Cedric Michael Cox (Artist Spotlight) November 08 2021
Cedric Michael Cox is best known for his paintings and drawings which fall between surrealism and representational abstraction. His work expresses themes ranging from mythical literature to the relationships between the physical body, musical allegories, natural, and man-made landscapes.
As a student at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, Cox was awarded a fellowship to study at the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland. After receiving his BFA in Painting in 1999, he began to exhibit locally and regionally.
Where Are the Black Women Artists At? November 07 2021
“You can’t sit around waiting for someone else to say who you are—you need to write it and paint it and do it.” —Faith Ringgold
Historically, women artists have been underrepresented in museums and galleries.
In 1985, the Guerrilla Girls, a collective of anonymous [presumably White] feminist visual artists, shook up the art world by publicizing that female artists represented less than 8% in the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) exhibit, An International Survey of Painting and Sculpture. One of the activist group’s best known actions was the 1989 poster they created to criticize The Metropolitan Museum Of Art. On the poster, Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s painting “Grande Odalisque” (1814) is shown with the woman’s head replaced by a gorilla mask. The caption asks:
“Do women have to be naked to get into the Met Museum? Less than 5% of the artists in the modern art sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female.”
According to a 2017 National Endowment of the Arts study, 51 percent of visual artists working today are women. However, more than two decades after the Guerrilla Girl’s debut, a 2019 study revealed that, between 2008-2019, only 11% of artists in major museum collections were women. When it comes to black women artists, their absence in galleries and museums is glaring.
Ninety-one year old artist, Faith Ringgold, is finally getting her first New York retrospective in 2022. Moreover, only this year did the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC acquire its first work by Ringgold, “American People Series #18: The Flag is Bleeding” (1967).
Ringgold is an artist, activist, author, and educator. In her more than 60-year career, she’s employed painting, quilting, sculpture, and printmaking to explore issues related to social and racial justice, black identity, women rights, and her personal experiences as a black woman in the United States. In “Flag is Bleeding,” the White woman figure is linked arm-in-arm with the knife-wielding black male figure and the suit-clad white male figure. The absence of a black woman figure was Ringgold’s commentary on the exclusion of black women from discourses on power and equality in the United States.
Ringgold’s quilts also opened the door for a new generation of textile artists such as Bisa Butler, Phyllis Stephens, and Stephen Towns by erasing the boundary between high art and “low art.” Older black American women artists such as master quilters, Harriet Powers and the women of Gee Bend, had been consigned to the lesser realm of “low art” or folk art by the art world. Given Ringgold’s groundbreaking oeuvre, her overdue recognition represents the glacial pace of progress for black women artists.
In 1971, artist, Dindga McKinnon hosted a group of black women artists in her New York City apartment, which included artists Faith Ringgold and Kay Brown, to discuss their consistent omission from exhibitions. The result of this meeting was Where We At, one of the first exhibitions in New York City for professional black women artists.
A year earlier, Come A Long Way, Baby: The Sapphire Show, an exhibition of the work of black women artists, opened at Gallery 32 on July 4, 1970 in Los Angeles, California. The pop-up exhibition ran for five days. The show was a consequence of black women artists having few opportunities to exhibit their work. Participant Betye Saar would go on to cement her reputation within the art world with her work, “The Liberation of Aunt Jemima” (1972) that transformed the Aunt Jemima figure from a passive mammy into a grenade-throwing, black revolutionary.
The selection of the name Sapphire speaks volumes about how black women artists felt that they were being perceived by the art world. The fictional Sapphire Stevens was the stereotypical Angry Black Woman on the radio program Amos ‘n’ Andy. The 1920s radio show debuted in 1928 and was written and performed by white men; the subsequent television program in the 1950s used black actors. Sapphire dominated and constantly emasculated her scheming, wannabe millionaire husband George “Kingfish” Stevens. In a 2020 New York Times article about the continued use of the Angry Black Woman trope, Georgetown professor, Michael Eric Dyson stated,
“The notion of the angry black woman was a way— is a way—of trying to keep in place black women who have stepped outside of their bounds, and who have refused to concede the legitimacy of being a docile being in the face of white power.”
What history has continually shown is that gains for women and African-Americans often don’t accrue to black women.
According to Artnet, between 2008 and the first five months of 2019, more than $196.6 billion has been spent on art at auctions. Of the $196.6 billion, only $4 billion (or 2 percent) were sales of works by women. Of those 2 percent, five white female artists accounted for $1.6 billion or 40 percent of the $4 billion spent on women artists during the 11.5 year period. In descending order, those artists are: Yayoi Kusama, Joan Mitchell, Louise Bourgeois, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Agnes Martin.
While individual black women artists have made great strides within the art market, black women artists overall remain marginalized. In a September 2019 Artnet article, Marina Gertsberg, a visiting research scholar at Yale University’s School of Management, explained the obstacles that black women artists face: “Buyers are still reluctant to pay high prices for work by female artists.”
She added that the issue is exacerbated by the “superstar effect,” whereby a small number of elite artists garner the lion’s share of the sales. The superstar effect, according to Gertsberg, is “even stronger for minorities like female artists or African-American artists. Within those groups, competition is even greater because those minorities are competing even more for the few spots on top.”
The superstar effect has resulted in a few black women artists selling works at auctions in New York and in London for more than USD $1 million dollars, including:
- (American) Amy Sherald’s “The Bathers” (2015) sold for $4.2 million at auction in 2020. Sherald’s career skyrocketed after being selected in 2016 to paint the official portrait of the former First Lady of The United States Michelle Obama.
- (American) Mickalene Thomas’s “Racquel Reclining Wearing Purple Jumpsuit” (2016) sold in 2021 for more than $1.8 million, marking the first time her work sold for more than $1 million at auction.
- (British) Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s Diplomacy III (2009) sold at auction for $1.95 million in 2021. This beats her prior record for “The Hours Behind You,” (2011) which sold at auction for $1.5 million in 2017.
Following close behind are:
- (American) Nina Chanel Abney‘s “Untitled (XXXXXX) (2015),” a powerful painting of two black cops arresting a white man, sold for $990,000 at auction in 2021, setting a new record for the artist.
- (Nigerian-American) Toyin Ojih Odutola’s “Eastern Entrance (2016)” was sold in 2018 at auction in Hong Kong for $832,709.
The patterns set by prestigious auction houses, museums, and galleries, unfortunately, tend to trickle down to local art markets. Consequently, black women artists attempting to sell works for four or five figures remain less likely than white women or black men to have their work exhibited or acquired.
A key lesson from The Sapphire Show and Where We At exhibitions is that black women artists have to be in the forefront of creating opportunities for their work to be shown and bought. In 2017, Sasha Loriene, a Liberian-American artist, founded Black Girls Who Paint after being repeatedly rejected for local exhibitions and artist calls. In a 2020 interview, Loriene said:
“I would see the artists who were chosen and 90 percent of them were not women of color. So, I decided I was tired of seeing rejection emails and decided to create my own table, an ecosystem of Black women artists, and bring them in as opposed to always knocking on someone else’s door waiting for a pass.”
Loriene’s membership-based organization is located in the Washington, DC metropolitan area and serves black women artists of all ages. Black Girls Who Paint uses its membership fees to provide professional development resources, financial support through e-cards and scholarships, and opportunities for members to showcase their work online and in-person.
Black women artists and their supporters need to start thinking more broadly about how to develop exhibition opportunities that will allow them to reach black art buyers.
Why aren’t there panel discussions on art collecting and a designated gallery space (not in a hallway nor in vendor areas) for black women artists at the annual Essence Festival hosted by Essence or during the yearly national conferences of black sororities and women’s civic organizations? How many church basements and community recreation centers could be used monthly or quarterly as spaces where local black artists of both genders could exhibit and sell their work? Why aren’t more black-owned restaurants and eateries being used to display art?
The art game isn’t rigged. It simply wasn’t established to benefit anyone but white male collectors and artists.
Black artists and collectors, however, shouldn’t abandon the system. The art world will be slowly reformed by black artists, curators, and collectors who are part of the current structure and who are fighting for more equity and inclusion. In the meantime, black artists, educators, and gallerists nationwide should also be using available resources online and in their neighborhoods to create local arts ecosystems to showcase and sell art that reflects their community’s tastes and budgets.
Browse and shop for fine art from our growing network of artists, collectors, estates, galleries — specializing in works by Black American artists with great values on premier art.
START COLLECTING ART
Sign up for our free email course on how to begin your collection.
YVONNE BYNOE is the founder of the online platform @shelovesblackart which highlights visual art from the African diaspora. She is a former attorney and the author of the acclaimed book, Stand and Deliver: Political Activism, Leadership and Hip Hop Culture.
Maybe less these days, but, more often than not, black parents didn’t care for their children going off to college to take up art. Art to them was a hobby, not a career. Some defied their parents’ wishes and obtained BFAs and MFAs anyway. Others went the route that their guardians chose then swung back around later in life to do as they wished to begin with. Then there are those who unfortunately never got back to their love of painting, sculpting, photographing, dancing, designing, writing, etc.
Black people, all over the African diaspora, have an unbreakable grip around their belief in higher education. That’s not to say that art ain’t included in that, because it is. I’m alluding to the perspective of those holding these values. It reminds me of the time my own father asked me, after I’d published my second novel, “When you gon’ write a real book?”
