Art in Embassies

Landscape painting
Samuel Akainyah The Last Grace, 2008 Oil on canvas 74 x 85 in. (188 x 215,9cm) Courtesy of the artist, Chicago, Illinois

On behalf of the United States Mission to the United Nations Agencies in Rome, I welcome you to a virtual tour of Villa San Sebastiano. I am delighted to share with you an art exhibition of vibrant images that also have a connection to my beloved city of Chicago. When considering my selection for this Art in Embassies exhibition, I sought to present a unique blend of paintings and sculptures. The pieces which I have selected will take visitors on a journey through beautiful colors and textures. This artistic journey for me exemplifies the rich diversity in American art and society.

As an example, to begin this exhibition I selected a piece by Samuel Akainyah, titled Last Grace. Akainyah is a first generation Chicago Ghanaian-American, and his life and work reflect the sentiments of so many immigrants before him that in America anything is possible. Last Grace speaks directly to life’s possibilities … a beautiful scene capturing either the solemnity of the dimming light reflecting trees in the water or the joyously hopeful illumination of light from the water into the trees. This work continues to inspire me; because, water like food represents a fundamental element of life and health. We each represent the light and only working together can we provide hope and possibility to the world’s hungry people.

As the U.S. Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Agencies in Rome, I am grateful and honored that our Mission has the opportunity to perform an important leadership role… advancing the Obama Administration’s Feed the Future initiative. To achieve the objectives of this initiative every member of our mission works as a team partnering with the United Nations organizations, the other permanent representatives, the private sector and relevant non governmental organization leaders to create a sustainable food secure and hunger free world.

Impressionist portrait painting
Calvin Coleman The Gathering, 2008 Acrylic on canvas Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Myrtis, Baltimore, Maryland

The artwork in this exhibition, generously loaned by American artists, creates an awareness building opportunity. Through this publication we capitalize on this opportunity to continue the fight to help feed the nearly one billion chronically hungry people in the world. Please enjoy the art while remembering those in need and pledging your support to the global partnership to end hunger.

In closing, I would like to thank the ever patient Sarah Tanguy and all the other staff members of the Art in Embassies Program at the U.S. Department of State for their assistance in assembling this exhibition. A big thank you to Myrtis Bedolla of Galerie Myrtis for not just lending pieces but also for her readiness to provide guidance and support. A special thank you goes to Valeria Brunori, Embassy Rome’s art curator, Philip Young and all those who assisted in displaying the art work at the residence. Finally, to my best friend Diane Dinkins-Carr, a grand docent of the Chicago art community without whose assistance this project would never have come together. I am proud to share with you the art of many talented artists. I hope you enjoy this exhibition as much as I do.

Please view the exhibition online here.

Samuel Akainyah was born in 1953 in Ghana

Samuel Akainyah was born in Ghana, and in 1975, moved to Chicago, Illinois. His father was a Ghanaian Supreme Court justice, and his mother was a teacher. He holds both a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in fine art and art history. He also received his Master of Arts degree in diplomacy and international law from the Graduate Committee on International Relations at the University of Chicago.

After graduate school, Akainyah began using his knowledge of African history and his painting skills to create highly expressive words. In the 1980s one of his frescos became a poster for that august Civil Rights organization, the NAACP. A decade later, the exhibition Akainyah: The Art of Liberation, which paid tribute to Nelson Mandela and to people who died in South African prisons, traveled worldwide. In 1994 a children’s television program, Initiations, focused on Akainyah’s paintings of Ghanaian males who were being initiated into society, juxtaposing this rite to the rise in gang subculture in America. A few years later, Akainyah joined the faculty at Kennedy-King Community College in Chicago. He has also published three books, including an autobiography (2008).

Akainyah was honored by the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois when they proclaimed February 15, 1999 as Samuel Akainyah Day. That same year, he was elected the official artist of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. In 2005 he presented the President of Ghana with a painting entitled, From Whence We Came to President. A year later, N’Digo Magazine named him one of the fifty most influential Blacks in Chicago. Akainyah has been a member of the National Council, and the Rald Institute, and has chaired the Black Creativity Art Competition at the Museum of Science and Industry.

Sigrid Vollerthun was born in 1935.

Sigrid Vollerthun was born and raised in Germany. All her life she has had an interest in visual arts and design. She became interested in fine art photography during the early 1990s when she joined two very active camera clubs and attended numerous workshops and seminars. The recipient of several prestigious photographic awards, she has participated in many juried exhibitions, and in 2004, her photographs were featured in the television documentary series Photographers of Northern Virginia.

