the Cultural Arts Center between the African American Atelier and the Native American Gallery and across the hall from Green Hill Gallery.

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