Wura Natasha Ogunji
Cliff Gallery at Mountain View College
August 27 through September 14, 2012
The current show in the Cliff Gallery at Mountain View College is the work of Wura Natasha Ogunji. Ms. Ogunji is an American with Nigerian roots and her art in this exhibit is a testimonial to her father.
The showpiece of the exhibit is a video called My Father And I Dance in Outer Space. Wura wondered what it would be like to dance with her father who is now deceased. Demolition of an old airport created the background and the idea. The surreal landscape is heightened by storm clouds racing overhead creating a feeling of turbulence, wind and other wordliness. Wura’s face is painted as an Ife head and she used stop motion animation to create the acrobatic dance. I had a real emotional response to the video which left me breathless wondering is she might just ascend into the sky at some point.
The paintings are an apt support for the video. Painted in earth tones & textiles on paper, they depict African images in subtle lines and colors. The images were inspired by her father’s journals in which he described dreams and architecture.
I asked Wura about the influence Nigeria had on her art. She feels the connection goes both ways. Her immigrant father came to the Americas bringing the soul of Africa. After her first trip to Nigeria she feels that spirit and art flows both ways as her performance pieces were well received there.
I asked David Kirkland, the gallery director for Mountain View; what made him want to show
Ms Ogunji’s work.
David said, “Wura-Natasha Ogunji was included in last year’s exhibit, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: A response by African-American Artists. I first saw her work on her website, when I was researching that show. I was struck by the quality and freshness of her work, and thought her video work would look great in the new gallery in a solo show. As it turns out she is only showing one video, but it and the large-scale drawings on tracing paper make for a stunning exhibit.”
I attended the opening reception and since this is a college with underage students, no alcohol was being served. It’s a rather sterile atmosphere with no music or party atmosphere like at an opening at an independent gallery, but snacks, water and juice were provided.
The easiest way to find the Cliff Gallery is to enter the parking lot from Duncanville Road. Park near Building S – follow the path to the left around Building S through the picnic area. Enter the doors go through the big room called the Treetop Lounge – veer to the right & the Cliff Gallery is down a short flight of stairs. There is a lift for persons unable to negotiate the stairs. Just Let David Kirkland know you need assistance.
Mountain View has many wonderful exhibits throughout the year. I asked David how he chooses what artists to show (other than student work) and he said, ” I don’t have a specific formula for bringing in shows, but I’m basically looking for the widest variety of high-quality art that will bring the most benefit to our students and community.”