My images begin as 35 mm photographs, macro photomontages or multiple exposures. Many are transformed–sometimes to the point of becoming completely unrecognizable.” Sigrid Vollerthun

“In my work I pursue the beauty I find abundantly in nature. My camera has become the main instrument in this pursuit. I aspire to use it not just as a recording device but as a painter’s brush, filling the frame with glorious colors, intriguing forms, inspiring abstracts… Nature’s glory is the subject of many of my photographs, but my repertoire also includes digital fantasies, abstract imagery and dreamscapes. My enthusiasm for vivid colors has always been a dominant force in my life, which I enjoy expressing in my images, while at the same time conveying serenity and harmony in a contemplation of peace and the wholeness of the universe.

Lynda Smith Bugge was born in Colombia.

“Trees in my neighborhood inspire my art. Branches are re-formed into abstract sculpture. Holes receive lathe-turned spheres; radiating patterns of burled wood nestle into geometric forms. Tree wounds reveal shapes integral to the form; cuts are sewn-up with copper wire; worm patterns add texture and contrast to finely finished interiors. My goal is to have people stop in their tracks and to say, ‘Wow, is that what is in the tree that I walk by everyday?’

My abstract sculptures uncover the insides of a tree trunk or limb, and evoke universal and spiritual themes such as new beginnings, breaking open, mending & mystery. Power tools such as band saws, lathes and sanders reveal undulating organic lines and forms. I turn a sphere or build a geometric form to juxtapose and ‘lift’ nature’s designs. The final combination of organic and carefully designed counterpoint elicits a moment of awe.

Influences to my work originally came from my love [of] the abstract, earthy, enticing-to-touch sculptures of Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. Nature has been my solace to turn to for renewal.” Lynda Smith-Bugge

Born in Colombia, South America, to missionaries from the United States, Lynda Smith Bugge studied at the Alliance Academy in Quito, Ecuador, and Triton Regional High School, New Jersey, before earning a Bachelor of Science degree in fine arts from Hunter College, and a Master of Science degree in museum education from Bank Street College of Education (both in New York City). From 1975 to1998 she worked as an educator in various institutions such as the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Over the years, she has participated in numerous exhibitions in the Mid-Atlantic States and has received several awards and commissions.

Calvin Coleman was born in 1966

Born in Hampton, Virginia, Calvin Coleman spent his adolescent years in Swarthmore, a Philadelphia suburb in Pennsylvania. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in early childhood education from Lincoln University, Pennsylvania. In 2004, after fourteen years of teaching, he committed to becoming a full time professional artist.

Coleman’s works are inspired by his personal journey and spiritual beliefs that transcend race and creed. His mission is to impact the world with his creative vision and to touch the soul of the observer. Each work of art draws on his spirituality, love of music, and nature’s beauty, and surpasses cultural and ethnic barriers. The messages communicated in his artworks are global and convey that God is real, the human spirit is strong, and the world is a beautiful place.

Infusing movement and color into his paintings, Coleman captures new feelings and emotions. In his Wisdom and Virtuous Woman series, Coleman entices the viewer to take a closer look, thus revealing subtle spiritual messages, allowing purposeful reflection. Among other themes, the artist creates abstract florals, landscapes, cityscapes, and portraits. He is versatile, working in oil, acrylic, and collage. Coleman has exhibited his work in Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., as well as in Toulouse, France.

He has received commissions from a wide variety of sponsors, including: Mr. Chenoa Osayande, Muhammed Ali, Bob Marley and Malcolm X, and has been the subject of several publications and media productions.

Rejoice and Be Glad in It, 2008
Tissue paper ink monoprint
80 x 36 in. (203,2 x 91,4 cm)
Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Myrtis, Baltimore, Maryland

Maya Freelon Asante was born in 1982.

“ ‘Rejoice and Be Glad In It’ is a statement my grandmother, Queen Mother Frances
Pierce, repeated throughout my childhood. When I think of her, or spend time with my grandmother, I feel full of light and love. This artwork is dedicated to her uplifting spirit and everlasting light.” Maya Freelon Asante

Maya Freelon Asante is a visual artist whose work has been described by the renowned poet, Dr.
Maya Angelou, as “observing and visualizing the truth about the vulnerability and
power of the human being.”

Her artwork has been exhibited internationally and is included in collections at the
Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History in Baltimore; the U.S. Embassy in Madagascar; and the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists in Boston Massachusetts. Her tissue ink mono/photo prints—a combination of tissue paper, printmaking, collage, and sculpture—were hailed by the International Review of African American Art as “a vibrant, beating assemblage of color.”

Asante studied at the American University in Paris, earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania, and her Master of Fine Arts degree from the School of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She has been awarded fellowships and residencies around the world including to the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, the Brandywine Workshop, and the Kokrobitey Institute of Ghana.

Asante was recently awarded the prestigious Brown Studio at the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower in Baltimore, where she has a dedicated workspace and participates in monthly open studios.