Hope McMath, yellow house
Hope McMath

Yellow House Gallery on a Random Friday: Mission and Meaning in Riverside

Yellow House: Friday Night at Hope McMath’s extraordinary space

Yellow House

I think people will look back at this era and remember Hope McMath as one of its most extraordinary and interesting figures. Like Bobi Johnson McGinnis or Blair Woolverton.

One of the women who create an envelope of head space for other people to think and consider and refill the complex pools of their inner lives with something besides still water.

They will follow her career and think ‘what a journey she made’ and marvel a little at the woman, the place, the time.

I had dropped by earlier in the afternoon. I’ve been spending a lot more time at my own space in Riverside: Rivendell, as the weather is finally cooling off enough to function in the un air conditioned portions of the space. Yellow House is only a block and a half away, and I’d read about an event to discuss taking down the Confederate monuments that would be happening later that night.

When I got there, I found that she was closing out another event/showing featuring the works and stories of Muslim women who have immigrated to the US. Sharing Stories of Home

A school bus of Douglas Anderson students was departing as I pulled up and she was embedded with a group of the women, discussing the event, having the afterglow that you have following art lectures and church services… replaying the intangible spaces and significant moments that happen in the invisible structures of a multi person discussion.

The exhibit itself is worth checking out. It’s a social/emotional window into the experience of women who have lived through mythically proportioned hardship, violence and death. Women who have come to find a home here in this odd, optimistic wayward city that is both Florida and Southern, but to them America.

There is a room sized installation piece devoted to the cyclopean horror of the war and violence we have embraced and inflicted in the middle east. It manages to construct the scale of the wars and killing, the relentlessness of it all.

Co-curator Malath Alarnosi

The rest of the gallery is the personal art and works of the women.

The contrast was sobering and touching, as the (gorgeously photographed) women have painted homilies of home and cheerful vignettes whose folk art/artisan/craft based subjects are simple and rather comfy.

Scenes of the streets of Damascus and Bagdad painted from the memories of women who made homes and family lives in them. Poignant because you realize that the pleasant nostalgia comes from places that they had to flee and in all likelihood cannot return to.

You are confronted with the fact that such feelings of home and love are even possible after the experiences of the women. A little somber and full hearted as a result.

After Hope had wrapped up the details (how to display and track the items for sale and the necessary humdrummery that attends all commercial transactions) with the women, I realized that the very act of creating the show was an act of embrace for the women. There was a palpable undercurrent of the joy and relief that comes from being seen and engaged. All summed up in the details of who will be responsible for what and when.

Suddenly I realize that this essay is getting unreasonably long, and I’ve dwelt too much on the setup. But I dont regret it, as it is about something that there should be more written about.

After a lovely bit of catching up, I resolved to attend the event that night: A discussion of the Confederate monuments and the reasons for bringing them down. As the lunk headed group of neo confederates (none of whom are from Jacksonville) who plague all discussions about any attempt to remove vestiges of the KKK or revisionist history had promised to show up, I thought the evening might end up being pretty diverting.

Artwork by Hope McMath

They didn’t, but the packed house was more than diverting. It was the kind of evening that you imagine having in the stories that you make up about yourself. Honest, open, uncomfortable at times, intelligent passionate group discussion in a room full of strangers engaged in something passionate and meaningful.

What Yellow House is doing is important and soul refreshing. I can’t endorse these events with more enthusiasm.

In a city where the traditional media is struggling to cover, contextualize and promote the worthwhile parts of its culture, this is absolutely the venue that you should be familiar with.


About Stephen Dare

Stephen Dare is a writer, restauranteur, chef, arts and civic advocate with a background in urban development, planning, neighborhood revitalization and pure old fashioned Southern gossip. He currently edits a few celebrity and lifestyle publications and has great affection for EU and the remarkable family that produces it.