Tag Archives: african american contemporary art

“Overcoming Depths” Essay on CHARLES WILLIAMS exhibition “Swim”

17 Sep

Overcoming Depths  

By Martina Dodd for Morton Fine Art

Charles Williams’ oceanscapes capture the dangerous beauty of the sea while simultaneously addressing his most personal and private fears.  His large-scale oil paintings of foam covered oceans are dimpled with waves and movement that submerge the viewer under a wave of intensity and serenity.   By actively examining his emotional response to the dark and murky abyss conveyed on canvas, viewers are urged to do the same with their own fears.

With shallow breaths, a quickened heartbeat and trembling hands, Williams, wading waist high in the water, snaps photos of waves as the ocean swells around his body. Once out of the ocean and back in his studio, he works from these images, which are often shaky and imperfect, to recreate them on canvas. The shakiness of the photographs do not take away from his hyperrealist paintings but symbolize his relationship with the sea. Williams recalls always having a fear of the dark, and the unknown depths of the sea seemed to be the darkest place of them all.  This phobia intensified at the age of eleven when he nearly drowned while playing in the ocean with his cousins. By forcing himself to wade in the water, the relived fear of his youth vividly translates through his camera and then again through his paintbrush.

This new body of work for his solo exhibition Swim at Morton Fine Art includes several figurative pieces – literally placing the artist within the artwork.  Unlike his large oceanscape paintings, which are meticulously detailed and based off of actual images, his self-portraits are created freehand and intuitively from his mind’s eye. Releasing himself from the restraints of measuring tools like grids and rulers, Williams’ intent is to capture his state of being rather than his physical attributes. His self-portraits purposefully omit parts of his face and vary in skin tone dependent on his mood. Williams longs to experience what he describes somewhat romantically as, the “liberating freedom of enjoying the water without fear”.  But his anxiety associated with the ocean coupled with the racial rhetoric surrounding swimming in the South has left a profound impact on Williams’ life and art.  

His aesthetically rich paintings span psychological and cultural realms by referencing contemporary and historic events in his life.  As a child Williams was taught that he could do anything he put his mind to, but after Williams’ close call with a watery death, he started to doubt this mantra and began to internalize the stereotypes he heard from his peers claiming that black people could not swim.  Growing up in South Carolina and hearing limiting and oppressive phrases like this led Williams to believe that there was something inherently wrong with him (and those of his complexion)  that prevented him from swimming.  With these thoughts still lingering in his mind, Williams’ work challenges the pejorative talk he once heard in his youth and still occasionally hears in his head today. Both therapeutic in nature and rebellious in spirit, his paintings address the universality of fear and analyze the origins and implications of racially motivated negative stereotypes.

As much as Williams strides to overcome his aquaphobia, his work is still very much based in and derived from his deep seated fear of water and the dark.  Nighttime study, along with his Lost and Found series, depict the ocean as it exists in darkness.   These pieces allow Williams to not only study the water at night, but to confront the monsters hidden under each wave.  In Nighttime Study, Williams represents the waves through texture by making both the ocean and the backdrop black. Akin to being blindfolded and having to read through touch, the waves are distinguishable only by the heavy impasto strokes of his paintbrush. Finding interest in the emotive contrast that different variations of light provoke, Williams uses the natural light of the moon in Lost and Found to reveal the water as it reaches the shore.  With flashlight in tow, Williams provides his own light when needed to explore troubling illusions in the dark.  The light, whether from the moon or his flashlight, serves as a tool of protection helping him subdue the fears that consume him both physically and mentally.

Although his insecurities surrounding the water may seem to overwhelm him and dominate his work, Williams has never allowed the fear to overpower him or dictate his life.  By revealing fear and exploring the idea of painful experiences within his paintings he hopes others will find the inspiration to confront their own personal fears as well.  Like the light that reflects off the ocean, Williams’ near death experiences are reflected off of each of his paintings- divulging his past to discover his future. 

MARIO ROBINSON’s Savvy Painter Podcast

4 Aug

Listen to MARIO ROBINSON interviewed for Savvy Painter Podcast HERE

Mario Robinson

Mario Robinson, Self- portrait

Mario’s work fits squarely within the tradition of American painting. His paintings contain few references to modern life which gives them a timeless and universal quality. The subjects he chooses refer to a bygone era where solitude and reflection were abundant, also provoke frequent allusions to the watercolors of Winslow Homer.

