ROTA Art Gallery goes international this month
Foreign artists are welcomed to showcase their art work in downtown Plattsburgh
Published: Thursday, September 6, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 7, 2012 13:09
Artists are born in different ways. While some, like Gharan Burton, find themselves shifting from a computer science major to a fine arts major, others, like Maungo Seabenyane, find themselves creating their own clothing because what’s sold in stores doesn’t quite fit their taste.
However, even with such polarized births, Burton and Seabenyane came together Sept. 1 for “The World Comes to Plattsburgh” art exhibit at Plattsburgh ROTA Gallery and Studios.
Seabenyane’s artwork focuses heavily on African culture and incorporates tedious, colorful beadwork. Burton’s artwork focused on model figures and Dominica architecture.
Seabenyane, 27, is from sub-Saharan Gaborone, Botswana. While visiting Plattsburgh, she had time to explore what it has to offer. This lead to one of her paintings titled “Sunrise Over Lake Champlain.”
The piece captured the vibrancy of the sun emerging from the horizon and trees over Lake Champlain. Seabenyane decided to take a picture of Plattsburgh’s lake one Wednesday morning and appreciate the landmarks she does not have at home. She said water is very scarce and precious in Botswana.
Most of her artwork revolves around African culture. The “Bantu signs” were from the people Seabenyane descends from. The signs painted on these small cubes represent knowledge known by only medicine men.
“I try to share the secrets of my culture with you and everyone else,” she said.
“Harvest Hut” also depicted an important element of Batswana culture. The painting showed a hut that has been prepared and decorated for harvest activity. In Botswana culture, lumps of soil are broken down and mixed with water to decorate the hut walls.
Besides the hut, the painting includes a mortar and pestle, which are used to grind, crush and mix food. The yellows and greens that appear after the harvest are prominent in the painting. Seabenyane said during this time, floors are covered with cow dung and mud to give it an “earthy smell that is so fresh and enchanting.”
This is depicted through geometric shapes covering the ground. Ras Kendall, Burton’s friend, said the geometric shapes add to Seabenyane’s huts. The hut’s door handle was created with Seabenyane’s signature move — a bead.
“Her (Seabenyane) beadwork is amazing and off the chain,” Kendall said. “It’s so neat, but it screams out, ‘beautiful art.’”
Though Seabenyane’s expression is through paintings, beads, jewelry and clothing, Burton expresses himself through painting, sculpting and sketching.
He studied fine art at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. However, he did not always live in the United States.
Unlike Seabenyane, whose home is in Botswana, Burton, 31, moved to the United States in 2001 from Dominica. Burton said he was inspired to become an artist when he came to Plattsburgh by being around art that he admired.
After moving to Texas for school, Burton returned to Plattsburgh. Meghan Risley, ROTA president, said he has had several art shows in the area.
“He’s really an extremely talented guy,” she said. “He’s such a dynamic artist.”
Larry Dolan, Burton’s friend, said his favorite piece was Burton’s “Small Town America.” This is a sketch of downtown Plattsburgh near the Monopole Restaurant. The deep red background causes the black lines outlining the buildings to jump out of the canvas.
This piece was Dolan’s favorite because he and his friends used to roof-hop on many of those buildings. He said he also used to skate at the intersection sketched.
Burton’s collection included another form of architecture, as well: Barns. His one piece “Farmscape” was painted two years ago. It depicts a far-out barn surrounded by empty fields. Burton said this was a different landscape than the Dominica mountains and rainforests he was used to.
Seabenyane and Burton’s collaborative piece was titled “Beekmantown Barn.” Seabenyane said she and Burton were trying to figure out what to paint together, so they decided to just take photos. The artists chose a photo, and this painting is the outcome.
A blue, morning sky behind the red barn that is peeking behind the green bush make up most of the painting. The woods to the right of the barn hold orange leaves indicating fall is right around the corner. Although this was the most expensive piece, it carried a part of each artist with it.
Seabenyane’s portion of the painting is soft and delicate, but Burton’s is more rugged and linear. Both artists have distinguished styles, yet the question remains of how these artists were meshed together for this event.
Adam DeFayette was the self-proclaimed curator for this event. He invited Seabenyane to visit the United States during his trip to Batswana. She gave the event its international hook.
Already a friend of Burton’s, he knew they were the chosen two for his event. Besides being in control of the logistics, DeFayette was in charge of the music and played lots of Calypso, a Caribbean band, to encourage the international vibe.
“I call it more soundtracking than DJ’ing,” he said. “It’s more to get people to bob their heads, feel good and feel that they’re a part of something bigger.”
Email Yessenia Funes at yessenia.funes@