Although my novel with its 200-something pages, front and back cover, and ISBN number was unquestionably a real book, I knew exactly what he meant. When was I was going to write something taking place in the real world versus my imagined one? I could argue all day long that my novels were real, consisting of real-life struggles, despite their made-up characters, but I wouldn’t change his mind. The same for Deborah Roberts, I’m sure, who said that “The idea of anybody being an artist didn’t make sense to [my parents]. And it wasn’t because they were ignorant. They just didn’t understand.” Their lack of understanding, I’m sure, aligned with Della Wells’ childhood belief that “artists didn’t make any money.”
One of a parent’s duties is to raise their children to be able to take care of themselves—and to hopefully do so with more ease and resources than they managed to. To do that, you need money. To get the money, you need the degree(s) and a job. A good job. A real job. Their intentions, of course, are good. They’re historically good. In addition to writing about worlds that I make up, I’m also an oral historian. I sit with elders and ask them beaucoup questions about back-in-the-day. I also research those back-then happenings for further context. And I’ve realized that, for black people in the Americas and the Caribbean especially, education is like religion. It’s seen as a key, a direct path to freedom.
As we know, it was illegal for us to be literate during slavery. Human traffickers (aka slave owners) feared that their hostages (aka slaves) would realize their position in life and rebel or escape by way of forged freedom papers. Meanwhile, plantation owners were sending their children off to college and those children were coming back home and adding more streams of revenue to the family’s portfolio. Even after slavery ended, gaining an education still proved to be difficult for many black folk. This was especially the case for sharecroppers, because the family needed as many hands as possible to help out in the fields. Meanwhile, the grandchildren of former plantation owners are coming home from college and adding more streams of revenue to the family’s portfolio.
Then there were the literacy tests for voting, which were administered at the discretion of those in charge of the voter registration. The tests often consisted of more than 30 questions and had to be taken in 10 minutes, and you couldn’t get any questions wrong. If you failed, which most of our ancestors did, you couldn’t vote. And you’re hearing through the grapevine about how so and so down the road got their land taken from them because they signed a contract that they couldn’t read. Meanwhile…you get the point.
When one of my elders—Ms. Madie Underwood from both Savannah and Philly—shared how her parents were relegated to working jobs that didn’t pay enough to consistently cover their daily expenses, I understood even more why my parents and grandparents stressed my getting an education. I understood why they hesitated when I explained that I was taking my son out of school to homeschool him. Ms. Madie’s story reminded me of my mother wishing that her mother, who didn’t go past elementary school because she was too busy sharecropping down in the delta, could’ve seen her graduate from college. I remember her saying how proud my grandmother would’ve been to see me walk across two university stages. That’s because education for black folk ain’t a shrugging matter. Historically, it determined where on the ladder our livelihoods rested.
Yet, times have been and still are changing. I saw a post on Facebook a few days ago asking readers to share a scam they fell for. Most people, of all races, replied “college.” It’s become so expensive that many folk couldn’t work and pay for it themselves if they wanted to. Many of us get loans to get a degree to get a job that can (hopefully) afford to cover living expenses and repay the school loan. A friend recently shared that after analyzing her budget spreadsheet from 2014 until today, she realized that she’s put over $20,000 towards student loans and the balance is up $30,000 since 2014.
That’s exactly what my sharecropping ancestors went through. Quoting Ms. Madie, “Whatever the sharecroppers needed through the year, they’d go [to the land owner’s general store] and get it and the white man kept a tab on whatever they needed and bought. At harvest time, when the white man have sold all of his goods and everybody settled for the winter, they always came out owing the white man money. There was never a profit. You always was in debt, so that debt would ride over into the next year. And naturally it’s another debt to grow on top of that debt, so, little by little, they owning you again like slaves.”
College debt is feeling very much like sharecropping these days. As another elder of mine, Mr. Curt Williams—from Vidalia and Savannah, Georgia—said, “It ain’t getting no betta. They just getting mo slicka.” Might as well love your degree, if you going into debt for it.
Besides the money aspect, though, some of us just have different values. We’d rather risk being the struggling artist than being the chief clerk down at the railroad, struggling to get out of bed on a cold, Monday morning (word to Annie Lee). That’s not a diss to careers that ain’t in the arts, by the way. It’s just an example. Though there may be less black parents discouraging their children from an education/career in the arts these days, I’m hoping to turn that less into no black parents doing so.
Alice Lovelace makes no bones about telling you she’s “been around the block.” Since arriving in Atlanta in 1976, Lovelace has forged a trailblazing artistic path as a performance artist, teacher, poet, organizer, author, playwright, and arts administrator.
In 1979, one year after linking with artists Toni Cade Bambara and Ebon Dooley at the Neighborhood Arts Center, Lovelace became a Writer-in-Residence and helped organize poetry readings and classes while holding meetings for the Southern Collective of African American Writers (SCAAW). In 1983, she and Dooley founded the Southeast Community Cultural Center. A year later, the nonprofit opened the Arts Exchange in an old elementary school, a space replete with art, dance, and recording studios, galleries, a theater, and a home base for the Atlanta Writers Resource Center. In the late 1990s, Lovelace became executive director of Alternate ROOTS, an artists-led southern regional organization, and executive director of the Atlanta Partnership for Arts in Learning (APAL), which she founded along with Dr. Lisa Delpit and actress Jane Fonda.
Today, Lovelace serves as president of the board of the rebranded “ArtsXchange,” now based at 2148 Newnan Street in East Point after relocating in 2019. Given her “block” is now East Point—the future home of the Black Art In America Headquarters on Connally Drive in 2022—Lovelace speaks to the current climate of the arts in the city while advancing what a thriving local arts community looks like.
“So, first, you have to have a public policy before there can be something that somebody can hold you responsible for,” says Lovelace, who has years of experience on numerous public policy committees for art at the municipal, county, state, and national levels. She points to such representative models as Fulton County, Hapeville, and Atlanta. Certainly, stresses Lovelace, “the reason that the city of Atlanta thrives is because it has a healthy policy on the arts” that encourages and accommodates artists and arts organizations with “an environment that nurtures. But, first, you’ve got to have a policy.”
“Policy is a lot about regulation, about sometimes giving exemptions to certain groups,” explains Lovelace. “When you go to a reception in the city of Atlanta, I don’t care what it’s for, there’s wine flowing, maybe an open bar and different things that the city allows for the arts organizations to have through special permits to do that very easily,” she offers. “That’s something that would be a good regulation that would make for a healthy environment for arts to thrive because open houses and gatherings around art and art centers are important, especially in the visual arts and performing arts. So one has to actually be thinking about those things and come up with ways to encourage them.”
That said, Lovelace clarifies that “the mayor and the council people definitely support the arts. I think that’s what makes this an excellent time.” She cites ongoing efforts like the public art displays around the marketplace and the Wednesday Wind Down concert series. “I do believe that they understand the value of it, and that they appreciate art,” acknowledges Lovelace. “I don’t think it’s a lack of will or respect, I just don’t think they fully know what to do with it.”
Councilman Joshua Butler believes the city has recently been doing a good job of putting the pieces in place. “I think we’ve been doing what we can do by investing the time and resources in developing the arts for more than two or three years now,” offers Butler, an art collector and East Point native who grew up under a painting father that was an integral part of the Atlanta-area arts scene. Butler’s collection includes paintings by John Biggers and Glenn Ligon, and he is hoping to acquire a piece from famed Atlanta artist, Radcliffe Bailey, who studied under his father in high school. The Morehouse College graduate points to East Point’s ongoing revitalization and its increasingly regular public ballet recitals, concert series, and outdoor art. “We are big supporters of art and now we have a program where we’re getting into public art, where we decorate some of these street corners with art,” says Butler. “So, yes, East Point is investing substantial time and money in the arts.”
Over the past two years, along with welcoming the ArtsXchange, the city has moved to further promote itself as an arts-friendly destination by establishing an Arts Commission and implementing its first Public Arts Master Plan, which includes public performances, murals, and additional artistic displays adorning public spaces. During the plan’s inception, Mayor Deana Holiday Ingraham stated how such a program would “cultivate vibrancy in our downtown and neighborhoods, create gathering spaces that promote community connections through art, connect our youth to art and artists, and serve as a branding opportunity for the city to display our unique identity and enhance our gateways to the city.” Three months ago, the city received a $6,000 Project Grant from Georgia Council for the Arts to further fund its ongoing projects.
But whether planned or not, for the past three decades, East Point has enjoyed a compelling relationship with the arts. Home of Tri-Cities High School, a visual and performing arts-based magnet, the city has produced such notable stage, film, TV, and musical artists as Kenan Thompson, Kandi Burruss, Tameka “Tiny” Harris, Sahr Ngaujah, Antwan “Big Boi” Patton, “Andre 3000” Benjamin, Saycon Sengbloh, Denise “D. Woods” Woodgett, Shanell “SnL” Woodgett, and rap group, Goodie Mob, among others. Along with the ArtsXchange, the city has hosted numerous arts-related institutions, including Ballethnic Dance Company, Seven Arts Center, the Windmill Arts Center, the Ludacris Foundation, the East Point Main Street Association, and several cultural and community centers.
