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The Edge at An Art Center

This writing is about art and the artists at the Torpedo Factory Art Center. At some point, it speaks about the relevance of Art in society. It is also about my new collector Jayne and her son- collecting art and connecting memory. She saw the painting The Edge on Instagram - it was mounted on an easel in my studio. She absolutely loved it and contacted me by email. Her story starts way back when she lived in Alexandria. She and her son visited the artists working in diverse media. Upon leaving Alexandria, Jayne wanted to stay connected with this special place. She said- 'Thank you for the quick response and for sharing the article. Congratulations on your time at the Center! It’s such a magical place. My six-year-old son and I loved wandering around it when we lived there but recently moved. We have been on the hunt to find a piece from an artist in the center to remind us of our time there". Many emails later and the deal was sealed. Jayne bought The Edge, my first sale for the year 2023!

The Torpedo Factory Art Center has an overarching influence on the sale of The Edge. There is a futuristic outlook to my stay here. As a resident artist, I am a part of its history and my painting links with memories of the Old Town. It speaks to the expanding connections the Torpedo Factory Art Center is making in transitioning into our contemporary times and conversations. It is a place for sharing people’s stories, and artists' creative processes; and for taking walks away from the cold drought of wind blowing from the Potomac River. Continuing as an art center raises questions about the relevance of Art in society. Hopefully, this place will outlive its critics- no pun intended. Art has always been my tool for living forever. It’s the way the actions of humans will have consequences, extending into the future. So, we should be more contemplative. Will there be a place for the Arts and artists in the future?

Speaking of projections into the future, I am making a futuristic painting of an artist’s colony on the moon. Emma is a cheerful archaeologist working at the Alexandria Archaeological Museum next door to my studio. She helped print out some old maps that show the city of Alexandria and the landfilling that reclaimed more of the land from the river. My painting loosely draws inspiration from the yellowed parchments of paper and aerial views of cities seen from a plane. I was inspired by the Immersive experience of space I had in Illuminarium, in Atlanta. That was during the Christmas holidays of 2023.

The other day social media enthusiasts (sounds like anyone who wants to get heard these days) filled the internet with portraits of themselves created by Lensa.

The war between Humans and Machines started long ago. There have been challenges, like when photography was invented. When the computer was invented, people thought of the possibility of having a paperless office in the future. Then we talk of NFTs being new art, maybe replacing artworks and the way they are collected. There are so many ongoing questions about the place we will occupy in the scheme of things. Humans will survive. We will find our place and ways of adapting to these inventions.

All these ideas are linked to the painting The Edge. It speaks about the make-or-break moments in every relationship when we are at an impasse. In this case, the relationship between humans and their inventions.

I am optimistic that Torpedo Factory Art Center will survive the staccato noise speaking of profitability, sustainability, and yes, how it fits in the capitalist dream. I get asked why I came here, to America. The importance of America is its population of strong communities drawn from all over the world. I am also learning from the huge and thriving industry that Art has become. Maybe it is to remind a thriving giant of its early beginnings, of its responsibility to keep the aspirations of the first settlers who made this place home.

The community of artists working here is eternally grateful for the credibility that the Art Factory gives to our work. To thrive and reach their audience, artists need this institutional backing much more than capital/currency. Surely those governing this place know this. An Igbo saying goes that ‘ezi afa ka ego (a good name is bigger than money. The Torpedo Factory Arts Center has tons of that, having endured for over 40 years. It's staying power is credit. A credit-based economy like America understands how this works. Credit has served America better than capital. Art appreciation has evolved.

In Nigeria, the Universal Studios of Art is a small community of artists working in their studios at the National Theater, Lagos. Artists working there do not get government assistance. The notion of credit is very new in Nigeria. We believe in cash at hand for everything, maybe because of the unstable economy. The artists with studios at Universal Studios of Art are wealthy, work full time, find fulfillment in their art, and do not need a side job.

I believe in living off my work as an artist here. The Art Center is quite massive. I don’t know if the staff numbers are sufficient for running this space. Apartment managers ask for a pay stub. It should be possible for an establishment or a city at that to find nearby realtors who will waive this criterion for resident artists. What about waiving or giving more discount on the rent? Artists will focus more on their studio practice if they have fewer bills.

If housing is taken care of, artists will spend more time working in their studios. There are many opportunities for artists- from curated exhibitions to participation in all the beautiful events planned by the curatorial team running the center. The vibrancy that the Torpedo Factory Art Center wants will come with more artists accepting that their professional work is enough to live on.

Parents, the young and old, everyone likes the warmth of the interiors of the space and all the colors of creativity everywhere. The visitors help in advertising with their social media posts. We are enriched by being here in open studios and getting real-time feedback about our work. The studio artists of the Torpedo Factory Art Center generously share their work and lives in this place. Thanks to collectors like Jayne whose patronage encourages us to do more. We are part of a big story; of the community around it. The conversations with tourists and other visitors inspire us. There is so much to do. I need to create something new, something more- for tomorrow.

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