Malachi Lily has always found inspiration in the cosmos.
For Lily, a non-binary African-American artist of many crafts, seeking clarity from ancient stories of constellations reveals truths about the realities of present day.
“I love bringing in varying concepts from mythology, from science, from art history into all of my work,” Lily said. “So, everything is collaged in one way or another. I try to see this process as an example of collective consciousness – just pulling things from our collective minds into these works. And, I’m just one kind of filter for this collective voice.”
Though this spiritual notion has been the subject of Lily’s work for many years, the poet and curator, who identifies as they/them, has recently convened a creative community of artists who draw from similar imagination.
In their newest brainchild, Lily has crafted “Temple of Sirius,” a group exhibition running through Oct. 27 at Da Vinci Art Alliance, 704 Catharine St. The project cultivates a “sacred site of Black Divinity” through the visions of more than a dozen local artists.
From digital media to gel pens, the miscellany of mediums, Lily says, naturally diversified itself, as for them, the key in their recruiting process was connecting recurring themes.
“People were already engaging in these concepts,” Lily said. “And I just wanted to simply celebrate them and honor their work that they’re doing and bring them to a place where they can meet each other and connect. I really want to foster connections in all of my events.”
“Temple of Sirius” is a continuation of Lily’s “Children of Sirius,” which was held at Vox Populi, located at 11th and Callowhill streets, last June.
As Vox Populi’s 2019 Black Box Curatorial Fellow, Lily, who is now a Da Vinci Art Alliance Fellow, created this initial project in a similar headspace, as the collection of artists’ work, which also included performances, was intended for audiences to “stumble upon the gods at play” and feel blessed enough to have bared witness.
But, this new project, Lily says, weaves a new layer into this overarching realm of Black Divinity.
“The ‘Temple of Sirius’ is different,” they said. “The ‘Temple of Sirius’ is a place of pilgrimage where people come in reverence and in humility and in their own divinity to worship the works of art, to worship the artists, to worship themselves and to find peace and healing within the space.”
Though the artists’ techniques are varying, each of their works honor African astrological ancestry in some form or another.
In Lily’s eyes, nuances of contemporary social and racial notions exist within celestial tales.
For instance, they have always been drawn to mythological creatures, especially hybrids of humans and animals, such as merpeople and centaurs.
Perhaps, this fusion of beings can be used as a lens to view gender identity today.
“Kind of pushing the boundaries of the human form, like we’re kind of fighting to have our genders acknowledge and have ourselves acknowledge as non-binary people and trans people,” Lily said. “And to me, the exploration of breaking the boundaries of human construct goes beyond just gender but I think we have to take it a step at a time. But, I see expression of shapeshifting in various forms to be a very queer and beautiful expression.”
As Lily designed the layout of the exhibition, they wanted to produce a narrative in which the works aesthetically and spiritually elevate one another.
The creations of more than a dozen artists are woven together through various altars scattered around the first-floor gallery space. One element of the exhibition even includes a “sacred cave” showing digital media that attempts to act as an ethereal “birthing process.”
Lily hopes that audiences will see themselves, especially their own divinity, within the art.
Hopefully, exhibit attendees, particularly African-Americans, will “push themselves effortlessly into their own love.”
“I see connections between the work as far as joy and the life that is in the work,” Lily said. “A lot of black art gets categorized and valued for its sorrow and for its pain and for its struggle. And that’s all that ends up uplifted – is our deaths. And, I want to uplift our life, and I want to uplift our joy and our brilliance and our beauty and our expansion and our wisdom and our divinity. And that’s the connection I see between these works and my hope and my desire is that, especially black people, to enter this space and feel that joy.”
For more information about the exhibition, visit: www.davinciartalliance.org/temple-of-sirius.