Daniel Minter: In the Healing Language of Trees

Daniel Minter
Photo by R Scranton
Photo: R. Scranton

Susan Bence of WUWM speaks with Daniel Minter about his project:

In the Healing Language of Trees has been bringing Daniel Minter to Lynden for short residencies across two years to engage the communities we serve in “a natural act of transformation restructured for curing many ills.” Minter’s original idea—to bring his wood-carving skills to bear on the deadly impact of emerald ash borer on our trees—was complicated by the pandemic. Drawing on traditions of the African Diaspora, and invoking axé, the “spiritual force that resides in all living things,” Minter envisioned an ash trunk adorned with necklaces of giant, hand-carved wooden beads created in collaboration with community members, including those already engaged in our Call & Response and HOME refugee programming. In 2021, he installed an exhibition, Rootwork, as a reference for his activities; chose a site for the sculpture; and taught workshops that trace the carving process from linoleum prints, to woodcuts, to relief work and, finally, beads. Minter trained artists and educators to share these skills over the winter in workshops, field trips, school programs, and classes. Minter returned in 2022 for more workshops, to carve more beads, and to share in programming by other Call & Response artists.

Many Milwaukeeans have been a part of Healing Language: the teachers in our Innovative Educators Institute; the summer campers who joined our Whittlers camp and then our Whittlers Club; the HOME Steering Committee, which participated in our first (virtual) workshop with Daniel and Arianne King Comer two years ago; the more than one thousand children and youth who carved with Minter over Zoom during the pandemic; the Jazzy Jewels, an elder line dance troupe and the indispensable ingredient in so many Lynden projects; the visitors who attended workshops whenever Daniel was in residence. New projects emerged as Call & Response artists Folayemi Wilson, Portia Cobb, Reggie Wilson, Scott Barton, and Arianne King Comer spent time with Minter at Lynden, in Portland, Maine, where he lives and co-directs the Indigo Arts Alliance, or at their own home bases.

On Saturday, June 17, we gather friends of the project, Call & Response artists, and the public to install Daniel Minter’s work on the grounds of the Lynden Sculpture Garden. The following day we host a symposium with Daniel and his chosen interlocutors on Embodying Memory, Medicine, and Power in Material and Process.

This project was made possible in part by the Joyce Foundation through a 2021 Joyce Award to Daniel Minter and Lynden Sculpture Garden; the Brico Fund; the Chipstone Foundation; the Greater Milwaukee Foundation; the Herzfeld Foundation; Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies; the Ruth Foundation for the Arts; and several individual donors. More information on the Joyce Awards here: https://www.joycefdn.org/joyce-awards

Previous Events
Making Images into Symbols: A Virtual Workshop with Daniel Minter and Arianne King Comer, June 5, 2021

Making Images into Symbols from Lynden Sculpture Garden on Vimeo.

Carve a Personal Symbol with Daniel Minter, June 20, 2021
Workshop: Carving with Daniel Minter, July 24, 2021, 10 am-1 pm
Exhibition Reception: Daniel Minter: Rootwork, July 24, 2021, 4-6 pm

About the Artist

Daniel Minter is an American artist known for his work in the mediums of painting and assemblage who works in varied media. His overall body of work deals with themes of displacement and diaspora, ordinary/extraordinary blackness; spirituality in the Afro Atlantic world; and the (re)creation of meanings of home. Minter’s work has been featured in numerous institutions and galleries including the Portland Museum of Art, Seattle Art Museum, Tacoma Art Museum, Bates College, University of
Southern Maine, Center for Maine Contemporary Art, The David C. Driskell Center, and the Northwest African American Art Museum. As founding director of Maine Freedom Trails, he has helped highlight the history of the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement in New England. In 2018, Minter co-founded the Indigo Arts Alliance, a creative center in the city of Portland, Maine, dedicated to increasing the visibility of, and support for, Black and Brown artists. Indigo is the manifestation of a lifelong dream to create a place where art, ingenuity, social justice, and diasporic collaboration is seeded and nurtured.

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