Event venue and bar TRISM will turn off its strobe lights Wednesday to allow six photographers of color to display their monochromatic artwork for one day only.
Handpicked by creator and featured artist Kyle Meeks, artists were free to decide the theme of their showcased collections; however, the display, called 2 COLORS 6 ARTISTS: A Celebration of Black Art In Columbus, restricted artists to a black-and-white medium.
“I think black and white is less distractive than color,” Benhur Ayettey, an artist being showcased at the event, said. “Black and white is kind of plain, to the point. I think images are kind of timeless in black and white.”
Meeks said his gallery work was a reaction to a French artist he saw on Instagram. Meeks said the artist had good technique, but employed black face. This didn’t sit well with Meeks.
Meeks’ work focuses on subjects showing their truest selves, instead of pretending to be something they’re not. For his collection, “Bare,” Meeks said he will display photos of various nude models to combat the idea that women need to alter their appearance to be beautiful.
“Throughout history in different societies, women are largely told to be somebody else or to wear some sort of costume or mask to conceal themselves or manipulate, change themselves to be somebody else. The point of it is to push against that,” Meeks said. “Nobody should have to be anything but what they were created to be or who they are.”
Meeks said that while the gallery was not initially intended to exclusively tell stories of black artists, the final selections each coincidentally give a look into the black perspective.
Given that each artist was able to work with whatever subject they chose, Saphir Niakadie, another photographer being showcased, said new perspectives and outlooks can come to light with the same starting block of a black-and-white medium.
Niakadie said her collection, “Breathe,” shows the struggle of a man escaping a giant piece of plastic wrap.
“The plastic kind of represents, call it life, call it the moment you were kicked down — whatever it is that makes you feel like you can’t get through the moment — and then it evolves to him slowly coming out of the plastic, finding his breath and just kind of being this beautiful relieved person and just being able to breathe again.”
While some of the artists have specific messages to share through their artwork, others, such as Sultan Atekoja, will be taking a more freely expressive approach. Atekoja said his work does not follow any particular theme.
“I just like catching people in their pure essence,” Atekoja said.
Including photos taken of his home in Nigeria as well as photos of Columbus, Atekoja said he likes to draw attention to the beauty of everyday life rather than posing models.
Meeks said he chose artists who have inspired him and who he believes have strong skills in the art of photography. Five of the six artists will be present for the event to discuss their works and inspirations with attendees.
TRISM will open its doors at 7 p.m. and the event will run until 10 p.m. Wednesday. The gallery also will provide snacks and music to celebrate Meeks’ birthday.