Art Works Blog

The Intersection of Art & Literature

For years, Serena Hall empowered women through her work as an equal opportunity manager for the federal government, where she trained women to “break through that glass ceiling,” as she said. After she retired, she took up painting, portraying the same type of strong women that she had sought to bolster professionally. Her work largely focuses on the Gullah-Geechee community, whose presence is strong in Hall’s coastal town of Darien, Georgia.

Now, her artwork is colliding with yet another female force of nature: Zora Neale Hurston. Hurston’s masterwork, Their Eyes Were Watching God, is the focus of Golden Isles Arts & Humanities’ Big Read program, which is sponsoring the art show 2015 Cultural Expressions. The show, which opens today at the Ritz Theatre Gallery in Brunswick, Georgia, was founded by Hall in 2013 as a way for African-American artists to “educate the community of our culture and our heritage, and keep the history alive,” Hall said. Through her own artwork, she shows how the small but vibrant Gullah-Geechee community fits into the larger African-American narrative, as her paintings hang side-by-side artwork depicting historical and personal moments, each one a symbol of cultural pride.

With the Big Read partnership, Cultural Expressions is now crossing artistic forms, telling the story of a people through visual art as Hurston once did with words. In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie Mae Crawford comes to symbolize the struggle and strength of African-American women in the 1930s. Plagued by disasters, both physical and emotional, she eventually finds the power of her own voice by novel’s end—a self-actualization that Hall would no doubt applaud. “Each one of them has a story—literature and the visual arts,” she said. “It’s the perspective you get out of each one of them.”

Painting of two sisters

Sister Love by Michele Johnson. Image courtesy of 2015 Cultural Expressions


Painting of three African-American women

Granny Gossip by Serena Hall. Image courtesy of 2015 Cultural Expressions


Woman blooming from yellow flower

Woman in Bloom by Vivian Mitchell. Image courtesy of 2015 Cultural Expressions


Painting of country farm scene

Geechee-Gullah Ring Shout by Leigh Carpenter Ferguson. Image courtesy of 2015 Cultural Expressions



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