Now on view at MOBIA

MOBIA’s newest exhibition, Ashe to Amen: African Americans and Biblical Imagery, is now on view!


Renée Stout (1958- )
“Church of the Crossroads”, 1999-2000
Neon and wood, 52 x 37 x 3 in.
Courtesy of the Artist and Hemphill Arts

Ashe to Amen investigates the intersections and crossroads of aesthetics and belief in African American art. For more than two centuries, the Bible has been a catalyst for this multicultural and initially disenfranchised artistic community and has been inspiring the creation of sacred, spiritual, and religious spaces and identity. The exhibition’s title takes its name from praise terms commonly used in African and African American communities. Ashe, a Yoruba word, refers to the creative power of an artist to make something happen. Amen is an affirmation meaning essentially “so be it”.  The visual continuum on display in Ashe to Amen presents the inventive, deeply personal, and ongoing interpretations of the Bible created by artists from the African American community.

Featuring the work of pioneers in the field – Henry Ossawa Tanner, Jacob Lawrence, and William Edmondson, among others – alongside contemporary artists and designers, the exhibition showcases works of various media and highlights the integral ways in which art impacts the religious experience.


Bessie Harvey (1929-1994)
“Black Horse of Revelations”, 1991
Painted wood with fabric, beads, and miscellany, 54 x 45 x 15 in.
Collection American Folk Art Museum, New York, NY
Gift of Avalie Saperstein in memory of Elyse Saperstein
Photo by Gavin Ashworth, New York

Dr. Leslie King-Hammond, Guest Curator of Ashe to Amen: African-Americans and Biblical Imagery, was interviewed by Interfaith Radio.  Listen to hear some of the details regarding the amazing works of art now on view.

Ashe to Amen will be on view at MOBIA until May 26, 2013; at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture June 22 – September 29, 2013; and at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens October 20, 2013 – January 5, 2014.

Visit our website,, to check our calendar of upcoming events and public programs.

From the Desk of the Curator: Naddo Ceccarelli

One of the perks of working in a museum is the proximity to art. A particular perk of working at MOBIA is that this art is ever changing. The Adoration of the Magi by Bartolo di Fredi A Masterpiece Reconstructed features a small triptych by Naddo Ceccarelli (active 1139-47). A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to discuss the Madonna and Child Flanked by Four Saints in a gallery talk and I wanted to share some of the interesting aspects looking at and reading about this work afforded me.

As our Facebook post yesterday noted, the triptych depicts a full length image of the Virgin and Child in the central panel flanked by four saints on two wings: Sts. Eligius and Bartholomew on the left and Sts. Nicholas of Bari and Dominic on the right. The Angel of the Annunciation appears on the left wing’s tip and the surprised Virgin Annunciate on the right wing’s tip.

“Madonna and Child Flanked by Four Saints”, 14th century
Naddo Ceccarelli
Chrysler Museum Collection (currently on view at MOBIA)

The four saints’ guild associations– with smiths, butchers, and sailors respectively– and the triptych’s small size suggest to scholars that the work was commissioned in the trecento by a merchant affiliated with these trades for use in his home.

C. Griffith Mann, Chief Curator of the Cleveland Museum of Art, explores a second Ceccarelli altarpiece, Reliquary Tabernacle with Virgin and Child, c. 1350, in the collection of the Walters Art Museum.  The triptych’s form, gilding, and depiction of a full length Virgin and

“Reliquary Tabernacle with the Virgin and Child”, 14th century
Naddo Ceccarelli
The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

Child are hallmarks of Ceccarelli’s work and Mann’s observations permit a deeper look at the Chrysler Museum of Art’s triptych now on display at MOBIA.

Particularly striking is the use of gilding used to frame and emphasize the figure of the Virgin and Child. As Mann discusses, Ceccarelli employed both burnished and stamped gilding, a popular technique during this period. The effects of candlelight on the smooth burnished versus the punched surfaces serve to activate the visual field: the burnished surface reflected a dark glowing light, while the stamped gilding glittered.

For the fourteenth-century supplicant, the visual effect of the gilding combined with concentrated viewing, would have made the figure of Madonna and Child appear dimensional. Kneeling in prayer before the triptych, the devotee may have had the sense of directing prayers to a statue of the Virgin and Child. The figure’s large size, together with its depiction atop a garden with delicate red stylized flowers (visible only upon close inspection), distinct from the marbled floor on which the figures of the saints stand, heighten Mary’s prominence. The figure of Jesus in her arms reinforces her intercessory powers and emphasizes their close and unique relationship. Saints and supplicant together adore Mary across and in real time, highlighting her enduring appeal to believers.

- P.C.P. for MOBIA