The great mystery and cultural myths surrounding nature have always held sway over Sangoyemi Ogunsanya’s imagination. They are also the focus of her art, which will be on display this month in Tarpon Springs.
“This body of work is about the forest,” said Ogunsanya, a former USF professor of sculpture. “What I was trying to do was capture the magical quality of the forest.”
Ogunsanya, who experiments with a wide variety of art forms, said her work consists primarily of two-dimensional pieces such as mixed media collages and wood constructions. The collages are juxtapositions between photos of African forestlands and art and Ogunsanya’s own paintings, she said.
Ogunsanya added that some of the works on display feature relief carvings of geometric patterns and symbols that refer to the presence of God.
The religious imagery, Ogunsanya said, ties into her celebration of nature because “nature is one of the faces of God.”
Originally, Ogunsanya, a native of Brooklyn, wanted to be a dancer but she said she had to quit because of health problems. Eventually she began working as an office temp and one day, out of boredom, started drawing sketches from photos of her boss’ children. To her surprise, Ogunsanya discovered that they were quite good and began taking art classes.
Ogunsanya went on to pursue her undergraduate studies at the Art Student League of New York and earned a master’s degree at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. She is currently an artist in residence for the state of Florida.
In addition to the Tarpon Springs exhibition, Ogunsanya said her work has been featured at the Miami Museum of Art, as well as the Polk and Tampa museums of art.
Ogunsanya will also be moderating a panel called “Traditional West Africa: Survival and Renewal in Florida” on Sept. 29 at 2 p.m. The panelists include USF political science professor Kofi Glover, who is from Ghana.
Glover, who teaches a course on culture and society in Africa, said one of the topics explored by the panel will be the impact of West African art in America.
The exhibit is part of a program that began Sept. 3 and ends Sept. 29, entitled “West Africa: History and Culture.” It is held at the Tarpon Springs Cultural Center.
Also featured is the artwork of Joe Weinzettle, a number of films and traditional African dancing.