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Timeless visions from native son

A man plays guitar as a train passes by.

A family sits at the dinner table.

A woman holds her grandchildren while watching her daughter as she bathes.

These are just a few images that inspired visitors at Saturday's free celebration of the "Romare Bearden: Southern Recollections" exhibit at the Mint Museum Uptown.

The Community Homecoming Weekend continues today, the final day of the Mint's major retrospective of 99 works by the most famous Charlotte-born artist.

Bearden, who died in 1988 at age 76, left Charlotte with his parents around 1914 as they sought refuge from the segregated South.

But the region is reflected in much of Bearden's art, which depicts the lives of African-Americans as he knew them.

Wandering among the brightly colored collage paintings and other works, visitors were impressed with the hopefulness of Bearden's vision.

"There are a lot of recurring themes - family, the possibilities for a different future," said Charlottean Melanie Simpson, who brought her two children to the exhibit.

"With the trains and the outdoor scenes he depicted, it seemed to give him hope for the future for African-Americans and for Americans in general," she said.

Viewing the vibrant collages gave Simpson a sense of the possibilities open to her own children, who are both interested in art.

Doris Anderson of Indian Land, S.C., was interested in Bearden's respect for family as well as his images of African-Americans migrating North.

"He had a very high regard and respect for women in their roles as wife, mother and provider," she said. "It's very relevant today."

The exhibit reminded Anderson of strong women in her own family, including her grandmother, who left the family farm in Virginia to work in a Pennsylvania factory during World War II.

Cheryl Palmer, the Mint's director of education, said Bearden's poignant yet positive world view is something many visitors can relate to.

"The colors are exuberant," she said. "There's a sense that you can progress. There's hope that you can move forward, you can alter your life, you can transform."

Palmer said Bearden would be happy with the transformation of Charlotte in the 100 years since his birth here in 1911. "Look at how far Charlotte has come," she said. "He'd be pleased and delighted in his hometown."

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