Monday, July 28, 2008

A Small Bench by the Road

SULLIVAN’S ISLAND, S.C. — Toni Morrison has said that her acclaimed novel “Beloved,” which features the ghost of a baby killed by her enslaved black mother, came out of the need for a literature to commemorate slaves and their history. “There is no suitable memorial, or plaque, or wreath or wall, or park or skyscraper lobby,” Ms. Morrison said in a 1989 magazine interview. “There’s no 300-foot tower, there’s no small bench by the road.”

Art is serious business

When Edwin Ray McSwine met George Hunt in April at the National Civil Rights Museum during the 40th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, the two artists expressed admiration for one another.

McSwine, a young, gifted artist, said Hunt, who is nationally renowned, “encouraged me to keep doing what I’m doing and things will break for me.”

With Hunt’s words echoing in his mind, McSwine continued to pursue a career that he’d already made inroads into as an artist with a penchant for drawing and painting.

Read the rest of the story here.

Family Art Days at Knoxville Museum of Art

Step out of the summer heat and into art on Saturday. Then step back outdoors and dance an Irish jig.

The Knoxville Museum of Art, 1050 World's Fair Park Drive, hosts another of its art-centered, family-focused days. This summer's Family Fun Day is 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, July 26, at the museum. Events are free and include art activities, artist demonstrations and music for everyone.

Art activities are inspired by the museum's current exhibits. Those sources of inspiration include "Higher Ground: A Century of the Visual Arts in East Tennessee."

This new permanent exhibit of art from the museum's collection includes a variety of styles. One art activity will encourage children to paint in the abstract impressionist style of Knoxville native and African-American artist Beauford Delaney.

Read the rest of the story here.

NBAF Artists' Market

Anyone who's attended the Official NBAF Artists' Market in years past is likely to find familiar faces among the painters, sculptors and jewelers displaying work this year. About 70 percent of the more than 80 artists participating in the popular market are return exhibitors.

The big difference in this 20th anniversary edition of the market is the venue. Georgia World Congress Center is bigger and brighter than Greenbriar Mall, the Artists' Market's previous home.

Read the rest of the story here.

The Traditions of African American Quilting

BRECKENRIDGE — The Breckenridge Heritage Alliance recently opened the exhibit “The Traditions of African-American Quilting” at the Barney Ford House Museum, located at 111 E. Washington Ave. On display are eight quilts that show the historical significance and development of African-American quilting traditions. Visitors will learn about the roles quilts have played in African-American history, from the slavery era to today, and what has influenced this art over time.

Read the rest of the story here.

Jones and Gentry Exhibit at the Delta Arts Center

Lois Mailou Jones and Herbert Gentry both came of age during an era when the United States was still racially segregated, and blacks -- including black artists -- were routinely treated as second-class citizens. Both lived to see the end of government-sanctioned segregation and the emergence of a more receptive climate for the work of black artists in this country.

Solo exhibitions of works by Jones and Gentry at two different local galleries provide an occasion for considering their respective artistic legacies. Jones' exhibition "The Early Works: Paintings and Patterns 1927-1937" is on view through Saturday at the Delta Arts Center, and "Herbert Gentry: The Man, The Magic, The Master" is at Winston-Salem State University's Diggs Gallery through Oct. 4.

Read the rest of the story here.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Rendering Reveals Plans for High Point's Washington Drive District

A recently released rendering of High Point's plans for the Washington Drive District features renovated historic buildings, streetscapes, a park and even a museum.
The drawing is one of the first glimpses the public has gotten of the Core City Plan, High Point's effort to revitalize the downtown and surrounding areas.Officials said the Washington Drive District is a high priority in the plan.
The proposed museum would honor the area's African-American heritage, including the legacy of High Point native and jazz legend John Coltrane.

Gallery features African-American artists

Sanaa Gallery
Top line: The new Sanaa Gallery (named for the Swahili word meaning "work of art" and "beauty") adds a showcase for African-American art to the Fondren arena.

