Alma Hoffmann was astonished when she received congratulations for her piece “Micah 4” being named one of the 100 Best Artworks of 2021 by Creative Quarterly. The international art and graphics periodical highlights excellence in art, photography and design.
“They send me an e-mail and I was like, ‘Wait, no, but that's not real.’ I called my husband to ask, ‘Is this real?’” the University of South Alabama visual arts professor said.
Was it as big a shock as the native Puerto Rican’s first winter studying at Iowa State University?
“That was a pretty big shock at the beginning,” Hoffman said and laughed. “This was different.” Some jumping and screaming might have ensued.
Now in her 10th year at South, Hoffmann grew so excited that she ordered far more official volumes holding all the winning entries than she initially intended. One is earmarked for her mother. No word if any others will get bows and wrapping paper in December.
Hoffmann’s prize-winning watercolor is abstract, holding an inky color field riven by a golden thread of paint, with scrawled handwriting employed more as visual element than narrative. Hoffmann said the word selection isn’t explanatory, just an offshoot of the moment.
The dark sector is paint and charcoal that she crushed, then smeared across the surface with her hands. She communes with her surface, moves around it as she contemplates and executes, to luxuriate in the process.
“I use a lot of color, a lot of energy and movement because I’m a former dancer, so movement is an integral part of who I am,” Hoffmann said.
The work was inspired by the Old Testament’s Book of Micah. Hoffmann described its story as “a lot of drama” in a “time of revolt.”
“Micah is reprimanding them for being greedy and abusive and unjust to less fortunate people, or those who are different. There’s a lot of turmoil,” Hoffmann said.
The yellow “cutting through” like lightning across the darker elements of the work is “hope.” Her faith shines through when she describes it as “always making a way.”
Handmade art is an essential element of Hoffmann’s life. Its pursuit keeps her eye fresh, her skills warm.
“Every day I do something, whether on the tablet, on the iPad or by hand with the pencil or pen. I actually consider it part of my design process. I use a lot of handmade stuff on my design work, too,” Hoffmann said.
A sliver of her ever-growing private collection made it into Hoffmann’s show at the Mobile Arts Council galleries in Autumn 2021. She claims her bilingual life makes her a “walking Venn diagram” so the exhibition for Hispanic Heritage Month was a natural marriage.
“I’m just blessed to be able to be creative,” Hoffmann said.
Summer fest grabs bucks
Mobile’s Gulf Coast Ethnic and Heritage Jazz Festival (GCEHJF) got some good news this fall when they were awarded a $14,200 grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts. The two-decade-old organization has optimized its fundraising efforts in the last few years, earning around $30,000 for use in a recent calendar year, despite recent economic downturns.
GCEHJF organizes a jazz camp for aspiring students, a night of poetry and spoken word performances, and a multi-day concert each summer. Congratulations to the organizers for the well-earned influx of funds.
Jazz group continues ascent
Speaking of jazz, the Mystic Order of the Jazz Obsessed (MOJO) has defied long odds in various ways. The jazz society holds a distinct position of 20-plus years of existence despite an absence of public funding, unusual for an arts organization. That’s why the double blow of losing their primary venue followed by the pandemic’s limitations on gatherings threw shade over their future.
In the last 12 months, they resumed operations at their traditional home — Club 601 at The Elks (601 State St.) — and have steadily rebuilt their monthly staging of what is, in effect, Mobile’s most enduring pop-up jazz club. Attendance numbers are now within averages for the decade before 2020.
They continue their mystical rejuvenation with a show featuring the Mobile ensemble Swing on Nov. 28, 6:30 p.m. The quintet of vocalist Gabby Merz, guitarist Danny Mollise, pianist Scott Jolly, bassist Bill Gardner and drummer Chris Kern specialize in work from the American Songbook and delighted MOJO’s audience with last December’s Winter Solstice event.
Entrance is $15, $10 for members. Admission includes door prizes and more. A cash bar and select menu are available.
For more information or advance tickets, go to mojojazz.org.