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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Drawings of J. Alan Cumbey on exhibit at Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries

By Cullen B. Strawn

Old Dominion University's Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries present the exhibition "Black Gods of the Metropolis: The Drawings of J. Alan Cumbey," on view now through Jan. 13.

The late Cumbey was a gay, white man and a well‐known cultural writer in Richmond. What he kept private was that he was also a self‐taught artist creating a large body of drawings exploring his identity and world as a gay Southerner.

Cumbey grew up in Southampton County, playing under the tree where slave rebellion leader Nat Turner was hanged. Later in search of his gay identity, Cumbey's admiration of the creative power of African American culture convinced him that he was black in a parallel life.

In his drawings he pictures himself as a black man, encompassing two marginalized communities in one body. When he died of complications of AIDS in 1992, Cumbey left a pictorial saga of his journey through the culture of race and sexuality of the American South.

"This is just the second time Alan's work has been exhibited in the public," said his sister, Lisa Cumbey. "At first glance, some of the work seems lighthearted or frivolous, with pop culture references and bright colors. His later work allows glimpses of what he was going through personally, documenting the chaos and stress of living with AIDS. He knew his days were numbered, and there were very few days that he wasn't compelled to make art."

Seventy‐five of Cumbey's works are on display in the Gordon Art Galleries along with some of his drawing tools. Cumbey was also a lover and reviewer of African American music. The musical backdrop of the exhibition features several artists, genres and pieces from which he drew creative inspiration.

Presented in conjunction with the 41st Annual ODU Literary Festival, a panel discussion at 6 p.m. Oct. 25 will feature three well‐known LBGTQ writers of color — Sharon P. Holland ("The Erotic Life of Racism"), L. Lamar Wilson ("Sacrilegion") and Franny Choi ("Floating, Brilliant, Gone"). These authors will discuss intersections of race, sexuality and gender among marginalized communities in the South. Their books will be available for sale and signing.

The Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries exhibit works by nationally and internationally recognized self‐ taught artists, contemporary artists working in all media and local and regional artists connected with Old Dominion University. It is free and open to the public, with parking in the 45th Street garage. Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 1-5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit odu.edu/gordongalleries or call (757) 683‐6271.

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