Sanaa Gallery and custom framing shop, located on the first floor of the Fondren Corner building, has its grand opening today. Music and refreshments augment the art draw.
"What I wanted to see in Jackson and particularly in Fondren was an art gallery featuring multi-ethnic and multicultural reflections," says owner Lorenzo D. Gayden, a Jackson artist and jazz trombonist. "I wanted to see more sculpture and different types of abstract art in an atmosphere that's upscale, comfortable and relaxed."

Gayden received a 2008 Miller Urban Entrepreneur Series grant of $15,000 after submitting and presenting a business proposal for the gallery.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Black in America, My Take

So I watched Black in America last night. I'm still trying to figure out what I did and did not like about the program. I expected all of the statistics, the pathology, the sadness, but this program could have just as easily been called Poor in America. Most of the dire circumstances that people featured found themselves in were a result of poverty, and growing up with few options more so than race.

I like how O'brien used Central High School and the Rand Family reunions as jump off points for exploring issues that affect the Black community. I also like that she worked for balance, not just focusing on pathology but showing positive examples of Black men, women and children making their way in America.

Some of my concerns about the show were:

1. Wednesday night's show about Black women and family did not mention sexism as an issue in the Black community to explain how, in many ways, it feeds into the problems covered in the show.

2. Why weren't O'brien and the producers able to find a female pastor to comment on some of the issues affecting Black women and families?

3. Why were there no references to HIV rates among Black Men when young gay Black men are severely disproportionately becoming infected with the disease? I am happy though, that in the segment about Black women and HIV, no one mentioned the tired, DL Brother "phenomena."

4. LGBT black people were not mentioned once. I didn't expect this at all, but it would have been a plus to see a lesbian or gay family or individual featured and included in the show.

Overall, I was pleased, and glad to see that many solutions were discussed. Kudos to O'brien and CNN for two interesting nights of TV.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Black in America

So tonight I'm getting ready to watch Black in America on CNN. I'm curious to see what it's going to be about. I think the companion site on is a little lacking, especially compared to the Washington Post's Being a Black Man. I'll be looking for soultions, creative approaches to the myriad problems we face . . . and not just a litany of problems (which is where these shows usually go). I'll let you know what I think later on.


Artists Turns 112, Draws On Experience

Posted: 2008-07-21 11:45:45
Filed Under: Top News

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Bent over or sitting at a table, gripping a ballpoint pen, marker or crayon, Frank Calloway spends his days turning visions from his youth into lively murals — and at 112 years old, the images of his childhood are a window to another time.
Drawn on sheets of butcher paper and sometimes stretching to more than 30 feet long, the works mostly show rural agricultural scenes, with buildings, trains and vehicles straight out of the early 20th century. And his colorful creations are gaining more attention in the art world.

'Wifredo Lam' at the Museum of Latin American Art

Wifredo Lam's delirious fusion paintings explore spiritual issues.
By Christopher Knight, Times Art Critic July 23, 2008

IN 19th CENTURY EUROPE, when modern science bumped aside the Christian God as the primary artistic foundation for meaning and moral value, artists lost a subject that had preoccupied them for hundreds of years. "Show me an angel and I'll paint one," the famously combative showman Gustave Courbet told his detractors.
A search for truth trumped its declaration in the depiction of religious narrative.But even though religion largely disappeared from art, spiritual interests did not. Not by a long shot. Those interests instead became a prime engine, especially for abstract art. Wifredo Lam (1902-82), whose work is the focus of a handsome and long overdue survey at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, is typically acknowledged for his painterly fusion of Cubism's multiple viewpoints with Surrealism's embrace of the irrational.

