Library exhibit celebrates a father’s art and his life
“Transitions: The Art of Ayé A. Aton” celebrates the visual art of a Woodford County artist and musician who traveled the world sharing his unique perspectives on life. The upcoming art exhibit at the Woodford County Library allows Midway resident Ahmosis Aton to honor his father and share his father’s legacy as an artist with others in the community. Ayé A. Aton had spoken to Jen Dunham, who manages the library’s Rich Gallery, about putting together an exhibit of his artwork before he died on Oct. 30, 2017. Ahmosis chose to move forward with an exhibit of his father’s artwork so others could see his use of vibrant colors to illicit emotion from those who saw his paintings. It wasn’t until Ahmosis started unpacking his father’s art collection of over 500 pieces and began choosing 25 or so pieces for the exhibit at the Woodford County Library that he got to see his father’s body of work. “I’m uncovering things that I’ve never seen before in my life,” says Ahmosis. His father earned money doing many different “day jobs” – and even taught art classes for disadvantaged school kids while living in Chicago – but always found time to paint. “He was all about the art – and the music,” says Ahmosis. Because in addition to being a prolific artist with his work exhibited at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art and elsewhere, Ayé A. Aton was a drummer with the Sun Ra jazz band. The group played in clubs, but also performed inside a pyramid in Egypt while traveling the world. “He wasn’t a traditional father – obviously,” says Ahmosis, “…but living with him (for awhile in Chicago during the 1970s) kind of opened my eyes to the world as a whole.” It also gave him the chance to meet many of the influential musicians in his father’s life. “I’ve always known about his artwork and his music. It’s been a part of his life for most of my life,” says Ahmosis, whose appreciation for his father’s artwork grew over time. Seeing that artistic talent splashed on subways, buildings and across walls inside homes helped him understand how prolific his father was as a visual artist. “No challenge was too big for him,” says Ahmosis. “I have to give him his props on that. He was quite talented. I haven’t seen anything like it. He’s got a different take on the art” – and on life. When Ayé A. Aton moved back to Versailles about two years ago after being diagnosed with cancer, Ahmosis says he got closer to his father during their many long conversations. Still, the artist and musician never wanted to relinquish his independence. So he lived by himself in an apartment at Margaret Hall Manor and often told other residents about his life’s travels – with photos to back up those stories. “It was tough as a kid wanting to be with your father…,” says Ahmosis, who was raised by his grandparents while growing up in Midway, “but I soon learned that what he was doing, he had a purpose and he thought he should reveal that.” Now, Ahmosis says he’s grappling with what he needs to do moving forward so others can celebrate his father’s legacy as an artist (and Civil Rights activist in the 1960s) who always wanted to inspire others – especially black and brown folk – to become more. “The world is an open book and you do have an opportunity to grow and to live,” says Ahmosis of his father’s message to others. “And I think his legacy is going to be (how he continues to inspire others with) his art and his music.” Ahmosis hopes to build on the momentum of his father’s earlier art exhibits in Harlem and Italy so he can continue to share his artistic expressions on the healing powers of sound and colors. “I’m looking forward to doing big things, actually, with his art. Within the last year or so, wow, he has kind of – for lack of a better term – blown up,” says Ahmosis. An opening reception for “Transitions: The Art of Ayé A. Aton” will happen at the Woodford County Library’s Rich Gallery on Sunday, Jan. 21, from 2 to 4 p.m. The exhibit begins on Sunday, Jan. 14 and continues through Feb. 23. Ayé A. Aton (born Robert Underwood) was inducted into the Woodford County Public Schools Hall of Fame in 2014 for his contributions to the world of arts and humanities.