Mario Andres Robinson is an Exhibiting Artist Member of The National Arts Club, The Salmagundi Club, NY and a Signature member of The Pastel Society of America. He is considered a Living Master by The Art Renewal Center. His work has been featured several times in The Artist’s Magazine, The Pastel Journal, Watercolor Magic, Fine Art Connoisseur, American Art Collector and on the cover of American Artist magazine. In the February 2006 issue of The Artist’s Magazine, Mario was selected as one of the top 20 realists under the age of 40. In 2014, Robinson was appointed Brand Ambassador for Winsor & Newton.

In this episode, Mario and I talk about his how an elementary school teacher noticed his artistic talents and took him under her wing. You’ll hear me get completely fascinated by a portrait he made of Spike Lee, his time in the Army and how that sort of separated him from other students at Pratt University. Mario was absolutely intent on being an artist, hell tell you all about how that pushed him to excellence, and drove him to be bold in asking for what he needs.

'Lexie' by Mario Robinson. Listen to Mario talk about his work and career in this interview: http://savvypainter.com/podcast/mario-robinson/ ‎
‘Lexie’
'tougaloo relic' by Mario Robinson Listen to Mario talk about his work and career in this interview:  http://savvypainter.com/podcast/mario-robinson/ ‎
‘tougaloo relic’
'sixteen broad street' by Mario Robinson. Listen to Mario talk about his work and career in this interview: http://savvypainter.com/podcast/mario-robinson/ ‎
‘sixteen broad street’
'transition' by Mario A. Robinson Listen to Mario talk about his work and career in this interview: http://savvypainter.com/podcast/mario-robinson/ ‎
‘transition’

Contact Morton Fine Art for available paintings by MARIO ANDRES ROBINSON.

http://www.mortonfineart.com

mortonfineart@gmail.com, (202) 628-2787

Morton Fine Art, 1781 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009

 

MAYA FREELON ASANTE, OSI AUDU & KESHA BRUCE Artwork featured in DC by Design Blog

19 Feb

Guest Post: Angela Belt and Sheryl Scruggs

I’m excited to have this guest post from stylist and writer Angela Belt, who’s in charge of the visual merchandising for Room & Board on 14th Street. I wrote a post on her own apartment last year, and in this post, Angela profiles an incredible kitchen transformation by designer Sheryl Scruggs, the owner of DC-based Bronze Interiors.

Sheryl Scruggs

Take it away, Angela!

Sheryl is has a one-of-a-kind personality. When she talks, you listen—and watch, because she uses every part of herself to communicate an idea. When you ask Sheryl a question, she answers from her head to her toes with a response. I asked her if she has a background in theatre, and to my surprise she said no, because the way she moves is flowing and graceful, and everything is accentuated all at once. Sheryl, similar to her design, can be best summed up in this quote: “I’m sort of all over the place—I’m mosaic in that way.”

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All photography copyright by Morgan Howarth

In our interview together, Sheryl and I discussed the vision behind this kitchen. “Its a jewel box, small and dramatic; it’s the perfect example of big is not always better,” she says. As the stylist for this photo shoot, I have to agree. The backsplash in this kitchen literally looks like gems.

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The glass tiles in this backsplash have to be applied individually by hand—they don’t come prearranged on square sheets. Tedious work to say the least.

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Sheryl reached out to me to style this kitchen because she wanted to get rid of the notion that kitchens are merely utilitarian, with a cabinet on every wall. She asked me, essentially, to bring the living room into the kitchen, without the decorative aspects taking away from its function and layout. This can be a tricky balancing act, because I love to layer elements in a room; pulling back and restraining myself was an intriguing challenge.

scruggs4

We sourced the accessories for this photo shoot from Daren Miller, the owner of  AndBeigein Adams Morgan. Sheryl wanted the objects in the kitchen to be white, metallic and sculptural, and the sculptural offerings from Miller’s boutique perfectly fit the ticket.