But that formal synthesis was undertaken for decidedly spiritual purposes. Lam was Creole -- Afro-Spanish on his mother's side, Cantonese on his father's -- and that hybrid identity is reflected in his art.Lam is one of those second-tier Modern artists -- there are a lot of them -- whose work rarely fails to impress when it is encountered but isn't encountered nearly often enough. Out of sight, out of mind, his paintings have become perpetual surprises.


by Keith Josef Adkins

Five years ago something bone-crazy happened. A white benefactor contacted a national playwright membership to commission someone to write a story about a real-life incident involving a black man at a white college. An African-American playwright was chosen and that playwright set out to write one hell of a play. [For the record, I'm NOT talking about myself].

When the play was finished a reading was set up for the generous benefactor to hear and cheer.

During the reading the benefactor said nothing. She blinked, belched even from what I'm told.

But she said not one word. After the reading, she pulled the membership administrators to the side and informed them she was not pleased. In her words—the African-American writer was too close to the material. She preferred a playwright who could translate the story and leave out the emotional and personal connection. [Now this last bit was my interpretation of what I describe as blatant insanity, but hey, let me have that.] Needless to say, the African-American playwright was pulled from the gig, and the benefactor extended a new commission to a non-black writer.

Oakland Museum Exhibition

The Oakland Museum of California presents a selective look at the vast and vibrant Southern California art scene via 11 influential artists, in L.A. PAINT. The exhibition opens October 4, 2008 and continues through March 15, 2009.

Curated by Chief Curator of Art Philip Linhares, L.A. PAINT highlights The Date Farmers (Armando Lerma and Carlos Ramirez), Brian Fahlstrom, Steve Galloway, Loren Holland, Hyesook Park, Steve Roden, Linda Stark, Don Suggs, Esther Pearl Watson, and Robert Williams.

The exhibition is the result of numerous Southland visits by Linhares to explore galleries, cultural centers, and studios, often pursuing suggestions from colleagues and artists.

Rene de Guzman, senior curator of art at the museum, steered Linhares to The Date Farmers, who collaborate to create groupings of painted images on salvaged corrugated metal and old signs. Lerma and Ramirez use commercial (Sponge Bob, Coca-Cola, and Playboy) and religious icons to explore American culture in images familiar to Mexican Americans.

Read the rest of the story here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Design of a Decade: The House that Reco Built

Chattanooga, Tenn. --- To celebrate the art of fashion and to showcase the designs of a renowned designer and Chattanooga native, the Chattanooga African American Museum is hosting Design of a Decade: The House That Reco Built . The exhibit will include sketches, photographs, and clothing designed by Chattanooga ’s Reco Chapple, owner of House of Chapple located in Atlanta , Georgia .

Design of a Decade: The House That Reco Built will open with a fashion show on Sunday, July 27 at the Chattanooga African American Museum. Acclaimed Ebony Fashion Fair models will showcase Chapple’s clothing line. Tickets for the fashion show are $15 in advance and $20 at the door and may be purchased by calling, The House of Chapple at (404) 433-1272.

The exhibit, Design of a Decade: The House that Reco Built will be on exhibition through October 24. Visitors can tour this fashion exhibit as well as other stimulating exhibits at the Chattanooga African American Museum Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. or on Saturdays from Noon to 4 pm . General admission is $5, $3 for senior citizens and students and $2 for children ages 6-12. Children 5 and under are free. To obtain additional information, please call (423) 266-8658 or visit

Once on this Island!

Director Billy Porter and Grammy nominee Ledisi mark their debuts with Reprise Theatre Company in the 1990 musical “Once on This Island,” opening the 2008-2009 season, September 2 to 14 at UCLA's Freud Playhouse. The press opening is September 3. Bradley Rapier, founder of the Groovaloos, choreographs and Darryl Archibald is the music director.

Reprise Theater Company is led by Artistic Director Jason Alexander and Producing Director Susan Dietz.A 1990 Tony nominee, “Once On This Island” is an imaginative retelling of “The Little Mermaid” fairy tale, with overtones of “Romeo and Juliet,” set on a Caribbean Island, with book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty, the team who created the 1998 hit “Ragtime.” Porter and Rapier have assembled a cast which includes many Broadway and American regional theatre veterans; including principals Yvette Cason, Vanita Harbour, Jesse Nager, Leslie Odom Jr., and Nita Whitaker. Newcomer Kristolyn Lloyd will play Ti Moune.