Given his rearing in an artistic environment, Butler promotes why such a relationship is essential. “Art is important not only as a form of expression, as they are a form of mathematics,” insists Butler, citing how kids introduced to art commonly perform better in math, and how it helps one think creatively at an early age. “And if you continue to nurture that creativity, that creativity can lend to different areas of one’s life,” offers the councilman who, as a student, excelled in physics and math. “I just don’t happen to study my community in the political space, and part of how I got to this position and how I serve is based in some form of solving problems creatively, thinking outside of the box, and thinking more than in black and white, but in vivid colors. And if we had more people that are politicians that were a little more understanding and had a real empathy for people, then they would be able to see there are different ways to solve the same problem, that we don’t have to have our differences expressed in an acrimonious way, because art is a very accepting.”
“Art is an economic engine,” puts forth Lovelace, whose organization is gearing up for the annual Ebon Dooley Art & Justice Awards on December 5th. “We provide production studios for 13 independent artists to actively engage in the marketplace and in the act of creating works that impact and inspire,” she says, further characterizing art as both “a creative class and an industry. People can see it when they look at a movie, but they can’t see all those component parts that are in that movie. So somebody, when they were young, had to be inspired to go into the theater and, instead of wanting to be in front of the camera, wanted to learn how to be behind it and do incredible things with the technology and the science of it. That’s art.” When looking at a magazine or the design of a building, continues Lovelace, “you can’t help but see art everywhere. When you look at designer clothes and geometric features, and you look at gallery walls, or dancing, how can you encapsulate what art is?”
Going forward, Butler is looking to see more of it in East Point, and not just for the foreseeable future. For while public art represents a step forward for a city looking to increase its artistic footprint, the councilman recognizes these current efforts are ultimately far more significant than the posting of colorful images around the block.
“We’re in the process of redeveloping our Commons area,” acknowledges Butler, of the Commons in downtown East Point. “So when I think about that redevelopment, I think about what this is going to look like 30 years from now, because it is a 30-year investment. I’m not thinking about what the people need today, but what they need 30 years from now. And we have to begin to think about the world in that way.”
“East Point is making a tremendous investment in the revitalization of its theater,” confirms Butler, of the renewed city commitment to renovate its 90 year-old East Point Auditorium. “It will be a place for us to continue to have ballet recitals and music concerts, but it is also a way of investing in something historical and bringing it up to the present.” Many don’t realize, he continues, that the historic building “was once a place for African-American artists like Count Basie who could not perform in traditional theaters in Atlanta and had to come to East Point and perform in that theater.”
So, adds Butler, “when we are talking about an investment in the arts, that’s a tremendous investment.”
START COLLECTING ART
Sign up for our free email course on how to begin your collection.
AMARI JACKSON is a creator, author, TV/web/film producer, and award-winning journalist. He is author of the 2011 novel, The Savion Sequence; creator/writer/coproducer of the 2012-2014 web series The Book Look; writer/coproducer of the 2016 film Edge of the Pier; and current writer/coproducer of Listen Up! on HBCU GO/Roku TV. He is a former Chief of Staff for a NJ State Senator; a former VP of Communications & Development for the Jamestown Project at Harvard University; and a recipient of several writing fellowships including the George Washington Williams Fellowship from the Independent Press Association. An active ghost writer, song writer, martial artist, and journalist, his writings have appeared in a wide variety of national and regional publications.
Would you buy stock in BAIA if you could? Well we invite you to join us in becoming a monthly supporter, starting at just $3 a month YOU become a stakeholder and begin to help us transform lives through art. We are growing the BAIA team and will use your contributions to hire more team members for the purpose of creating more educational and marketing resources for schools and universities about african american artists both past and present. Such art initiatives and educational programming like Blacklite with Steve Prince, Relating to Art with Dr. Kelli Morgan, and BAIA BITS would not be possible without the ongoing support of our Patreon members. Please consider becoming a monthly Patreon member today!
Deborah Roberts’ Investment in Time Pays Off November 07 2021
Deborah Roberts has been an artist all her life, but her notoriety came relatively late. She received a bachelor’s degree at the University of North Texas in 1985, and almost 30 years later, she earned an MFA from Syracuse University in 2014. It wasn’t until 2017, at the age of 55, that she became known in the artworld. Roberts never thought people would know who she is, but now she’s in major collections around the country and in several private celebrity collections.
In 2017, Roberts’ work was in the Volta Art Fair’s Your Body is a Battle Ground show. The day of the preview, she recalled a woman asking her, “who is this artist?” She replied that she was the artist. The woman, who was on the board at MoMA, told her she was going to do well. Roberts responded with, “From your lips to God’s ears.” She ended up selling all the work in the show, in her studio, and from the gallery. When she got back to Austin, she went to work right away. She produced more work and more people called. She became the face of the Studio Museum in Harlem’s Fictions show in 2017. The following year, she was featured in a spring collection fashion spread in New York Magazine. She had a show at a New York gallery, and it kept going.
She’s in collections at the Whitney Museum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and Brooklyn Museum. Beyonce, Barack Obama, and Ava Duvernay own her work. But she had to grow into this level of success. She was always an artist.
“As they say, you come out as an artist. Either you’re an artist or you’re not,” she says.
Roberts started being an artist early on. In grade school, she drew race cars and Barbie dolls for other kids. She attended a black school where they were more interested in making doctors, lawyers, and teachers—not artists. But she was moved to a gifted and talented program for three hours a day in high school where she just worked on art.
Although her mother and father didn’t understand their child’s determination to be an artist, Deborah Roberts was not deterred. She says, “The idea of anybody being an artist didn’t make sense to them. And it wasn’t because they were ignorant. They just didn’t understand. They were hard workers.” Roberts’ father worked for the electric company and her mother was a domestic. Roberts’ father made fun of her ambitions, but that just made her pursue it even more. He died before her fame and success, but her mother was able to see some of it before she passed.
Though Deborah Roberts is known for collages of Black children, the conversation about Black Americana (that she’s been having for a while) didn’t start out with collages. She started making collages in graduate school. Before then, she was making Norman Rockwell-like paintings of Black girls in church or little boys walking down the street kicking rocks. The paintings talked about identity and humanity as well. “The language has changed, but the idea of the work is the same,” she says. She is interested in conveying the humanity of Black children.
Roberts’ collages piece together disparate body parts to create a whole being who, in some ways, may look disfigured with limbs stretched akimbo and differently sized eyes placed unevenly on a face on a canvas. But the work stems from a place of compassion. Her work begs for us to see the figures in her work as children, not miniature adults. She says, “it’s telling you: you don’t see me as a beautiful child, you see me as a monster no matter what age I am. You don’t see me as a person trying to live in this world. You see me as something abstract, abnormal, and you don’t see the beauty in my humanity.”
Incidents where Black children are not seen as children by law enforcement motivates this practice. Tamir Rice, who held a toy gun; Dajerria Becton, the 15-year-old teenager, who was wrestled to the ground by a police officer at a pool party; and the 9-year-old girl who was pepper sprayed were not seen as children. Their guilt was assumed by the color of their skin. “All of those things inspire me to do my practice and inspire me to say ‘look at the beauty of this child. How can you hurt or harm her?’”
Her mixed-media portraits join the conversation in relation to Black art, American history, and Black history, but they are also having a conversation about identity and beauty. Roberts could create paintings that do this work. She’s a fan of Rembrandt, Da Vinci, Rafael, and Rubens. She can draw a foot by memory because she studied it, but the idea of creating collaged children was hers. She says, “We all learn from each artist before us, and we take something because that’s the gift they give to us.” But she says, “one of my biggest challenges is people who blatantly copy my work.” To some degree, she understands why someone else would copy her work. After all, Roberts’ work is successful and copying her work guarantees success.
Experiencing theft of her work has relinquished the artist as the mentor she used to be. “I no longer do all my talks as much. I don’t give as much advice as I used to. I have a certain group of artists I talk to and artists I’m trying to help with their careers.” Roberts keeps a tight circle these days, naming Amy Sherald as friend and inspiration. Six years ago, they both received grants from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation. She says of herself and Sherald, “We been through the trenches.” They paid their dues and created original approaches to art that made them become noticed and appreciated. “There are about eight of us who really support each other in the way that black women should, and not only that but Black artists.”
Though we can surmise the struggle that Black children face when looking at Roberts’ work, beauty is even more evident. Roberts creates collaged figures against a white background; the scale and texture make them remarkable. Her statement is clear and not convoluted. The playfulness of the girls and boys she creates highlights innocence. She gives to the childish figure’s virtuousness, as if all the burdens that Black children bear are nonexistent. Many of her works don’t imply hardships or depict premature maturity. On her canvases, Black children are able to frolic. But there are some works that gesture to struggle Black children face. While many of her works celebrate carefreeness, there are those with boxing gloves, as a recurring image, that allude to the fight that Black children, especially, encounter.
Roberts undermines stereotypes. In a sound and video installation titled What if, which allows viewers to enter a confessional booth of sorts, Roberts is again changing the language she’s using to converse about Black female identity. “I’m asking the audience to go inside this box and face yourself, so I have the names of those women and girls…We have a big mirror facing you and then the sound of a man talking about how sexualized Black girls are. The next part is a white woman saying, ‘that’s not my child, she has blond hair, she has blue eye, she’s a little me, she won’t cause any trouble.’” By looking at a mirror in a confessional booth, anyone who enters must come to terms with their complicity in sexualizing and stereotyping Black girls and women.
