Local artist’s work takes flight at BRT

Local artist’s work takes flight at BRT

Artist Vincent Mancini’s piece “Do Indians Still Live In Tipis?” is on exhibit at Blackstone River Theatre, 549 Broad St. in Cumberland, through Oct. 26.
Feather artwork pays homage to Native American culture

CUMBERLAND – Hanging on one of the walls at the Blackstone River Theatre is a canvas depicting a seemingly pixelated image of Geronimo, an iconic leader with the Apache tribe, made entirely out of black, white, and gray feathers.

“Geronimo Revisited,” at 36-by-36 inches, contains approximately 1,400 feathers, and took artist Vincent Mancini, who worked on it for 10 to 20 hours a week after work, six months to complete.

It’s one of 16 artworks by Mancini at BRT’s Art Gallery, 549 Broad St. in Cumberland, viewable two hours before and during scheduled theater events, in the upper and lower lobby through Saturday, Oct. 26.

Through his art, Mancini, who grew up in Lincoln and now lives in North Providence, said he seeks to raise awareness of Native American culture and spirituality and challenge perceptions, stereotypes and expectations of Native American people.

Pointing out what was and continues to be the “terrible treatment of Native American people” in the U.S., he told The Valley Breeze that there are contributions from the community that are unknown to and unappreciated by many Americans.

Geronimo, for example, was seen as a renegade warrior chief but “he was a consummate businessman and so savvy.”

The piece is made to look pixelated, evocative of a television or computer screen, “to imagine how (Geronimo) would have used the medium of television if it was available in his lifetime,” Mancini said. Geronimo used his photograph for marketing and self-promotion, and made a fortune on it, signing and selling copies at Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and other attractions. His image was also used in advertisements for Cadillac, Mancini said.

There’s an explanation behind each piece of art; “it’s not just hokey,” he said.

All of Mancini’s pieces are available for purchase and range from $500 to $5,000. Since the show opened on Sept. 21, Mancini said he’s sold two pieces.

Each piece is one of a kind, though Mancini said if someone likes a certain piece that’s sold, he could redo it, noting it won’t be exactly the same as the original.

Approximately 70 percent of the feathers he uses in his art he’s found outdoors while walking or on hikes, he said. The rest he purchased.

Mancini creates his art in a process called feather lineation, which involves delineating an image by arranging segments of cut feathers in a geometric pattern, he said in his artist’s statement. The geometric patterns, texture and color of the feathers, he said, produce a visual effect that symbolizes spirit and energy.

He uses a polyvinyl acetate glue, which is acid-free and non-corrosive, to attach the feathers to a canvas, he said.

Some pieces are more abstract than others, he said. If he’s creating a portrait from a photograph, he says he’ll do a rough sketch first to get the composition right.

The artist, who has bachelor’s of fine art degrees from the Art Institute of Boston and the Swain School of Design, said he’s not aware of others using this technique and most people say they’ve never seen anything like his art.

Feathers, he said, hold significance in many cultures throughout the world, including with American Indians. In most instances, he said, he uses feathers that have been naturally molted in reverence to the old native tradition of using natural, raw materials to create art and for ceremonial purposes.

The coolest feathers he’s found, he said, were from a great blue heron.

All of the pieces in the show were created when Mancini lived in England. After 18 years there, he moved back to Rhode Island in May.

While in England, he said he found many feathers from wood pigeons and magpies.

An appreciation of wildlife and the environment and an affinity for Native American culture all inspired Mancini’s process, he said. He’s always been fascinated by birds, especially birds of prey.

In addition to being an advocate for the Native American community, Mancini’s work in England focused on dispelling “myths and misconceptions” about different groups of people, he said.

He was a community cohesion officer and a stronger communities officer for North Lincolnshire Council, and he played a part in restoring peace among the East Timorese community by helping to draft a peace agreement signed by leaders of two rival groups.

The engagement and liaison work was “really rewarding” and “a real honor,” he said.

Mancini is a two-time recipient of the Humberside Police Divisional Commander’s Award for services to the community, and a two-time recipient of North Lincolnshire Council’s Star Performer Award.

He’s a member of the board of directors for the Blackstone River Watershed Council/Friends of the Blackstone, as well as a member of the board of directors for The Collaborative.

Most recently, Mancini exhibited his work at the Ferens Art Gallery in the English city of Kingston upon Hull, which was a “real feather in my cap artistically,” he said.

In addition to creating art, Mancini said he is currently looking for full-time work.

Commissions are welcome. Contact Mancini at 401-419-1851 or vrmancini13@gmail.com .

Vincent Mancini, of North Providence, stands in front of some of his artwork, which is currently exhibited and for sale at the Blackstone River Theatre, 549 Broad St. in Cumberland, through Oct. 26. To the right of Mancini is his largest piece titled “Geronimo Revisited.” All of his art is made by delineating an image by arranging segments of cut feathers in a geometric pattern. (Breeze photo by Melanie Thibeault)
Pictured here is his piece “Wampum Moon.”