Animated Racism?

No fairy-tale

Disney has been hit with accusations of racism about its first animated film featuring a black princess, due out in 2009. Upon announcing last year that The Frog Princess would star an African-American heroine, the corporation, long dogged by allegations of racism, was widely praised for turning over a new leaf. But much of this goodwill has now evaporated upon revelations of the film's slavery-themed proposed storyline: our heroine is an exploited black maid in New Orleans saved by voodoo (i.e. African) magic.

Disney is not exactly famed for its multicultural credentials, and its first film to feature a non-white princess, Aladdin (1992), was so laden with colonial-era stereotypes of the East as a land of decadence and savagery that it outraged Muslims and Arabs worldwide. The bungled attempt at an image makeover with The Frog Princess shows that little has changed, and though the above storyboard has now been binned one wonders when Disney will shoot the other foot off this PR project.

Fom the NewStatesman. Read the rest of the article here.

For more on The Princess and the Frog.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Paint the town: Quincy art star Dean Mitchell takes a brush to New Orleans

By Mark Hinson


New Orleans has been kind to the artist Dean Mitchell, so he returns the favor often by making it one of his favorite subjects.

For nearly 25 years, Mitchell, who grew up as a poor kid in Quincy, has traveled to the French Quarter to paint its working people, authentic architecture and Creole soul.

"New Orleans has become a voice for me in my art," Mitchell, 51, said. "I fell in love with the city (after his first visit in 1984). New Orleans is just as culturally rich as the Harlem Renaissance with the music, the poetry, the art. It's all there. . . . It's just a haven that's rich for an artist."
Starting Friday, Mitchell's inspirational home and his real hometown will intermingle when the exhibition "Dean Mitchell's New Orleans" opens at the Gadsden Arts Center on the courthouse square in downtown Quincy. Mitchell will be on hand to give a gallery talk about his art, his upbringing and the Crescent City.

"The body of work in this exhibition captures the spirit of the city both before and after Hurricane Katrina as we approach the third anniversary of this tragedy," gallery director Grace Maloy said. "(It's) a tribute to the people and culture of the region."

Harlem Masters: Fisk University

“Harlem Masters: Selections from Fisk’s Harmon Foundation Collection” is the latest exhibit featured in The Aaron Douglas Gallery at Fisk University and runs from now until October 31.
The exhibit features fifty works by artists that were associated with the Harlem Renaissance such as William H. Johnson’s “Going to Church” (1938), Malvin Gray Johnson’s “Pulley Lines” (1933) and James Porter’s “Woman with a Jug” (1930.)

Established by William Elmer Harmon in the 1920s, The Harmon Foundation established an annual arts award to recognize then-emerging African American artists in Harlem. After Harmon’s death in 1928, the foundation’s director Mary Brady expanded support with the establishment of exhibitions in downtown New York to solicit wider attention for Harlem artists. As the local and global art community began to take note, The Harmon Foundation entered works form Harlem artists such as James Porter, Malvin Gray Johnson and Jacob Lawrence into a permanent collection called “The Harmon Collection of Negro Art”.

'Vintage Black Cinema' Movie Poster Stamps Highlight African-American Cultural Experience

WASHINGTON, July 15, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Stamps Depict Posters From the 1920s Through 1950s

Vintage movie posters highlighting various facets of the African-American cultural experience as represented in early film return on postage when the U.S. Postal Service issues the Vintage Black Cinema stamps. The 42-cent commemorative First-Class stamps will be dedicated July 16 at the Newark, NJ, Museum during the Black Film Festival and will go on sale nationwide that day.