Roberts explained in a Spelman College Museum of Fine Art interview for her 2018 show Deborah Roberts: The Evolution of Mimi, “What I want as an artist is for the viewer to see that face, first and foremost, as the face of a child because that’s the image I think you need to come to. I tell my audiences that this is the idea—to ‘see’ that little girl! I am also hoping they see vulnerability, strength, and beauty. If you can find yourself in her face, then you can see and embrace your own humanity. Once you see me as human, then we can coexist equally. That’s the basis of the work.”
Roberts understands how difficult it is to achieve her level of notoriety in the artworld. “I can’t rest on my laurels and say a bunch of people like it. ‘Oh, my work is being collected by the Whitney Museum,’ all these great spaces, and stop growing. That’s never going to be my issue. I’m always going to be growing my work.”
Deborah Roberts: I’m is currently on view at Museum of Contemporary Art Denver through January 30, 2022. The exhibition will include collages, painting, sound and video installation, and text-based work on paper.
The FIVE Spot: Artists & HBCUs February 01 2021
The FIVE Spot
Connecting through Art
Five works of art. One theme. The FIVE Spot.
Five works of art. One theme. The FIVE spot. January 06 2021
Garden Art to Benefit ZORA! Fest and After School Programs January 06 2021
Garden Art to Benefit ZORA! Fest and After School Programs
Black Art in America is teaming up with Eatonville’s annual Zora! Festival to raise money in support of the festival and after school educational opportunities for students in kindergarten through the 8th grade. Garden Art for the Soul is the most popular yard art for African Americans, and proceeds from its latest offering, Zora, will benefit both the Zora! Festival and Knowledge Works Learning Academy in Phenix City, Al.. This benefit fundraiser runs through the month of January 2021. Your Purchase benefit two great organizations. It's a great win win - click to order
"We're excited to bring this benefit to Zora fest and Knowledge Works Learning Academy," says Najee Dorsey, artist and founder of Black Art In America. "It shows how art can transform our lives while honoring our icons and reflecting our cultural values." It further exemplifies, continues Dorsey, "the economics that the creative class offers our communities given this is the perfect win-win for us as a company. The effort supports an organization that preserves the legacy of one of our great artists while also supporting and making resources available for youth programs that prepare kids to compete in this world." The annual Zora! Festival, held in Eatonville, Fl., and, this year, both on location and online, honors the life and work of one of America’s foremost writers, Zora Neale Hurston. Hurston, born in Eatonville in 1891, is the author of four novels, including the iconic “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” The festival is organized by the Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community, Inc. “whose mission is to enhance the resources of Eatonville, Florida, hometown of writer, folklorist and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, who popularized the community as the oldest incorporated African American municipality in the United States; to educate the public about Eatonville’s historic and cultural significance; and to use the community’s heritage and cultural vibrancy for its economic development.” This year’s conference features a Women’s Forum and an Afrofuturism Conference. The Knowledge Works Learning Academy, Inc., is a non-profit, education-based entity founded in 2019. They provide critical educational services through an afterschool program for students in kindergarten through 8th grades using a character education basis for subject instruction emphasizing S.T.R.E.A.A.M., an acronym for science, technology, right living, engineering, arts, agriculture and technology. Knowledge Works Learning Academy
Black Art in America is the nation’s leading online portal and network focused on African-American Art . BAIA supports the careers of black artists and engages in scholarly conversations about their work. Garden Art for the Soul, the country’s most popular line of yard art for African Americans, is a BAIA project that helps raise money for community causes. For more information, please contact BAIA’s art editor, Tom Ingram, at firstname.lastname@example.org Click for More about this years festival
Garden Art: Letting it Do What it Do July 14 2020
Garden Art: Letting it Do What it Do
by D. Amari Jackson
Najee Dorsey nostalgically recalls that fateful day he almost ‘threw away’ a significant part of his current success. Upon purchasing his Columbus, GA home three years back, the prominent artist and entrepreneur looked in a storage unit and rediscovered some two-and-a-half-foot artwork he once printed to PVC, the durable plastic of outdoor signs.
“It was actually in a garbage container along with some other unused materials,” recounts Dorsey, CEO and founder of Black Art In America, the top site in the nation focused on African-American visual art. “Man, I ought to do something with this,” he thought, gazing at the vivid images of Black women planting and picking flowers. “I just decided to stick it out in the yard. And the more I looked at it, I was like, man, I think this would appeal to other people as well.” It has. Today, what ultimately became the Garden Art for the Soul collection is consistently Dorsey’s top selling item each month at Black Art In America, with orders from around the country. While generating considerable revenue its first year after a viral video post and its debut at a May 2017 art show in Washington DC, Garden Art for the Soul—despite the global quarantine and market woes of 2020—is on pace to dwarf the total revenues of its previous two years. The popular collection boasts powerful images of African American culture including Harriet Tubman and Muhammad Ali along with the proud, everyday-folk who embody the Movement for Black Lives and our community’s ongoing quest for equity and representation.
“It’s a garden product that was manufactured using art imagery—initially my artwork for the first two years, and then works licensed by other artists—that is reproduced, printed, packaged, and shipped around the country,” explains Dorsey, clarifying “but it’s so much more than that. It gives visible representation to our aesthetic, our culture, generally speaking for Black people, which is what I didn’t see in the marketplace as an option when I initially started to look for things to put out into the yard.”
Dorsey’s current success with Garden Art for the Soul did not come without its lessons. Like a garden that quickly blooms, the inspirational product still had to be tended to. Though year one was a big success highlighted by a video promoting the collection that garnered over half a million views in three days, it was followed by a different energy. “Year two comes around and things slow down a bit,” acknowledges Dorsey. “There’s a dip, but I attribute it to me focusing on other areas of the company because where you find success is going to be where you put your energy. I was focused on doing shows, creating art and selling art, so I simply got away from marketing it.” By the end of the second year, “it wasn’t really jumping like before and it wasn’t the growth we had hoped for. But I still felt like the product was special, that it had more legs.”
In January 2020, Dorsey recommitted to marketing Garden Art for the Soul by promoting fresh images of the collection and licensing the work of artist and colleague, Deborah Shedrick. “And then Covid hit,” he says, noting how they still “did really well.” Despite the chaos and market instability, business picked up even more when they made a similar licensing deal with celebrated artist, Charly Palmer. “Next thing I know, we’re staying up to like one, two o'clock in the morning fulfilling orders,” excitedly recalls Dorsey. “It was just crazy, I mean, it took over the kitchen, it took over the living room. Some days we had to take two trips to the shipper, and we’re still trying to navigate this whole thing.” Despite acknowledging the difficulty of servicing so many orders, Dorsey introduced more images to the popular collection while expanding its marketing and advertising. “I didn’t want it to end even though it was difficult in terms of managing the fulfillment,” he admits, clarifying customer service as a high priority and the recent upgrading of systems, facilities, and human resources to meet the demand. “We want people to know who we are and that we care about the experience they have and the product they are getting,” continues Dorsey. “It’s been a tremendous blessing, but also a lot of work to try and navigate the success of Garden Art doing Covid.” Such success is also a result of Dorsey’s licensing of additional artists’ work over the past few months including the culturally-affirming offerings of graphic artist, Poncho Brown; the colorful, ancestral-based renderings of painter Frank Frazier; the rich imagery of fifth generation quilt maker, Phyllis Stephens; the moment-capturing watercolors of painter, Stacey Brown; and the vibrant, Gullah-influenced depictions of mix media artist, Sonja Griffin Evans. “Being an artist with Garden Art for the Soul allows me to further share and expand my art and Gullah culture into everyday life,” says Evans, whose Gullah Geechee female figurines, Faith and Hope, recently joined the collection. “A garden can be a great place to showcase your favorite artists and encourage interaction with your beautiful surroundings,” visually enhancing it while making “a statement.” “Garden art is a collection of colorful and diverse urban images encompassing flowing colors and abstract designs,” echoes Stacey Brown. With his Garden Art musical collection, “You can imagine the eloquent sounds of jazz from your garden,” or you can “express your need for social justice with the powerful Black Lives Matter Garden Art image. Strong representation of our heritage with these images gives us a voice to beautify our sanctuary, our home.”
“People get a chance to see themselves, their culture, or their political views reflected via Garden Art,” confirms Dorsey, noting “for those that want to let people know where they stand, in terms of Black Lives Matter, we got that. Or they might want to post the Ali image with his protest sign saying, ‘Sorry for the inconvenience. We are trying to change the world.” So is Dorsey. His company, Black Art In America—currently celebrating its 10th anniversary—was created at a time when few, if any, online platforms championed, documented, or served the African-American visual arts community. Dorsey has since grown the company into an internationally recognized digital destination with monthly site visitors from over 100 countries and a half a million to its social media. Promoting and representing the works of hundreds of top Black visual artists across the country, Black Art In America offers a full roster of functions and services including timely commentary on today’s visual arts news, gallery meet-ups, market trends analysis, artist profiles, free original content and educational tools, member workshops, curatorial services, art consulting, marketing and promotions, social media management, and art appraisal.
