Art, dance and media all come together for “Comanche: Hero Complexities” at the Greensboro Project Space. All these elements are working to tell the heroic, but complex story of Charles W. David Jr., who was a black man in the Coast Guard during World War II and became a war hero. Upon entering the space, there is a dance mat in the center surrounded by artwork and photography of Charles W. David Jr. The curator of the exhibit is Duane Cyrus, the nephew of David.
“Comanche: Hero Complexities” explores the intricacy of being a hero as a black man in the 1940s. David was stationed at a ship (named the Comanche) that was struck by a U-boat torpedo. David was one of the people that volunteered to jump in the water and rescue his fellow crewmates that fell overboard. David rescued nearly 100 men who were thrown overboard, including his commanding officer. A few days later he contracted pneumonia from jumping in the cold water and died. After his death, he was awarded a medal for his bravery, which his family accepted in his honor. The exhibit features various newspaper clipping commentating on David’s death and bravery, including an article on the recent ship named in his honor in 2013.
Along with visual art, there is also visual media incorporated into the exhibit, showing the dance that was choreographed by the curator, Duane Cyrus. Cyrus attended The Juilliard school for dance and is currently a professor at the UNCG School of Dance. The dance can be seen on a television amidst the visual art and photographs. The dance is underlined with spoken poetry and monologues while a dancer dances along to the life and heroism of Charles W. David Jr.
Though the exhibition ended on Monday, a performance of the work will be shown at the UNCG Auditorium on Sept. 22 at 7:00 p.m. This dance is in congruence with the exhibit and features dances choreographed by Cyrus. Contact Triad Stage for information on tickets. If the exhibit is any indication of the dance, it will be beautiful and thought-provoking.
“Comanche: Hero Complexities” investigates the themes of self-sacrifice and heroism while also exploring the “problem” of black people during the time. The newspaper clippings show the complexities of how a black man can be a problem and a hero at the same time. One of the newspaper headlines included in the exhibit states, “Negro Coast Guard Died for Shipmates.” This headline in the context of the exhibit indicates how David’s heroism was acknowledged; however, so was the color of his skin. This exhibit explores the idea of labels and why certain labels exist in congruence or in competition with each other.
Painters, photographers, videographers and dancers unite to face this complex issue with provoking pieces of beauty and patriotism. Certain photographs combine the face of Charles W. David who was black and probably an outcast surrounded by the red, white and blue colors of America. One particular painting features an image of the American flag that flows into an abstract image of a pixelated circle. This picture brings about a patriotism that is complex. This exhibit commentates on the qualities of heroism — that no matter the color of someone’s skin, a person can be a hero.
The Greensboro Project Space is a space for art, photography and media free of charge. It features locally made and curated art that changes exhibitions frequently. It is located off of Elm in Downtown Greensboro. It is a beautiful space that shows the heart and soul of Greensboro so be sure to check it out.