"Art should reflect the diversity of people," Lorenzo Gayden says.
Gayden, a Jackson native, opened the Sanaa Gallery this July "to add the beauty of the African American experience to the (Jackson) art scene." Located in Fondren Corner, Sanaa takes its name from the Swahili word for "work of art." The gallery embodies Gayden's commitment to diversity: from its walls, painted in several different soft colors, to the variety of media on display, which ranges from abstract painting to photography to jewelry.
Gayden is a jazz trombonist and an artist in his own right. His love of music is evident in his paintings, as well as the work of many other artists in Sanaa. Shambe Jones' wood-burning portraits of Bob Marley display impressive technique, contrasting powerful iconography with non-traditional media. Two abstract ink works by Lonnie Robinson, "Saturday Night" and "Sunday Morning," evoke the similar ecstasy in secular and religious celebrations.
The idea for Sanaa, which also offers custom framing, first came to Gayden two and a half years ago while he was working in the framing shop at Hobby Lobby. The Miller Urban Entrepreneur Series provided funding help in May. Gayden was one of 12 applicants and the first Mississippian ever to win a grant from the business plan competition.
Gayden says that Fondren was always his first choice for a location. The Fondren Corner building already houses a traditional watercolor studio, two photography studios and another contemporary art gallery, making it an ideal place to develop a conversation through art.
"When you come to this particular building, you get diverse views of arteach one compelling, each one beautiful," he says.
Gayden plans to open new shows roughly once a month, striking a balance between focusing on individual artists and collecting work around a specific theme. One exhibit, tentatively titled "New Traditions," will "highlight using non-traditional media and using traditional media in non-traditional ways," Gayden says.
Gwendolyn Magee, a renowned Jackson fiber artist whose work hangs in the Mississippi Museum of Art and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., will display some of her exquisite abstract and narrative quilts to the show. Of her work, Gayden says, "This is what you do when you take what you've inherited and push it to a whole other level."