Given the vibrant online space he has built, Dorsey views Garden Art for the Soul as a wonderful way for consumers to support a community-based, Black-owned business while being welcomed into the African American visual arts community. “I see it as a great introductory item to seed their interest in culture, in a visual aesthetic, while also allowing people to start to collect art.” However, he stresses, “it all starts with getting them engaged and I think that’s the beauty of the product because it’s easy to appreciate, and it’s functional too. It goes out into the yard and makes a statement in terms of this is what I value, this is who I am.”
For Dorsey, such value, given our current state of affairs, is critical.
“I think you could find whatever you’re looking for, in terms of the product, whether you want something that speaks to the times or that’s going to take you away from the madness of the times,” he acknowledges. “If you want to support a Black-owned company that’s doing great work, or if you want to give a gift to somebody to uplift their spirits, Garden Art does that as well. So, I think people can find whatever they’re looking for on many different levels. And I wouldn’t want to limit it, because people are gonna let the product do what it do for them.”
Approaches to Selling Art Online May 12 2020
Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches to Selling Art Online
By Shantay Robinson
Once an artwork is complete, and sometimes before it is even conceptualized, questions regarding how to sell the art may become a concern for some artists. But there are several ways to get artworks to the buying public these days; galleries are not the only way and might not even be the right way for all artists. The information age has afforded artists of all calibers several ways to sell their art online. While brick and mortar galleries may always be a draw for artists because galleries typically have connections with a large number of monied potential art buyers, there are a plethora of online platforms that are offering services with a reach that defies geographic boundaries. Traditional galleries offer the luxury of an active art buying public and the notoriety of established reputations for quality. The aforementioned options might truly be for more established artists, but gaining recognition, for novice artists, might be much easier in the information age than it has been in the past.
Create Your Own Website
Starting an online site to sell artworks, doesn’t have to be daunting. There are several online website building options that offer ecommerce. These sites permit the builders to use templates to design their own manipulatable website that allow for unique experiences for the buying public. While an online platform does not really replace a physical space, it does offer a greater reach. In addition to the online platform to sell artworks, a pervasive social media presence can aid the novice artist in establishing a loyal following. Updating social media sites, particularly Instagram, that focuses on visual images, the artist can place a link to their online platform in their bio so that followers can easily find out how to purchase their artwork. Updating social media regularly makes the difference between a successful effort and one that wanes.
More and more sales of art are happening online. People are becoming comfortable with the idea of buying anything online, so taking advantage of this way to get art out into the world is really smart. But while people are buying online, they may not be willing to pay thousands of dollars to someone without a trusted relationship. Consider making prints of more expensive artworks for those who appreciate the style of art but are not willing to part with a lot of money. Prints of artworks are a great way to go for the spendthrift. But selling reproductions of your work shouldn’t take away from the originals. Limited edition prints will retain the value of your work without disseminating the work to everyone who can buy. And reproductions of artwork embossed on everything from coffee mugs to clothing to notebook covers is another way to make a living on art. Galleries are also still an option unless the gallery has an exclusive clause in their contract.
Team Up with Existing Platform
Another option other than traditional physical gallery spaces are online art sales platforms. The draw for selling your artwork with an established online art sales platform is that they already have followers all around the world. Each online platform is different with varied commissions structures and exhibition strengths. So, it would best to first do research on all of those of interest and compare which structure might be best for selling a particular kind of artwork. Some online platforms are skewed toward contemporary modern art while others are focused on decorative art and yet another focuses exclusively on black art. In order to find the right online platform, peruse the site and see if there are artists of comparable stylistic qualities represented on the site for an indication of which styles, subject matter, and media are welcomed and how well they sell. Some art retailers do not take a commission from sales. Others take commission from 30%-65%. And more up-scale online sellers, invest in promoting the artists they represent. Most have a vetting process where the artist uploads their work to the site to be assessed for quality by the staff.
There is quite a distinction between some online art sellers and others. Some are interested in high art, more like online galleries. And others are more like online retail stores that allow artists to place their artwork for purchase on coffee mugs or have them framed. The price points vary on these sites. More upscales sites have most of their price points above $500 and the retailers offer prices ranging in below $25 for prints embossed on coffee mugs. The decision about whether or not to create a relationship with one online seller or another really relies on the level of artistry the artist wants to maintain. If the artist wants to establish, maintain, and control their artwork’s credibility, selling an unlimited number of prints of their work online will diminish the value of their work, as scarcity of an art object is valued to maintain the exclusivity and cost of an artwork. When making decision on selling artwork online, all of these considerations should be addressed. Would it be more important to sell a large quantity? Or is it more important to maintain quality?
Some media sell better online than others. Paintings, prints, and even tapestries are viewed well as flat surfaces. But sculptures might be more difficult to view on online platforms. When selling online consider that people haven’t seen the work in person, so you should try to put woks online that people will be able to appreciate when looking at it in a picture. So, before deciding which artworks to place online be sure you have good photographs of those artworks.
While paintings are flat surfaces, capturing details of the painting might be a good way to show the online buyer what the artwork looks like close up. Prints and posters are probably easiest to sell online because they have a good chance of showing up the way they would in person. For sculptures you might need several photographs from different angles. Good photographs likely won’t be produced by smartphones. Enlisting a photographer who specializes in photographs of art is a good investment for sending photographs of your artwork to established and professional online art sales platforms.
The price tag assigned to art is never going to be enough for the sweat, labor, and creative genius involved in creating it. But in order to sell artworks, it must be assigned a price. The value assigned to an artwork determines the value the buyer places on it. If it is priced as if it is worth something, it will be treated that way. It’s the artist’s job to make the work, but it’s also the artist’s job to give the work value. If the artwork is underpriced, it may not be looked upon as an investment by the buyer. Determining the price of an artwork is a subjective affair. Of course, the artist has to purchase materials to make the artwork. But using $20 of materials on an artwork doesn’t mean the artwork deserves a $50 price tag. This doesn’t mean the artist should overprice their ability either. The artist should be real with himself. In establishing a price point, the artist should consider their exhibition history, previous sales, the time it took to create the work, and costs of materials. Comparing their work to similar artists’ work who are at the same skill level is a good strategy for figuring out how much an artwork should cost. Go to galleries of comparable artists and look at their prices. If it is uncomfortable ask an artist, view their work on online sales sites. Doing this kind of research should help in making sales of art. It could prevent artists from pricing themselves out of the market or underselling their value. The artist should increase sales gradually as they become more established.
Quantity or Quality?
Whether an artist is attempting to just start out in the artworld or is leveraging an established art career to the world, determines the route they’ll make in selling online. An art school student might think the best way to get known in the world is to pump out a massive amount of art, so the artworld knows her name. But a more established artist might want to hold off on distributing his art indiscriminately to ensure the scarcity of his work. Either way it goes, there’s a route for both artists online. The novice artist might want a start and sell artwork on their own website in close collaboration with a carefully curated social media platform. And a more established artist might want to offer their artwork through an online platform that caters to a more monied global population. The novice artist with their own website will benefit from all the proceeds from the sale of their art minus expenses like website maintenance and shipping costs. The experienced artist will be vetted by the online seller, featured to an established art buying audience, and then share profits from their sales with the online seller. But it truly is up to the artist to decide what they value most.
Browse and shop for fine art from our growing network of artists, collectors, estates, galleries -- specializing in works by Black American artists with great values on premier art.
START COLLECTING ART
Sign up for our free email course on how to begin your collection.
Shantay Robinson, BAIA resident scholar has participated in Burnaway’s Art Writers Mentorship Program, Duke University’s The New New South Editorial Fellowship, and CUE Art Foundation’s Art Critic Mentoring Program. She has written for Burnaway, ArtsATL, ARTS.BLACK, AFROPUNK, Number, Inc. and Washington City Paper. While receiving an MFA in Writing from Savannah College of Art and Design, she served as a docent at the High Museum of Art. She is currently working on a PhD in Writing and Rhetoric at George Mason University.
