Clare Elliott’s Botany in Memoriam of Lori Goodman at Eubie Blake by Angela N. Carroll

The Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center presents Botany, the first solo exhibition of mixed media artist Clare Elliott. “My artwork is about highlighting the relationships and the love that I have and how they are important to me,” Elliott offered during our brief interview.

The artist originally wanted to create a small collection of collaged portraits with her friends encircled by an assortment of botanical specimen. Six of the shows original commissioned collages are mounted onto wood panels and hat boxes in the corner of the exhibition.

The direction of the show changed when Elliott learned that her godmother, Lori S. Goodman, an esteemed dancer/choreographer with Arena Players and award-winning instructor of Western High School Dance Team, passed away from lupus. Elliott grew up in Northwest Baltimore and attended Western High School. “I’ve known [Goodman] since I was 14 years old. You think fundamentally in the time that you mature; you become who you are. She was a huge part of that.”

In response, Elliott rallied her community of Western Alumni and members of Goodman’s family together to create a profound memorial. Goodman’s Girls, the prominent collection within the Botany exhibition, features twenty-eight small collaged portraits of women who were deeply impacted by Goodman’s tutelage and mentorship.

In one portrait, a woman emerges with one fist raised towards the sky from a plume of red flowers. In another, a woman enveloped in yellow and pink flowers laughs, one hand holds her head as a smile stretches across her face. In yet another, a woman leans backwards in a deep self-embrace from a sea of violet flowers; her head tilts upward, her eyes are closed. The wall is filled with beautiful intimate portraits of women who loved Goodman, and whom Goodman loved.

“This would not be the same without the amount of girls participating,” Clare said, while looking at the wall of portraits. “It explains the energy of the group and our love and compassion for each other, our care for each other. And that’s what this is about for me, we are Goodman’s girls.”

A portrait of Goodman is installed in the center; she stretches up and beyond the frame through a curtain of roses. Her posture is regal, her face is serene. The image captures a profound moment of expressive movement, her essence, passion for dance and community.

 

Botany, and the Goodman’s Girls installation especially, is about community. Rather than focus on the devastating loss Elliott and Goodman’s Girls experienced, she encouraged the women to channel joy as a way to heal through the process of grieving. To view the work is also healing.

Bouquets of beautiful brown girls bloom and blossom, curve and float into flourishing forms. There is life beyond death, and the seeds Goodman planted in her daughters will sprout for generations to come.

I asked Elliott what she wanted people to walk way knowing about Goodman. She paused, turned away from me so I would not see her effort to hold back tears. “Sorry,” she cleared her throat and continued. “Empowerment. I said I don’t want you to be sad when we’re doing this, because she wouldn’t want us to be sad. But I want you to emulate what she’s always done. Keep reaching, keep being stronger. Just family. This is my family.”


Botany is on display at Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center until Sunday July 30th. For more information visit eubieblake.org