The Peninsula Gallery welcomes back Dane Tilghman for a solo exhibition in celebration of Black History Month. The exhibit will run from Saturday, Feb. 13 to Saturday, March 27.
Tilghman is known for his paintings of historical African American culture in explosive color and an impressionistic style. The display of 57 paintings will highlight the black community in and around Delaware during the 19th and 20th centuries with images of working-class farmers and watermen, domestic life and the music scene that all have helped form the region as it exists today.
Tilghman hails from West Chester, Pa., and took an interest in art-making at a very young age. He remembers watching his older brother draw and wanting to follow along. He honed his abilities throughout grade school and high school by taking specialty art courses. His parents were tremendously supportive of his creative endeavors as long as a career in the arts would pay the bills one day. After graduating from Kutztown University, where he studied graphic arts, Tilghman rigorously pursued his true passion for painting. The distinct style he has come to be known for can be recognized through his use of abstraction, dramatic impasto, flamboyant colors and manipulated proportions. He works primarily in acrylics that allow him to pile layer upon layer of paint, creating mounds of texture and dimension.
While Tilghman grew up in Pennsylvania, his ancestors are from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. As an African American man, he has combined his personal background, artistic talent and interest in history to share stories about the contributions that people of color have made in developing the Delmarva area. He said, “The working people were the backbone of this community. Black people played just as big a role as anybody else in the lifeblood of Lewes.”
Many paintings in the exhibition portray working-class farmers, field workers, and menhaden and oyster fishermen. Some are inspired by Lewes Historical Society archival photographs of the Lewes fishing industry. Others depict domestic life through everyday chores, family togetherness, religious practices and front-porch banjo-picking.
Tilghman typically turns to historic photographs for subject matter. He often struggles to find specific materials because Black history was so poorly documented during times when only extremely limited resources were made available to African American people.
Another section of this show is dedicated to the local blues and jazz scene. Big-time musicians would perform at a local venue called the Happy Day Club. During segregation, the club was a safe and affordable space where Black people could enjoy live music by well-known performers who were traveling between major cities. The exhibition features many portraits of these famous faces.
Tilghman’s most prominent theme is community. The collection at the Peninsula Gallery shows how communal living has been imperative for African American people. He aims to remind his viewers about the importance of a caring society for people of all colors and creeds, not only in history, but in the present and future.
For more information, go to peninsula-gallery.com.