Explained U.S. Postal Service Vice President and Consumer Advocate Delores Killette: "Whether spotlighting the talents of entertainment icons Josephine Baker, Duke Ellington, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Fredi Washington, Louis Jordan, Daniel L. Haynes, Victoria Spivey or King Vidor, or documenting changing social attitudes and expectations -- these posters now serve a greater purpose than publicity and promotion. They are invaluable pieces of history, preserving memories of cultural phenomena that otherwise might have been forgotten."

Artist Interview: James McKissic

Tell us about your educational background. Do you have formal training in art? If so, who were your instructors and how did they influence you?

I always wanted to be an artist and loved painting and drawing as a child. I studied art in high school and college and did very well in my classes, especially drawing in college. Jere Chumley and Martha Kidwell are two former teachers who encouraged me as a student and as a painter. When i graduated from college, I had enough art credits to have a minor in painting. Later on, while in graduate school, I stopped painting because I just didn't have time. But I always felt like something was missing from my life. If you are an artist you can't go too long without pursuing some creative projects. But I felt stumped. I guess I was in the visual art version of writer's block. On a whim, I signed up for an abstract painting class at the Creative Arts Workshop while living in New Haven, CT. This class broke the block and I've been painting regularly ever since. The most important lesson I've learned came from local artist Charlie Newton. His advice to me was, "Paint every day." I don't paint every day, but I make it a priority to paint as often as possible and to constantly work out ideas in my idea/sketch book. This keeps me going.

Tell us about your early artistic influences and experiences. When did you decide to pursue art?

The family I grew up in did not encourage art as a career option. It was more of something to do on the side, for fun, as a release . . . a hobby. My family, though, exposed me to a great deal of art while growing up. There was a print of Henry O'Tanner's, The Banjo Lesson, in our living room and reproductions of Hughie Lee Smith, Romare Bearden and Cezanne paintings throughout our home. I remember keenly my mother discussing these artworks with me. She took my sister and me to museums throughout the region often and exposed us to visual and performing arts regularly. I did not have a moment where I decided to pursue art, but in my early thirties, I decided to begin showing my art publicly. I made public exhibition a goal and I've been working at it ever since.

The influences and experiences that have fed into my artistic vision are numerous.

The first time I saw Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. This is my favorite painting in the entire world, one I cannot stand before without acknowledging the genius of Picasso and the magnitude of his place in art history. Anytime I'm in New York, I visit MOMA and spend some time with this amazing work of art.

I love movies, and many movies and music videos have had a deep impact on my artistic vision: Young Soul Rebels, a 1991 movie by Isaac Julien, Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, Marcel Camus' Black Orpheus, Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, Kasi Lemmons' Eve's Bayou and Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood are some of my favorites. These films changed how I looked at the world and also changed the way that I painted.

Then there is the music that can always pull me out of a slump, anything by Chaka Khan, Erykah Badu, Coltrane's A Love Supreme and old Aretha.

A few years ago I visited the show, Beauford Delaney: From New York to Paris, at the Knoxville Museum of Art. This show helped me to see the work I was doing in the larger context of African American abstractionists, and gave me the courage to keep going, painting for myself. An entire new world was opened up to me and I began to research and read the life stories of highly respected African American abstract and nonobjective painters like Norman Lewis, Frank Bowling and Sam Gilliam. I am so glad to be alive in this time, because the Internet is such a vast source of biographical and visual information about African American artists.

How would you say that your work has advanced over time?

I have definitely moved from attempting to paint realistically to pulling themes, forms, shapes and colors from deep within my soul.

Can you go into detail about your artistic process? How do you begin a piece? When do you know that a piece is finished?

I will "sit on" and idea for weeks and weeks, allowing it to change and coalesce in my mind. During this time, I'm asking myself questions about what colors represent the idea I'm drawn to? What shapes? What forms? I always work to music, from Talib Kwali, and Meshell Ndegeocello, to Cecil Taylor, Ella Fitzgerald and Andy Bey. Music seems to loosen me and allow me to move deeper and deeper into any painting that I'm working on. Is a painting ever finished? At some point, I just stop. Though I have gone back to a painting a couple of years later and added to it.