Would you buy stock in BAIA if you could? Well we invite you to join us in becoming a monthly supporter, starting at just $3 a month YOU become a stakeholder and begin to help us transform lives through art. We are growing the BAIA team and will use your contributions to hire more team members for the purpose of creating more educational and marketing resources for schools and universities about african american artists both past and present. Review our list of rewards for becoming a BAIA Patreon / patron supporter. Your monthly contribution has lasting benefits. —
“What will your legacy be” – Dr. Margaret Burroughs
Thank you new and recurring monthly Patrons
Deloris and Eddie Young, Esther Silver-Parker, Eugene Foney, Petrucci Family Foundation Collection of African American Art, National Black Arts Festival, Dr. Leslie Fields, Jim Nixon, Dr. Michael Butler, Matthew Putman, Grant Hill, Frank Frazier, Houston Museum of African American Culture, Joan Crisler, Dee Greer, March on Washington Film Festival, Danny Jenkins, Deborah L. McCullough, Ashlee Jacob, John and Melanie Guess, Tricia Konan, Michael Brinson, Dr. A. Holloway, Rosie Gordon-Wallace, Jeanette D Adeshote, Ja-Na Bordes, Rev. Anita Marshall, Tricia Konan, Robin King, Kerri L. Forrest, Nan, Thomas E. Rodgers, D. Lacy, Jeffery Washington, Brenda Larnell, Helen Oyekan, Jeffery Washington, Letashia Mosbey, Marian Darlington, Roslyn Valentine, Vyonne Diva, Ednarina Blake, Devera Redmond, Carla West, Beatrice, Longshore, Abimbola Thompson, Barbara Johnson, Beverly C Smith, Deborah R. Moore, Dr. Skyller Walkes, Ednarina BLAKE, Garr Parks, Gerald Carrington, Jae M, James B Wingo, Jocelyne Lamour, Kevin Smokler, Marion Zweig, Mary Ali-Masai, Michael J. Todd, Nan, Reg Pugh, Shannon DeVaney, Thomas E. Rogers, Tonya Pendleton, D Lacy, Noreen Winningham, Mason Archie, Jill Scott, Cari Jackson Lewis, Patrick Stewart, Rachel Corbray, Cecilia Winters-Morris, Christ Van Loan Sr., Romaine Roberts, Michael Jacobs, K.L. Martin, Gale Ross, Manuelita Brown, Annette, Jamal Love, Glenn Isaac Sr, M. Rasheed, Angela Williams, Dana Todd Pope, Terese L Hawkins, Mark Everett Sanders, Kirby L. Coleman, Harold Moore, Fredric Isler, Dr. R. Locke, Queen Brooks, Charles Bibbs, Diana Shannon Young, Dr. Yonette Thomas, M Belinda Tucker, Karen Y House, Runez M Bender, Duke Windsor, Cheryl Odeleye, Stephen Bennett, Shawn Rhea, Ethnie Weekes, Paul Robinson, Janice Orr, Patricia D Dungy, Jocelyn Benita Smith, Joan L. Ward, Garr Parks, Pamela Carter, Carlton Cotton, Diane R Miles, Jean Ann Durades, Luthetis Carey, Susan Ross, Harry F Banks, Shelia McNair, Lorna Conley, Shelley Byrd, DeLores M Dyer, Stefanie Fe Steele, Marjorie Hammock, Celestine Hinnant, ALKEBU LAN IMAGES Bookstore, Deborah Paige-Jackson, Desiree Dansan, Karen Pinzolo, Sonia Spencer, James Whitten.
We Appreciate Your Support
10 Tips For Collecting Art On A Shoestring Budget from Black Art In America's 25 most active collectors June 11 2019Knowing the why you’re collecting will help determine your best course of action, as well as the budget you’ll need moving forward
Swizz Beats embraces collecting the "Black Renaissance," Artist and Contemporary African Art Curator Bisi Silva leaves a legacy: BAIA Newsletter 02/14/2019 February 18 2019
BAIA Patron Curated Pick Jennifer Packer, #KaeperBowl and Curated For Collectors: BAIA Newsletter 02/12/2019 February 12 2019
BAIA Patron Curated Pick Jennifer Packer, #KaeperBowl and Curated For Collectors
Black And Basel 2018 - #DoYOUBasel? December 11 2018
More than any other year, 2018 was the year that Art Basel Miami Beach and it’s constellation of satellite art fairs celebrated black and brown artists like never before.
A segment in which we go back and revisit archived content from the previous BAIA network. In this episode, we travel to 2014 - and tour avid art collector Fearn Galloway's home, and talk with her and her nephew Major about their impressive, well established art collection.
Collectors Home Tour 2014: The Galloways
Collectors from One Generation to the Next:
Major, how did you develop your interest in art to embark on building a collection?This is a thought provoking question. My desire to collect was inspired by my Aunt and perhaps the same will be the case for my son. I have been influenced by my aunt, my father’s sister to collect art. She deposited into my life by exposing me to her collection. My interest in art spawned from childhood and has evolved into the passion it is today. Although, I have more than 50 pieces in my collection, as you read and see more images on-line and in the remnant of the varied collections I am able to view. I am awed by the beauty of what is out there. As a result, my passion continues to evolve and I add to the collection in ebbs and flows, plus I have varied interests, professional responsibilities, obligations as a husband and father and I guess financial constraints. I am refining my acquisition plan for the future. My ultimate goal is to build a rich and varied portfolio of pieces, perhaps a few classic 20th century artists and emerging artists that will be tomorrow’s masters in the 21st century. [caption id="attachment_2843" align="aligncenter" width="687"] Galloway with framed artwork when BAIA arrived ...[/caption]
audio clip from conversation with Major ...[audio mp3="http://blackartinamerica.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Major.mp3"][/audio] From childhood, I recall three prints my mother displayed to decorate our modest home: two European landscapes; a Parisian street, an image of a European church; and the Three Musicians by Pablo Picasso. But I know that I was most influenced early on as a child seeing the personal collection of my Aunt. I remember seeing these elongated brown figures by Ernie Barnes and this bluish green Baptismal scene by Romare Bearden. [gallery columns="2" ids="2844,2845"] Later as a young adult I would learn many of these images I had seen and had an appreciation for since early childhood in the 1970’s were created by African-American artists who are considered as masters of the 20th century master.
As a child of the seventies, we enjoyed “Good Times” before the Cosby’s and I was captivated by the images shown in some of the episodes produced by the character “J.J”, the painter who lived in the Chicago public housing project in the “ghetto”. Here my aunt shared that a few of the original paintings in her home were by the real artist, Ernie Barnes. I beamed with pride knowing my aunt had a collection that included a famous artist whose paintings were on television. As a child, this made me even more proud of her and our family. I was already proud because I know she was a mathematician and my uncle was a chemist whose research made 37 different discoveries in the field of chemistry.
Later in middle school, then college at Grambling State University and as an adult my interest began to grow as I learned about the European and American Impressionists, the figurative paintings of Picasso and more African-American classical and emerging artists. As an adult, I began to desire to purchase art to decorate my first home in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, DC and even more after we built our current home here in Upper Marlboro, MD where I have more space and have been blessed to divert some disposable income to make some acquisitions.
Original Ernie Barnes Works Viewed as a Child at My Aunt’s Home: “Little Girl Skating down the Street” and the Women Dancing and Swaying and the prints depicting a Pool Hall and an image of a boy leaping high to dunk a basketball in an old weathered backboard
Barnes captured these images that on one-hand showed poverty, but they were beautiful as they captured a boy playing basketball alone, children playing simple games; people singing and dancing; despite the clear images that showed the people living in poverty. The people were depicted in abject poverty or tough situations, but they still were having fun and found enjoyment in what they were doing. That’s the message I saw most in Barnes’ works I saw on t.v. and in my aunt’s home. And this kind of mirrors the plot and story line in all of those classic episodes of “Good Times”.
audio clip from conversation with Ms. Fearn ...[audio mp3="http://blackartinamerica.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Fearn.mp3"][/audio]
Ms. Fearn: “In the early 1970’s I recall walking up three flights of steps in this NYC city building to the apartment and studio of Romare Bearden. I don’t recall if there was an elevator, but the steps were narrow. And then inside of the apartment, splendid works were everywhere. It was just amazing”.
Louis Mailou Jones Story
My aunt has told me some great stories about how she grew her collection. Some of the best are of her visit to the upstairs third story of Romare Bearden in NYC and her conversations with Lois Mailou Jones who she lived nearby in the late 1960s and early 1970s in northwest Washington, DC. As you know, Ms. Jones was the Director of Painting and Water colors at Howard University’s art department for many years. My aunt recalls that Ms. Jones was very friendly and a “person of her word” and my aunt really appreciated this. She purchased this piece for $250 and Ms. Jones allowed her to buy it after an initial down payment of $150. Before the final purchase, Dr. David Driskell came by Mrs. Jone’s house and expressed his desire to purchase the piece for $500, double the asking price Ms. Jones required of my aunt. My aunt recalled Ms. Jones told my aunt what Driskell had said to her, “Mailou, you are giving your art away”. My aunt says Ms. Jones wanted to get her art in the hands of African-Americans and interested persons.
My aunt was very thankful that Mrs. Jones honored her promise and initial agreement and this in the eyes of my aunt spoke volumes about the character of Ms. Jones which I think comes across in a very real and personal way, like the painting “Jennie” who was the student of Ms. Jones who was cleaning fish in her home. She was personal and took special time with her students in a personal way, even outside of the normal academic setting.
Lois Mailou Jones Drawing of an Elderly Man and the Canal in Paris in the Background and the Island Images of Haiti
My aunt told how she purchased this portrait drawing Mailou Jones had sketched of an elderly African-American man. The piece demonstrates the versatility of Ms. Jones who is mostly known for her impressionistic painting, but she was also a book illustrator. Ms. Jones was known for her landscape and street scenes in Paris, Martha’s Vineyard and in Haiti and the Carribbean.
My aunt told of how Ms. Jones said early in her career critics said she did not paint enough images of black cultural images or themes. After hearing this, my aunt says, Ms. Jones told her she went out and found the first person she could find who was an African-American and she sketched a portrait drawing of this man. This was a wow moment for me because my aunt’s story mirrored what I had read in the book, “To Conserve a Legacy”, that Jones had been criticized for not doing enough works on black subjects. And the book told how from 1939 to 1945 Jones began creating work that focused on the black experience. Alaine Locke, the father of the Harlem Renaissance and first black Rhodes scholar and Howard University professor had admonished Jones to do more works on black subjects.
Major, What type of art do you like and what has inspired and driven your passion to collect art?
