Bessie Smith Cultural Center of Chattanooga

“No Crystal Stair” solo exhibition by Charlotte Riley-Webb

Dates: Mar. 9th 2012 – May. 31st 2012

Artist Statement:

“Transitioning into Abstract art after many years of establishing my career as a representational artist has taken a tremendous leap of faith. ”No Crystal Stair” is a combination of three separate series  Stories of My America”, “Earth Tunes” and “Still Running Lines Through My Head”. You can see this transition in the collective components of work from each of these three series. “No Crystal Stair” from the Langston Hughes poem of the 60’s, speaks to the tenacity in her own life that a mother uses to inspire her son when “things get a little hard”. For me things at times have gotten a little hard, but character building was the mantra of my mother, and she too instilled in her daughters what she called, “bulldog tenacity”, and it has been that strength that I have had to draw from at various times throughout my life. ”

About Charlotte Riley-Webb:

An Atlanta native, Charlotte Riley-Webb moved with her family to Cleveland, Ohio as a toddler, where she was educated in the public school system and earned her B.F.A. degree from The Cleveland Institute of Art. She has continued her education, exploring new mediums through numerous workshops and classes throughout the years. As a professional visual artist, Charlotte documented the essence of her culture in her three year traveling exhibition, From Stories of My America”, which debuted at the Hammonds House Museum in Atlanta in 2001 and exhibited in seven different museums and fine art galleries throughout the south. Among them was the Beach Institute, Savannah, Penn Center on St. Helena Island and the Civil Rights Museum in Montgomery, Alabama.

“Contemporary realism with an abstract flair” is how Webb described her representational work. This rhythmic style with its bright bold colors, easily translated into the illustrations for seven children’s books. In The Entrance Place of Wonders, Charlotte invites the reader to enjoy the rhythms of poems and paintings while gliding through what she feels was one of the most exciting cultural periods in African American history, The Harlem Renaissance. As one of twelve contributing artists to Our Children Can Soar Charlotte received the 2010 NAACP Image Award for Children’s Literature.

An evolution of study, growth and expansion has led Charlotte to explore the nuances of the abstract art genre. To overcome her initial anxiety she began the process by studying with two of this countries premier abstract artists. This opportunity aided in the discovery of her “abstract niche” and helped propel the career, which she had been hinging on for many years, even in her representational works. With this genre, Charlotte received several national first place awards, was inducted into NAWA, and received a 2006 Pollack-Krasner Foundation Award and The John T. Bigger’s Awards both in their 2005 and 2008 triennial competition at the Hampton Museum in Virginia. In 2005, ’06 and ‘07 she received and successfully completed artists’ residencies at the Hambidge Arts Center, and with a visual artist’s fellowship worked for a month at the Vermont

Studio Arts Center in 2010. Of the twenty-six hundred entries nationally in the Bombay Sapphire competition, Charlotte was one of the two finalists representing the southern region at the December 2011 Art Basel in Miami. Her work was featured on the February 2012 poster and Wall Street Journal magazine for the Harlem Fine Art Show in New York.

“I grew up reading James Baldwin, Langston Hughes and Richard Wright; memorizing Nikki Giovanni and Ntozake Shange. These writers gave me a voice during my personal struggles, being one of three African American students in The Cleveland Institute of Art. My current painting and understanding of Maya Angelou’s “Why the Caged Bird Sings” today is quite different than it was when I initially painted it forty years ago. With feet bound and wings clipped, the “caged bird” sings of hope, he sings of freedom… And my dad would often mention not having gotten “his forty acres and a mule”. “My Forty” validates that for him.  I also remember struggling to find my way in the midst of the civil rights era and Viet Nam War as it dominated the news and my life, and then reading Baldwin’s statement, “No people come into a culture without having paid a heavy price for it”. The paintings in this exhibition, “Stories of My America, Earth Tunes and” Still Running Lines Through My Head”, collectively is the culmination of my journey thus far; a narrative and colorful kaleidoscope of opinions and experiences of my amazing, creative journey. ”

Featured Artwork: “No Crystal Stair” Charlotte Riley-Webb

Museum Hours

Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday, Noon to 4 p.m.
Sunday, Closed

Admission Information