How do current world events influence your work? In other words, how does contemporary life impact your creative practice?

My work is always a response to contemporary life . . . my life. Everything I do is in response to me being who I am and navigating a world that often seems out of control. For example I have been exploring three themes recently in my work lately what it is to be a post-civil rights movement Black man in America, living in a world of information overload, the shame of homophobic violence against lesbian and gay youth of color.

Painting is the way that I work out the major questions in my life and try to gain understanding. It's like meditation or prayer.

Tell us more about the philosophy behind your art. What motivates you to create?
I am always motivated to create by questions. Not long ago I read a news story about Ronnie Paris, 3 years old, who was “boxed” to death by his father because he was afraid that the boy was going to grow up to be a sissy or be gay. My response was how can something like this happen? What type of world do we live in? Why aren't more people outraged by this? What was going through the child's head as this horrible thing was happening to him? These questions just get inside of me and the only way I can make peace with them, and put them to rest is to paint them out.

My art is always created in response to questions and the search for understanding.

Why did you choose to work in the medium(s) that you use?

Acrylics, oils, crayons, collage, etc. are the way that I've always done things. They work for me.

What is your studio like? Can you go into detail about your studio routine? Do you work in silence-- listen to music?

I paint outdoors on my deck and I always listen to music.

What are you working on at this time?

I am spending a lot of time getting ready for an upcoming show at the Chattanooga African American Museum. They are hosting a one-man show which opens on August 22, 2008.

In your opinion, what are some of the problems facing artists today?

For emerging artists, I think a major problem is finding places to show your work. Also funding the processes that go along with building an art career can be a challenge: for example, slides, quality jpgs, promotional materials, application fees, framing, etc. Just getting information can also be a challenge, a local organization, AVA (Association for Visual Artists) has been a great resource for me in getting to participate in shows and professional development as an artist.

The Internet is changing how we discover and view art. What sites have empowered you as an artist?

Of course my favorite sites are my own, and I also love Modern Art Obsession and Code Z: Black Visual Culture Now

What are your goals as an artist? What do you hope to accomplish with your work?

My goal is to keep pursuing the big questions about life through my artwork . . . and to leave a creative legacy after I’m gone.

You can learn more about James McKissic by visiting his website-- He also blogs at

Bessie Smith Heritage Festival

The Chattanooga African American Museum/Bessie Smith Hall invites you to become a part of Chattanooga’s “Big 9” revitalization by participating in the first Annual Bessie Smith Heritage Festival on Saturday, August 23, 2008. The festival will be held on the grounds of the Chattanooga African American Museum and Martin Luther King Boulevard.

The Chattanooga African American Museum aims to draw attention to the district by celebrating its rich cultural legacy by presenting a diverse selection of arts and cultural programming. The festival will offer a performance stage with ongoing entertainment, along with a diverse array of vendors including delicious food, arts, crafts and other merchandise.

The event includes “A Tribute to Bessie,” an educational lecture/demonstration on blues with Blues master Vasti Jackson and Dr. Clarke White (aka Deacon Bluz) and Jazz artist Joe Johnson. This event will be held in the Bessie Smith Hall.

Festival entertainment will include reggae, blues, smooth jazz, and R & B music with nationally recognized talent, including American Idol’s Ruben Studdard as headliner. Additionally performers include R & B crooner, Calvin Richardson, internationally acclaimed blues artist Vasti Jackson, Nashville’s contemporary jazz saxophonist Joe Johnson, and “Just A Few Cats.”

An excellent marketing opportunity exists for this “significant cultural event. Festival organizers will continue to move the district’s image into a positive and culturally significant aspect of Chattanooga’s heritage. The Bessie Smith Heritage Festival will blend the district’s roots with other art forms that celebrate diversity.

We invite artists and crafts persons with unique products to participate as a vendor in this cultural celebration. Please feel free to contact Stacy Goodwin Lightfoot at (423) 653-4945 or call the Chattanooga African American Museum at (423) 266-8658.

