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New 'All That We Carry' art exhibit aims to share experiences of Black men and women

Guest curator Cookie Washington brought artists from all over the United States to the Sumter County Gallery of Art to showcase their earth-based quilts and ceramics

SUMTER, S.C. — A new earth-based art exhibit at the Sumter County Gallery of Art aims to represent the experiences of Black men and women from all over the United States.

A quilter herself, Sumter resident Noreen Wall visited the gallery to see the creations.

"When I got here, I was shocked because I had no idea what kind of quilts they were and I’m like, 'Wow, this is wonderful!" Wall said. "In fact, I went home and called some of my friends and they came and everybody, we’re all so excited about all of this work and we’re inspiring to possibly do something like this ourselves."

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Guest curator Cookie Washington brought artists from all over the country to show off their works in line with the theme "All That We Carry."

"To have people coming from Texas and New Mexico and Michigan? That’s really awesome," Washington said. "As African American women, we are carrying so much: our joys, our pains, our struggles. And I thought it would be beautiful to render that in fabric."

For each artist, that means something different.

"I carry my daughters, I carry my family," artist Veronica Mays said of her quilt's depiction.

Renee Fleuranges-Valdes created a "Curvy Lady Series."

"I have been curvy all my life," she said. "So, for me to be able to represent the curvy ladies represents who I am, right? And shows the world that yes we have our place, we have all brought meaning to this world."

Janette Holland added: "Immediately, I thought of our mothers and all that they carry, and I said ‘I have to do a piece representing them.'"

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Toya R.B. Thomas created a self-portrait on a quilt.

"It is a reflection of what I see and feel and experience are a reflection of what my parents taught me," Thomas said. "These symbols all above represent those characteristics that my ancestors poured into me which I in turn share with those whom I come into contact with."

And for artist Gwen Samuels, it was a way to reflect on the past.

"[My quilt] tells the story about how over 6 million black people from maybe the 1920s into the 60s migrated from the south," Samuels said. "And so this depicts the migration and how full circle we’re coming back."

All these different representations are something Wall was happy to see.

"I lived through Ku Klux Klan. I lived through all this boycott stuff. So this says a lot to me," Wall said.

Sharing this experience was Washington's goal.

"I think it's our voices in cloth and I think it’s important because it’s a more gentle way to get our points across and to share with the community what we’re feeling, what we’re seeing, what we’re experiencing, and it also becomes a teaching tool," Washington said.

It was also an opportunity to unite different artists together.

Cynthia Vaughn came from San Antonio to display her art and to see her friends from other states. 

"The other quilters, they're friends, so I wanted to come and experience this personally," Vaughn said.

While some of the artists are heading out of town, this exhibit will be on display until Jan. 13. 

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