Emanuel AME Church shootings inspire paintings by artist Leo Twiggs
Aug 08, 2016
Like most South Carolinians, artist Leo Twiggs was deeply moved by the tragedy that occurred on June 17, 2015, at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.
And, as he's done for more than a half-century, the Orangeburg resident turned to art as a means to express how he felt about the racially-driven shooting rampage that left nine African-American churchgoers dead and ultimately helped lead to the removal of the Confederate flag from State House grounds.
The result is a powerful series of nine paintings that offer a moving commentary on the nature of man, issues of race and violence, of tragedy and redemption, forgiveness and spiritual transcendence. Collectively known as “Requiem for Mother Emanuel,” the works are on display through Oct. 28 at The Johnson Collection Gallery on West Main Street in downtown Spartanburg.
“I think most people would paint the church and then they would paint things about the people. One guy, for instance, did portraits of all the people who died,” Twiggs said. “I wasn't interested in doing that. What I was interested in doing was tracing the journey of the lost souls. That's why there are no images (of people) there — because they're not there anymore. They're gone.”
The nine paintings featured in “Requiem for Mother Emanuel,” instead, rely on emotion and symbolic imagery. The artwork includes crosses, targets and a fading Confederate flag, all of which have been used by Twiggs in paintings he's done over the past few decades.
“The incident (at Mother Emanuel) brought together all these things I had been doing since the 1970s and '80s and was kind of a crossing point for me,” Twiggs said. “The church was targeted and the person who killed the folks was emboldened by his connection to the flag.”
Lynne Blackman, public relations and publication coordinator for The Johnson Collection, said the gallery is honored to be able to present all nine pieces collectively. The Johnson Collection owns the final three paintings in the series but the other six are owned by individual collectors who loaned them for the exhibit.
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