The Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists, in association with Violence Transformed,presented Idols in the Mirror: Postcards from the scene of the Crime, an exhibition of thirty-six exquisite small collages by Rene Westbrook from May – August 2013.
All of the works are from a gift made to the Museum by Ms. Westbrook who, though presently active in Seattle, Washington, graduated from the Massachusetts College of Art and launched her early career here in Boston.
Idols in the Mirror: Postcards from the scene of the crime, examines the impact of Western colonialism on native peoples throughout the world. Westbrook notes that though It has been said that all men are created equal, colonial Imperialism proves this untrue. Describing her work, he said: “I began the series Idols in the Mirror by delving into the dark history of colonialism and the savagery of ownership (Capitalistic) societies on indigenous populations. . . .The impetus for this body of work resides in how and why colonialism has survived through so many incarnations.”
Her small exquisitely realized collages use images drawn from many sources from ancient Egypt to Rome, Elizabethan England, to imperial Ethiopia, the Americas to China. They juxtapose icons and symbols in ways that challenge our usual understanding and force us to reflect on the impact of religious, economic and cultural ideas and ideals that we have accepted as the norm. It might be said that Westbook interrogated the world as we find it, tearing away the veneer that prevents us from confronting the post-colonial realities that still permeate our socio-political and socio-cultural environment. She then pushes our concerns beyond the political and social in the arena of the whole context of our lives.
The excellence of her collages seduce us into zones of discomfort that we only discover after we have entered them. She simultaneously satisfies our aesthetic desires while disturbing our easy acceptance of the comforts and conveniences that stifle our intellectual and spiritual growth. Westbrook leaves us to consider that “every living thing on this planet is integral to everything else for its survival. We belong to Earth; we are a colony of Nature. We are born free and sovereign. Whether we will remain so depends on us!
Rene Westbrook graduated from the Massachusetts College of Art (BFA) with a major in Classical Sculpture and a minor in Art Education. Her interest in education reaches back to the early l970s when she helped cofound Paige Academy in Roxbury, MA.
Along with her passion for education, Westbrook follows personal spiritual practice as is evident in her work. In 2003, she completed study at the American Gnostic School in Yelm, WA, where she pursued the areas of metaphysics, creativity and spirituality.
Active as a painter, sculptor, photographer, writer and producer, Westbrook has been a resident artist at many notable centers, including the African American Master Artists in Residence Program at Northeastern University, California Council on the Arts in Oakland and Richmond , CA., and Alana Community Outreach and Training Center in Brattleboro, VT.
Her work has been presented in many solo shows, including here at the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists, Simmons College, Northeastern University, as well as group shows at the Museum of Fine Arts, University of Hawaii/Hilo, Yerba Buena Cultural Center in San Francisco, and others.
Westbrook has also worked in the field of technical theater. She served as producer, director and theatrical consultant at the Drew Harvey Theater in Yelm, WA.
In 1989, she founded the Rene Westbrook Studio and ArtPeace International with the goal of aiding and enhancing ideals of creative and spiritual concepts in education and business environments.