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Anj ponders significance of black hair and other adornments

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“When my mama finished my hair she would pull the hair from the comb, sit it in her ashtray and burn it,” Anj writes in the first line of a tender poem nestled on her website beside a photograph of people with intertwined arms, their faces obscured — his wound up with gauzy cloth and hers by an encirclement of braided hair.

“Anj” is multimedia artist, writer and creative entrepreneur Ashley Johnson, a UNCG grad who grew up in Winston-Salem and who’s recently landed her first solo exhibit in the Central Gallery at Greensboro’s Revolution Mill. Reach, a selection of Johnson’s past and contemporary works that focuses on generational aspects of Southern femininity and black-hair identity, will find a home at the old textile mill through Aug. 12.

“The crux of my work and the crux of who I am today is tied to the practices of black hair,” she says.

Johnson’s mother chemically straightened her hair for as long as she can remember. She recalls picking at scabs from burns the relaxer’s hydroxides seared into her scalp, and years of back-of-the-mind curiosity about the natural layer of growth underneath.

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Agnes Preston-Brame leaves an impression at Revolution Mill

 Preston-Brame in front of “Where Are We Going?” (2018). (photo by Lauren Barber)

Preston-Brame in front of “Where Are We Going?” (2018). (photo by Lauren Barber)

They say if you want to know what mood you are in, you best start singing,” she says. “Whatever song comes out of you, it will tell you.”

This is one of Agnes Preston-Brame’s firmly held beliefs, and for her it holds true for the colors on her painter’s palette.

Born in Budapest, she defected from Soviet-controlled Hungary and immigrated to the United States, where she felt she could become the artist she wanted to be without the threat of state censorship. She earned her fine-arts degree from New York University in 1971 before moving to Greensboro in 1986. When she’s not traveling the world, she splits time between her interior design firm, Metamorphosis Design, and painting in her home studio. Her latest exhibit, figurEtively speaking, which is on view in the Central Gallery at Revolution Mill, features her most recent works.

“What I do is depict emotions, attitudes,” she says. “Often, I have done paintings without facial character that people recognize as their daughter or someone. So, it’s a character of the body, the human form that interests me.”

Read the rest of the Triad City Beat article here >>