From a big picture perspective, my aunt’s collection is my model because she was “ahead of the curve so to speak”. However, I glean insight from art books, artists like yourself, dealers and collectors that I interact with. I strongly believe there is a huge demand for the medium and types of communications forums that Black Art in America is providing and building.First, I buy what I like as a consumer. I also buy what and when I can afford to do so. From a purely artistic stand point, I am inspired by both images of beauty I see and the ideas behind why artists use their gifts to create what they do. What is the message behind the piece? What is the artist trying to say? How does the piece personally speak or resonate with me? Personally, I like art based on the beauty I see, and on the intellectual side, what the art make me think for feel. I collect what I like because our artists have produced works that tell our story in a very beautiful, powerful or poetic way.
I purchase things I think reflect me and what I want to project. I like images of black people with our varying hues that show beauty. I also like images that communicate and tell our story of challenge and triumph; from whence we have come because I am inspired by the progress and strides that have been made. I also like the art that reminds us of where we need to go as individuals and as a collective group. I like images that affirm us and show family and children, love and passion, our men loving and respecting women who look like them and women loving and appreciating men who look like themselves. That was the story of my family and I like artists that inspire and affirm this reality for me.
I like colorful abstract and figurative pieces that entertain, are festive and illustrate music and spiritual concepts and images with rich colors are very appealing to me. I think that is fed by some of my fondness of the rich colors of the European Impressionists like Van Gogh, Gaugin and Monet. I liked them when I saw the images in middle and high school and when I visited Musee Dorsay in Paris, and the world-famous NY gallery at Central Park West.
I am really fond of collages and mixed-media period pieces with rich and vibrant colors and powerful messages that you produce that depict southern and traditional black culture. My plan is to secure some classical pieces when it is feasible, but more abstracts, landscapes with rich colors and collages by emerging artists that are establish themselves and will possibly be prominent masters with troth's of treasures in the years to come. This acquisition plan includes one or two more sculptures.
The favorites in my personal collection are:
An original by Thomas Lockhart entitled “Drums on the Bayou with New Orleans and Lake Ponchatrain and the Mississippi river as a backdrop. It is special since I went to college at Grambling State University and pre-Katrina I enjoyed the Bayou Classic and Mardi Gras.
A serigraph by James Denmark entitled “When Love Was Young”. This piece is exquisitely beautiful and depicts a couple with dark hues who are engaged in a warm embrace while reclining on a sofa and gazing into each other’s eyes.
“Rejoicing,” is an original collage by Najee Dorsey. It depicts a worship scene in a church. This powerful piece is rich and vibrant and inspirational as it captures the energy and power of a spirit-filled black church that could be anywhere in America or the world. It resonates with me as a tribute to my mother who taught her family and as an example to worship and to love God. She was a virtuous and godly woman who helped people. She has made her transition, as a metaphor her image is dropped into the piece. It illustrates she is still very present within us and as her spirit, bloodline and legacy lives on. That’s what this piece entitled “Rejoicing” means to me.
“Send-Off” by Ann Barbieri. An vibrant and colorful original abstract, entitled “Send Off” by Ann Barbieri who showcases her pieces at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, Virginia. She is an artist with an established presence. I simply love her work and the rich and vibrant colors that blends and mixes and splashes on canvas and paper and mixed-medium pieces in an amazing fashion.
Great Artists from One Generation to the Next Connect Us with the Past and Our Future. My aunt has a 1963 Ebony article with Frederick Douglas, the abolitionist on the cover. This 1963 printing coincides with the 1963 March on Washington, another key point on the time-line in our nation’s march toward full liberation and civil rights of Black America. My aunt used these publications to do some of her home work to learn of both prominent and emerging black artists. Today, all of these artists are considered to be our 20th and 21stcentury masters.
The cover of a 1963 Ebony article shows an image of Frederick Douglas just before the 100th anniversary of the end of slavery. Then there is an drawing by Charles White showing what looks like a youthful Frederick Douglas. Then there is the linoleum cut that you produced, entitled “Field Worker” that reminds me of these images of Frederick Douglas. So, these images in a publication, the work of a classical master, connected with your work inspire me and I see a link between the two images from Frederick Douglas, to Charles White (a master) to the Najee Dorsey image of “Field Worker”.
What are the barriers to art collecting and interest in black artists?
Collectors with disposable income and interest by the larger public and community of collectors. There is and has been an going challenge and opportunity centered around exposure of art and the artists that are out there and how their works and images and message about their art is communicated.
I have always had a passion for art and it has grown as I have worked my way up the income ladder and have more disposable income to make purchases. Initially, I had to overcome the price of certain works. I remember a work that cost $400 in the mid nineties when I first began working after graduate school. This seemed like a lot of money. I didn't make an initial investment then at a Jazz festival in Annapolis, Maryland, but now that $400 doesn't seem like so much to spend on a piece.
So, the message is to “follow the money and there you will find aspiring collectors and new markets as they become more aware of emerging artists and the art that is out there. Exposure of our artists and public education are very important to grow demand and our national interest in art and that of African-American artists.
Outreach by the Print Media. Ebony magazine used to advertise in support of black artists. I am not sure that continues to be the case today. They also have had a prominent collection on display that my aunt visited on more than one occasion. I think there is a great potential for Black Art in America to fulfill this media void in today’s technology age of twitter, i-phone, i-pad and on-line communications era.
How do you think that art will influence your son Gavin?
As a parent and father you want to nurture, love, and provide guidance to help grow your child. You want them to love and to be all that they can be. You want to help them grow spiritually and emotionally. I hope he will find affirmation and be positively influenced by the art and images that he sees in our home.
I hope the art Gavin sees will help him see the beauty and gifts within himself and the people that look like him. I hope he sees men and women that look like him that love each other. I hope he sees the positive images of family and people that care about one another. I hope he will recognize he is a part of a “family” and a rich story that is part of the fabric of America.
Hopefully, my son will follow our example and have an appreciation for the art in his home as we treasure the images.
Art Is Treasure: A Legacy-Investing in Our Future.Today I view art from an investment perspective and not merely a decorative item or a consumer good for persons with disposable income. Our art are treasures I and my family will enjoy and our 5-year old son at the top of the steps playing will be available for my 5-year son to enjoy and inherit. The Need to Invest in Our Artists. I also view my purchase decisions as an opportunity to sow seeds or invest in artists that I enjoy and have an appreciation support. Artists need the support of patrons and clients and we need artists to produce the treasures and images that entertain and inspire us and motivate us to be and do more than we might otherwise do. They also spur our creativity and elevate our minds in a poetic way and inspirational way. I view our family collection as investments my son will inherit and these varied investments in him will provide stability and wealth building for him and for our family and the next generation. This stability will provide exposure into the realm of art and collecting. Although I have been blessed I hope he will be able to go further and do more than I. This generational passing of the torch and legacy-building from one generation to the next was emphasized by my parents and their forbears. Each successive generation should strive to do more and improve upon the generation before it. I want our son to inherit a legacy that he will treasure, including beautiful artistic images. Major Galloway, Upper Marlboro, Maryland
A Flashback to 1979: The Year of the Last Total Solar Eclipse and 10 memorable moments in African American Arts and Popular Culture August 20 2017
A Flashback to 1979: The Year of the Last Total Solar Eclipse
Black Art in America™ celebrates this rarity with and even rarer discount on original art in its Total Eclipse of the Sun - Flashback to 1979 Collection Sale
By: Diamond Wilcoxson Gass
On Monday, August 21st - Americans will be graced by the presence of its first total eclipse of the sun in over 38 years. The last solar eclipse visible in the Contiguous United States happened on February 26, 1979, and as we all prepare to experience this phenomenon in its rarity - let's take a look back to 1979, the year of the last total eclipse of the sun, yes - but also the year of many important and influential moments in African American popular culture and art.
The 1970’s were known as the beginning of the Post - Civil Rights Movement, and by 1979 Black Americans were expressing themselves and their culture abundantly through the arts. Check out Black Art in America’s list of 10 memorable moments in African American Arts and Popular Culture.
Before we jump into the list- Black Art in America is having a Total Eclipse of the Sun - Flashback to 1979 Collection SALE! We are offering $19.79 off Garden Art for the Soul and huge savings on original art and limited editions in the collection. You can shop this collection and more at www.shopbaia.com. Now, lets get into the list.
10. On February 2nd, 1979 African- American painter, illustrator and visual arts educator Aaron Douglas passed away at the age of 79. Aaron Douglas is known as a major figure in the Harlem Renaissance, also known as the “New Negro Movement” - this movement was considered to be a rebirth of African-American art. The art world lost another master artist that year as well -Charles Wilbert White one of America's most renowned and recognized African-American artist died on October 3, 1979 at the age of 61.
9. At the young age of 22, Spike Lee Directed his first short film “Last Hustle in Brooklyn” and it was released on April 14th, 1979 - the first of many legendary “Spike Lee Joints”.
8. 1979 was the year of the first Black Video Game Character, and this character appeared on the Atari 800 Home Computer game, Basketball.
7. The essence of Black Joy of television, Soul Train airs episode featuring live performances by Aretha Franklin & Smokey Robinson- they perform their hit release in 1979, “Ooh Baby Baby”. Soul Train is a must mention when referencing black culture in the 1970’s.
