Recognized Sculptor, Poet, Activist, Vanessa German Featured at MMAC

Photos by WILLIAM MUNOZ

Vanessa German is a nationally recognized sculptor, poet, activist and accomplished performing artist who creates figures out of found and recycled materials. She is an educator and advocate for children, creating safe spaces for art-making in her Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh that has been called one of America’s most violent. She has been in residence at UM and the Montana Museum of Art & Culture for a week, meeting with students and classes. Her visit was sponsored by UM’s DiverseU, a series of activities that prompt dialogue in order to explore the complexities of human experience, promote understanding and create community through the practice of civil discourse.

Her exhibition at MMAC features mixed media sculptures that reference folk art and the transatlantic slave trade, or as she states, “the western coast of Africa, the east coast of the Carolinas, the east end of Pittsburgh.” The exhibition title has been abbreviated from German’s spoken word phrase “Bitter Root, Lost Loot, Sore Tooth, Oh Shoot, Whole Truth, Traveling Reckoning Show,” reflecting the feeling of journey this body of work contains. She has a long affiliation with author James Lee Burke’s novel “Bitterroot.”

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Vanessa German reciting a poem at in downtown Missoula for First Friday. Photo by ©WilliamMunoz.

“I’ve been listening to this book on tape for about five years,” German said. “I listen to it over and over again, because it makes me feel like I am in Montana. I love hearing about the landscape. Whenever I need to, I listen to this book [and] I travel to Montana, to a wide place that is almost exactly the opposite from where I am, and it helps me to feel good.”

In addition to the exhibit of her work German also participated in an impromptu poetry read on First Friday at the corner of Higgins and Broadway. A sign she placed on the sidewalk invited people to ask her to recite a poem on such diverse subjects as love, hope, political, fun, inspirational.

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Sculpture made out of found and recycled materials by Vanessa German. Photo by ©WilliamMunoz.

MMAC’s academic year gallery hours are 12-3 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and 12-6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. The museum is open to the public For more information call 406-243-2019 or visit http://www.umt.edu/montanamuseum.

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