Douglas works on display

Smithsonian exhibit highlights African-American paintings

By Ursula Ehrhardt

Aaron Douglas (1899-1979) was an easel painter, muralist, illustrator, and art educator. Born in Topeka, Kansas, he moved to New York City in 1925 and settled in Harlem, then in its economic, social and cultural heyday as a black "Mecca."

Within months, Douglas became a key member of the New Negro Movement or "Harlem Renaissance." This was a broad-based African-American intellectual and cultural movement of the 1920s and 1930s that emphasized the importance of the literary, performing and visual arts in furthering a sense of black identity and pride, as well as promoting racial tolerance and understanding.

The exhibition, "Aaron Douglas: African American Modernist," at the Smithsonian American Art Museum through August 3, charts the course and breadth of Douglas' career. Featuring about 90 works, the show spans some 40 years, from 1917 to 1966. It includes paintings; preparatory studies and panels from several of his most important mural series; prints and drawings; plus illustrations and dust cover designs for books by prominent black writers, such as Alain Locke, Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, Countee Cullen and many others.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Conversation: Kehinde Wiley and Thelma Golden

Kehinde Wiley: the painter who is doing for hip-hop culture what artists once did for the aristocracy

Thelma Golden
Born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, Kehinde Wiley was 11 years old when his mother enrolled him in free art classes at a local university. From that point on, Wiley continued to study and practice art, going on to receive his M.F.A. from Yale. Hip-hop and art history collide on Wiley's canvases, in which contemporary urban black men pose as angels, prophets, and saints against richly colored swirls of ornate baroque and rococo ornamentation. It's art that is both brainy and ballsy, earning nods of approval from fans of Tupac and Tiepolo alike, which explains why his work has landed in the collections of both Russell Simmons and the Brooklyn Museum. Here the 28-year-old artist speaks to Thelma Golden of the Studio Museum in Harlem, where as an artist-in-residence Wiley found inspiration for the works that have launched him into the art-world stratosphere.

THELMA GOLDEN: How are you, Kehinde?

KEHINDE WILEY: I'm fantastic.

TG: So, when did you know you were an artist? Did it happen right out of the womb? When did you first feel that you'd really made a work of art?

KW: It's tough to say. I feel like the process of becoming an artist in my own right took place sequentially. There was a point in high school that exemplified the beginnings of that when I was doing competitions with the NAACP's ACTSO program. I won bronze the first year. The second year I won silver, and then I finally finished off with gold.

TG: That makes you a real, official black artist. You have a gold medal in it! [both laugh]

Read the rest of the story here.

Sketchy Imagery

Sketchy Imagery
A survey of Obama in pencil, ink and paint shows artists are struggling to get the brother right.
Updated: 6:11 PM ET Jul 15, 2008

July 16, 2008--Depending on whom you ask, the July 21 cover of The New Yorker has become cause for outrage, confusion and partisan glee. Given the flare-ups surrounding race and representation that have rocked the 2008 presidential race, it's easy to treat the satirical cover—of a be-turbaned Barack and a be-afroed Michelle Obama—and other "racialist" images of the couple as a serious problem. But when it comes to cartooning, the presumptive Democratic nominee has gotten a bum rap since day one.

During Obama's meteoric rise from state senate to the threshold of the oval office, political cartoonists have had to grapple not just with a fresh face to draw, but a new race to signify. Photographs of Obama's angular, open visage—half white, half black—have graced countless magazine covers in the last year alone, appearing at times Marvel-esque, at others proletarian. His cartoon self, however, has been wildly incoherent.

Drawing a black man—either seriously or satirically—it appears, is damned difficult.

Read the rest of the story here.

More Obama Cartoons . . . here.

Obama Art, Prints, Parks

Paintings of the Past
BY CRISTELA GUERRA from the South Florida Times

WEST PALM BEACH — These words seem cryptic unless you see the piece of artwork with which they are associated: a black frame with a large circular peephole over a photograph of a slave covered in whip marks, or brands, in his flesh. The print is possibly from the 1860s, and the colors over it make the message of blood and violence clear. It’s a view into the unimaginable horror that was slavery, but in postmodern work.

