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Artist uses glitter to illuminate inequality

All that glitters is not gold

Julia Sumpter

By mixing multiple colors of glitter to achieve a specific hue, Kara Brooks creates more dynamic shades. This piece is part of a larger series by her.

December 5, 2013 | 12:00 a.m. CST

When news of George Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict for the murder of Trayvon Martin flashed on the television screen, Kara Brooks couldn’t take it anymore. She switched off the television, and the feelings she had about the events poured out with her bags of glitter. Through her art, she aims to make sense of racism.

In the past, local artist Brooks has experimented with glass, pottery, graphic design and paint. Now she works with glitter, a medium she stumbled upon while helping a friend with a third-grade project. Brooks currently is working on a series called “Matters of Concern.” One piece, “After All This Time,” is now showing in Columbia Art League’s Give a Gift of Art show and will be on display until Jan. 3.

Although the series is all done in glitter, the themes of social and political injustice aren’t so bright. Diana Moxon, executive director of Columbia Art League, says the juxtaposition adds resonance to the work. “It would still be an interesting work without the glitter in terms of the content,” Moxon says. “But I think the glitter adds a surprise element when you begin to look at the content versus the medium.”

“After All This Time” is a dazzling image of a woman’s face with snow-white hair, red-stained lips and copper skin. Her eyebrows furrow with worry, as do all of the faces in this series. Around her face, it reads “150 after ALL this time,” a weary response to the years of injustice that African-Americans have continued to face since the Emancipation Proclamation 150 years ago. “It’s never going to be tolerable — injustice, discrimination,” Brooks says. “But I think it’s important to document.”

Pink flamingos are scattered across the image’s background. The pattern is reminiscent of Dutch fabrics that inspired African clothing, and the birds represent the plastic flamingos that North Carolina residents used to protest a voter identification bill earlier this year.

Brooks doesn’t consider herself a glitter-loving person, but she finds that she enjoys the challenge of toning down the glitter’s color. Although “After All This Time” has 10 noticeable colors, many more went into creating the image’s hues. Brooks makes her own shades by mixing glitter in a Ziploc bag, just as you would blend paint, she says. The result is at least two layers of glitter and tiny glints of various hues that sparkle across the 24-by-24-inch canvas.

For now, the crafting process is a secret that’s hers. But one thing she will say is this: “It is just glitter and glue.”

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