6. Michael Jackson’s fifth studio album, “Off the Wall” was released on August 10th, 1979. This album houses many of the celebrated hit songs that lie in The King of Pop’s legacy, such as, “Rock With You” and “Don’t Stop til You Get Enough”.
5. Maya Angelou, African -American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist adapts her critically acclaimed novel “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” for its television movie premiere of the same name - 28 April, 1979.
4. 1979 is the year that the iconic Coca Cola Ad featuring “Mean” Joe Greene - former NFL Defensemen for Pittsburgh Steelers was released for Super Bowl XIII. The 60 second commercial shows a young fan offering Green a Coca-Cola after spotting him leaving the football field, seemingly injured. Joe Green proceeds with finishing the cola in one gulp, and gifts the kid with his sweaty post game jersey. Looks like he wasn't so “mean” after all.
3. Lois Alexander, an African American fashion designer, founded the Harlem Fashion Institute and Black Fashion Museum in 1979.
2. On August 1, 1979 CBS aired the series finale Good Times, the hit Afro-American television sitcom depicting the strength of family in the midst of hard times. The last episode was entitled “The End of the Rainbow”, and was the 21st episode of the sixth and final season.
1. Rap legends The Sugarhill Gang released their hit record, “ Rapper’s Delight” becoming the first hip hop song to become a Top 40 Hit on the Billboard Hot 100. This recordings will be recalled as the formal birth of the hip-hop movement.
1979 was a year of many pivotal moments for black culture- loss, influence, representation & expression, ends & beginnings. These crucial events helped shape the year 1979 as the eclipse did- and stands in the capsule of time as significant fragments of the past.
How do you like our list? Would you have added anything - Any honorable mentions? Let us know & Don’t forget to take advantage of our Total Eclipse of the Sun - Flashback to 1979 Collection SALE. Our sale runs Monday, August 21 --Sunday, August 27th. We are offering $19.79 off Garden Art for the Soul and huge savings on original art and limited editions. Shop the collection at www.shopbaia.com and save!
Saving so big we can only show you half.
Enjoy the Eclipse!
The Second Black Art In America™ (BAIA) Fine Art Show, October 23 - 25, 2015 at The Faison Firehouse Theater, Harlem (NYC), is a fine art fair featuring an impressively curated array of artworks. Over the course of five years, Black Art In America™ has become a leading resource for knowledgeable curators, collectors, connoisseurs and arts industry professionals. The BAIA arts experience includes exhibition, programming and performance. Our fine arts exhibition will include works by 19th – 21st century Masters as well as emerging contemporary artists. Artwork will be offered in a range of media from paintings, photography, limited edition prints, mixed media and works on paper and sculpture. All artwork will be for sale. See our programming schedule (below) for the schedule of events and to purchase your weekend exhibition passes.
Friday, October 23
Collector's Preview -- Private Reception
(by invitation only, 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM not included with weekend pass)
Saturday, October 24
[exhibition hours 10:00 AM - 8:00 PM]
9:30 AM -- Art and Social Activism
with Special Guests, Danny Simmons and Kheli Willetts
Hosted by the Houston Museum of African American Culture (HMAAC)
1:00 PM -- Art as an Asset
Important lessons form the Estates of the Barnes Foundation,
Reginald Gammon and Mildred Thompson -- with Don Roman and special guests
5:00 PM -- Black Art in America™ Poetry Showcase
featuring Performance poets Ngoma and Tantra-zawadi
NRM PERKULATOR™ Music Performances
(Admission: $20 -- not included in Exhibition Pass)
(light refreshments included)
Sunday, October 25
[exhibition hours 12 Noon - 7:00 PM]
11:00 AM -- BAIA Member Workshop
Programming takes place during the BAIA™ FINE ART SHOW, Harlem (NYC) from Friday, October 23 through Sunday, October 25, 2015 at the Faison Firehouse Theater, Six Hancock Place, NYC 10027 (124th Street between St. Nicholas and Morningside Avenues). Weekend Exhibition Pass: $20.00 for exhibitions and programming. Children admitted free accompanied by an adult (separate admission of $20 per show for music performances on Saturday, 10/24/15, at 7 PM and 9 PM).
For general information call: 1.347.948.7308
Making Our Way ... April 28 2015
Every man, woman, child and even the smallest of creatures faces the reality of making their own way -- taking responsibility for reaching their destination or goal. In the ultimate sense, this is one's load in life -- owning your own vision and putting in the required time and energy to put that vision on the line to be judged by others. To live is to choose to live -- and to make your own way successfully, is to choose wisely.
Najee Dorsey's Making My Way makes you identify with the characters in this digital collage. The main character in this piece is traveling down a road as onlookers watch, perhaps to see what will become of him. Along this road there are things to experience and adventures to be had -- some good, some bad, everyday occurrences and miscellaneous bright spots and landmarks like the parachuted craft and the shot gun shack in Dorsey's collage. The main character looks a bit sad but is resigned toward moving on down the road. The sky shows a magnified setting of color from the sun in purple, pointing toward an ultimate end.
We are all walking down the road. Some of us decide to take control of our lives and realize that each step we make is born from a decision that will effect our ending and hopefully lead us to change, transformation or some grand discovery at the end of this road. But what becomes clearer each day is that there is the need to connect with the source of power to 'make our way'.
Moving Beyond Color and Culture ... March 05 2015The richness and beauty of dark skin .. it reminds me of the story of how we were created from the clay of the earth -- darker skin connecting us to our human history. The sun's rays kiss our skin and then cells called melanocytes which produce melanin, and give our skin its pigment, drink in these rays.
While admiring "Seated Lady" by James Denmark I thought about how the beauty of dark skin has been adored, desired, venerated, feared and misrepresented. There are many economic, political and social reasons for these complexities as various factions of the human family have vied for an elusive control over the world using race as a tool to play out their agenda.
There is a joy, though, that I experience in admiring this beautiful figure of a dark-skinned woman with her head wrap and and her relaxed yet regal short-sleeved print dress in the piece, "Seated Lady". How beautiful she is -- and it is as simple as that.
In examining the beauty of this image I reflected on the beauty of the human family with all their variations in skin color. In thinking of the realities that unite us as humans, many things come to mind about our future and it becomes ever so clearer that our future is dependent on something much greater than ourselves.
Continuing On ... January 21 2015
We may not even realize that we're survivors and sometimes from experiences too early for us to remember.
The figure in this Elizabeth Catlett Piece, "Survivor" reflects so many faces that we've seen in our families. Here an older woman wearing an apron is the embodiment of past experiences, likely drawn from slavery in the Americas and universal in its expression. The exact year is not clear, however in considering how this image relates to us today, I thought about the many forms of modern day slavery and in particular, slavery to harmful and painful thoughts, negative thinking, untruths and the mental states that hold us as prisoners.
There is a great human need to break free from mental slavery. I see the courage and strength of this "Survivor" by Elizabeth Catlett. She holds on to an instrument to complete her chores and looks from under her head scarf into the future. And though her brow might be furrowed and her jaw fixed and closed .. there is that determined look toward the future and the hope -- the hope that allows one to keep getting up every day and continue living although being a survivor.
As lovers of African American art see more images of survival by viewing "Searching For Daddy" by Charly Palmer and "Phillipino" by William E. Smith.
Kehinde Wiley will receive the US State Department Medal of Arts, in honor of his “substantive commitment to the U.S. State Department's cultural diplomacy outreach through the visual arts," the artist's gallery, Los Angeles's Roberts & Tilton, announced.
Known primarily for his large scale paintings of young African Americans, depicted in the style of European royal portraits, the Los Angeles–born artist truly embodies the international spirit of the award, splitting his time between Beijing, Dakar, and New York (see "Kehinde Wiley on Art, the Art World and Being Stylish"). Secretary of State John Kerry will present the medal to Wiley on January 21.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton honored Cai Guo-Qiang, Jeff Koons, Shahzia Sikander, Kiki Smith, and Carrie Mae Weems as the inaugural Medal of Arts recipients in 2013. The biannual award was introduced on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Art in Embassies (AIE), founded by president John F. Kennedy in 1963 at the suggestion of New York's Museum of Modern Art.
Previous Award Winners Video
Changing of The Landscape For Black Art January 09 2015
There is a movement beyond color in the psyche of the global population. Perhaps, its a movement toward humanism or even a consideration of what is real beyond an 'ism' with a focus on the stark realities of life. It allows one to see very familiar things differently -- in a new light without any obstructions to our views. It comes with the changing of the times as the world moves toward its eventualities and we ponder our future.
What is interesting about this is that in our re-discovery of the familiar we find that we are not alone and that others share our new wonderment over the unknown -- it can even be something as simple as the anticipation of tomorrow and what it will bring. These are some of the things that came to mind when looking at this piece, Contemplation by Art Bacon.The expression on this woman's face -- could it be sadness, does her frown reveal some bitter thought. Or could it be sheer determination to do something that she needs to do and considers the strength of her resolve to carry it out. Perhaps it is acceptance or resignation. We see our own thoughts in the faces of this art, black art -- now art, and us, black people -- people with thoughts, hopes and life in this world.
Please also see other expressions in New Dreams by Ernest Crichlow and Girl 20 by Cora Marshall. -- dy7one