The print is only one of a multitude at the Norton Art Museum in West Palm Beach, which currently features two collections of African-American art.

One exhibit is from the California African-American Art Museum, and is sponsored by African-American philanthropists Shirley and Bernard Kinsey.

Next to that exhibit, the museum features the Kinseys’ historical timeline of artifacts, highlighting Norton’s own African-American art collection.

The Shirley and Bernard Kinsey Collection is a reflection of the couple’s movement through life together.

Read the rest of the story here.

Obama Art
from The Independent (UK)

A stencilled Obama portrait titled Hope will be auctioned today by Def Jam Recordings founder, Russel Simmons, at his annual celebrity-rich benefit for charity. Pre-bidding was more than $100,000 (£50,000) by yesterday afternoon. The art market has gone wild for Obama "street art". Limited -edition campaign posters that were sold for £15 now get snapped up for thousands on eBay. Obama himself is now wise to collectors shoving to the front of rope lines to get posters signed. Nobody, it seems, wants McCain art.

Read the rest of the story here.

Art: Gordon Parks shot picture-perfect

Friday, July 18, 2008
By Sylvia Krissoff
The Grand Rapids Press

The exhibit "American Black and White: Gordon Parks Photography" reveals a great deal about a great artist, says Grand Rapids Art Museum Director Celeste Adams.

"He is the greatest African-American photographer of the modern era," she says.

The 35 pieces in the GRAM show clearly back up that remark as they "take viewers on a visual journey through periods of poverty and racism" of the 1940s as well as gang violence in Harlem, N.Y., civil rights protests in the nation's capital and general portraits of American life from 1941 to 1971. Langston Hughes, Ingrid Bergman, Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali are just a few of Parks' impressive portraits.

Read the rest of the story here.

Friday, July 18, 2008

NBAF Director's Lovely Home

Click the photo on the left to see the amazing art collection of Stephanie Hughley, Director of the National Black Arts Festival.

A Smaller Renaissance

by Charles Michael Smith

The current gentrification of Harlem has been labeled as the second Harlem Renaissance, but that is a misnomer. The Harlem Renaissance, in the 20s and 30s, was an artistic movement out of which came such luminaries as Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Countee Cullen. What's happening in Harlem today is all about real estate, not art. If there is a second renaissance in the making, Casa Frela, a new art gallery located on West 119th Street in the Mount Morris Park Historic District, is in the vanguard.

Casa Frela, which means, "your house should be a walk in the park" (containing one word from Spanish and one from the language of the Yaqui Indians of Mexico) is in a brownstone designed by the Gilded Age architect Stanford White.

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Exhibit is a tribute to black artists

Exhibit is a tribute to black artists
Michael H. Hodges / The Detroit News

John and Vivian Hewitt were not rich New Yorkers. He was a medical journalist who freelanced a lot. She was a librarian.

But on their honeymoon in 1949, the African-American couple bought some prints. And instead of buying furniture with money they got for their wedding, they bought yet more art -- all African-American.

Over half a century, the Hewitts -- who never regarded art as an investment -- acquired one of the most spectacular private collections of African-American art in the nation. The fruit of that passion, "Celebration and Vision: The Hewitt Collection of African American Art," is showing at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History through Aug. 30, and is well worth the trip to Detroit's Cultural Center.
Jonathan Green, Easter, 1989, acrylic on paper

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

First Post

I decided to start this new blog because I wasn't motivated by my other one I had kept it for a few years, but I learned that it was too general, and what I really wanted to focus on was writing about art, the creative life and my effort to create a career in the arts. I also wanted to spend more time researching African American Art History and exploring the personal creative process. So here I am, learn and grow with me. Hope you enjoy . . .

First Post: Painting by Beauford Delaney