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Exhibition Spotlight: Ebony Pope on Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s “The Beautyful Ones” Series #5

December 18, 2018

Njideka Akunyili Crosby (Nigerian, born 1983). "The Beautyful Ones" Series #5, 2016. Acrylic, transfers, colored pencils, pastel, graphite, collage and commemorative fabric on paper, 61 x 42 1/2 inches (154.9 x 108 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Bequest of John Mortimer Schiff, by exchange, 2017 (2017:3). © 2016 Njideka Akunyili Crosby. Image courtesy Victoria Miro Gallery, London.

As part of We the People: New Art from the Collection, the Albright-Knox asked members of the community for their thoughts on works in the exhibition. Educator Ebony Pope chose Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s “The Beautyful Ones” Series #5:

When I look at this beautiful artwork, the first thing I feel is joy. She’s so excited about learning, and as a teacher, if I can get children to buy in and feel like their education is valuable and enjoyable and usable—that is joy.

There are so many details to investigate, like “The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog,” which is used in teaching typing and is very American. Yet, when you look at the picture, it’s very African. So, all of that lineage and culture is brought to the table.

In the celebration of the runners on the stair steps, I see finishing and reaching a goal. Education is definitely a journey. And for me, being a religious person, the artist also has a level of faith happening here, faith that my mom did it, I can do it too. And then maybe my children can do it too, because education is definitely about seeds. I might not in my lifetime harvest what I put forth from an educational perspective, but if I have any kind of faith or belief, I’m going to plant the seed regardless, as if I’m going to see fruit prosper in the next month.

It’s exciting to see someone of color, to see someone who’s not considered the widely seen idea of pretty. Because she’s gorgeous. And so many times when you don’t see your reflection of yourself, you don’t know what gorgeous means. She’s just not like a cute little girl, she’s lovely. She’s peaceful, she’s charismatic. I think she’s a bit precocious—she’d have a whole paragraph to say if you asked her for one thought.

On Thursday, January 17, educators are invited for an evening of discussion, curriculum connections, and artmaking inspired by We The People