January 9, 2001
by Michael Smith
As a child, Mannie Pair dreamed of designing floats. He would sit in front of the television set, watch the Rose Bowl Parade, and sketch floats as they rolled by. He would then fashion his own floats, using shoeboxes, milk cartons, matchboxes, and whatever else was available. He always enjoyed his mixed media creations and began using fabric in his art during his college years; it was received so well by the viewing public that it has become his signature.
Herbert E. "Mannie" Pair III is a native Mobilian and a graduate of LeFlore High School. Mannie received his Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the University of South Alabama in 1993 where he majored in graphic designs and minored in serigraphy. During his junior year at South, Pair designed the cover for the 1992 Student Directory; his senior year, he served as president of the Student Art Association.
Mannie's works, primarily, are collages which are begun with fabric on a flat background. Once the many pieces of varied materials are in place, Pair adds acrylic paint to the canvas to illuminate the textures. Sometimes, a particular art piece will call for a more elaborate collection of materials. Specifically, in "In High Cotton," Pair shows slaves out picking cotton. No faces of the more-than-a- dozen workers are shown because they are all bent over, wearing straw hats, made from doll hats jutting from the canvas, to protect them from the sun. The cotton field, too, adds dimension to the canvas as a weave of dried flowers.
"In High Cotton" is one of a group of, so far, seventeen, collages created by Pair which he calls the "Fabric of the Past" Heritage Series. In this collection, Mannie depicts different scenes from the American Black experience during the late 1800's to early 1900's. Other pieces included in the Series are "Mardi Gras on the Avenue," the "Buffalo Soldier," and "Down by the Riverside" which portrays a church congregation gathering for a baptism on the riverbanks. These works are one-of-a-kind collages which Pair will not sell, choosing instead to keep the collection together for viewers' consideration. Mannie makes prints of the pieces, however, which are available for sale. Each reproduction is different though in that Pair will add paint to each piece to personalize it and make it less poster-like.
Mannie was commissioned by the Mobile Museum of Art to produce a fabric collage for its permanent Noel Concepts collection. The result was "Country Christmas Cooking" which shows a woman working hard to prepare food for a big celebration while, through the window, a Christmas tree is being decorated. Pair was also commissioned, in 1999, to create five pieces of art for Bishop State College's History Museum, which included depictions of Central High School's Marching 100 Band and Dunbar High School's Football Team. Mannie's work has earned him widespread attention; one collage, "Grandmama's Yo Yo Quilt," was shown in the December issue of Art Business News, an international trade magazine.
Pair owns and operates his own Gallery, the Victorian Teal Art Gallery, located in the DeTonti Square Historic District at 357 Congress Street. He opened his business in a Victorian house dating from 1875 and received a Banner and Shield Award from the Mobile Historic Development Commission and an Architecture Award from the Historic Mobile Preservation Society for his restoration efforts. Pair established his business in 1994 and is considered a pioneer in the neighborhood as DeTonti Square was only beginning to enjoy revitalization efforts at that time. Pair also provides printing services at his gallery.
As a gallery owner, Mannie has had the opportunity to work with numerous artists. The wide variety of art available at Victorian Teal Gallery allows the viewer the unique possibility of seeing non- traditional art not represented in most of the other galleries in the area. While the collection includes a large repertoire of Black Artists, it is not limited to that. The Gallery includes Haitian, religious, primitive, and whimsical works as well as Pair's own Historic Mobile District Posters.
Do yourself a favor: Visit Mannie at Victorian Teal Art Gallery and treat yourself to a materially different art-viewing experience.
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