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For the artwork, Sheryl and I collaborated with Amy Morton of her eponymous Morton Fine Art in DC, which focuses on African and African-American artists both here and abroad. Clients tend to think kitchens need cabinets on every wall, Sheryl says, but placing art on a wall or two is an unexpected surprise.

Abstract painting on rear wall: "Boom," a tissue-ink monoprint by Maya Freelon Asante. Art provided by Morton Fine Arts Gallery. Side wall: top painting: "I Can See Your House From Here," pastel on paper by Osi Audu; on bottom: Self Portrait XXXIV, graphite on paper by Osi Audu.

Bronze Interiors is about bold design, yet simple and refined in its execution. Based on these images of her recent kitchen remodel, I think you will agree!

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Comments

  1. Wow! Great to see more of Cheryl’s great work. Love the rich wood cabs- a welcome departure from the sea of white and gray!

  2. Jennifer Sergent says:

    I know, right?? It’s like you ONLY see white marble anymore. I also love the profusion of art/ really changes the feel of the space.

  3. Love seeing a small kitchen that includes fine art. The “Journey Home,” mixed media on canvas by Kesha Bruce, is a wonderful element here.

  4. Art work in the kitchen is a nice surprise.

  5. Jennifer Sergent says:

    I know — I just hung some pictures in my own kitchen and it changes the feel of the entire space.

NATHANIEL DONNETT’s solo exhibition opens Oct 23rd at the Mattatuck Museum

17 Oct

Mattatuck Donnett Exhibition Invite Front web

Mattatuck Donnett Exhibition Invite Back web

Alone in My Four Cornered Room – A Solo Exhibition of Artwork by NATHANIEL DONNETT

October 23, 2014- January 4, 2015

Mattatuck Museum, 144 West Main Street, Waterbury, CT

mattatuckmuseum.org

 

Context & Reflection: The Art of Nathaniel Donnett

In this exhibition, Alone in My Four Cornered Room, Nathaniel Donnett navigates the crossroads between the self and perception by others. His drawings, paintings, and sculpture suggest the transitional and unstable nature of perception. Donnett’s work is richly conceptualized and steeped in a deeply reflective, witty, and theoretically grounded history of race and difference in the United States. His work references the landmark scholarship of historian and activist, W.E.B. Dubois, and attends closely to the concept of double consciousness – DuBois’ understanding of the complex and nuanced ways in which African Americans in the United States must negotiate and reconcile their identity as both American and Black – both part of and pushed away from the heart of national identity. Donnett, like DuBois, is wrestling with the “peculiar sensation” in which one has “this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.”

The title of the show, “Alone in My Four Cornered Room,” references a lyric from the 1991 classic hip-hop song, “My Mind’s Playing Tricks on Me,” by trio The Geto Boys. The song, like Donnett’s works explore isolation, paranoia, and identity in which perception of self and self-knowledge do not always match. In this way, Donnett takes up a strategy that has fortified hip-hop: referencing back to others in order to assemble links and connections. Both The Geto Boy and Donnett are exploring self-doubt, safety, and psychological well-being in the face of “double consciousness.” The works in this show represent Donnett’s investments in examining the entangled relationships between society, the art world, and identity. By exploring experiences of isolation, loneliness, and social stigma, and self -determination, Donnett restores and reclaims the humanity of African Americans living complex emotional lives.

Donnett’s layered works defy singular description, rather they are purposefully resistant to either/or interpretations or linear narratives. Donnett’s work is presenting us with both/and narratives in which as viewer we have a small window in which to glimpse the vertinginous experience of being both erased and highly visible – to be forced to know oneself based on the fears others might have of you. Donnett refers to this entangled interaction between the self and society as projections, noting that many of the notions we have about each other are based on narrow narratives or misinformation. Donnett’s work suggests that none of us are safe from internalizing misperceptions of others – even the misperceptions of our own identities and selves – and he explores how very challenging, complicated, and tangled such experiences can be. His carefully crafted work plays with the distance between self-knowledge and self-perception, while investigating the spaces where art, music, identity, history, the Black imagination, culture, the self, and standards of beauty may be explored – and even challenged. Donnett’s use of such diverse materials gestures toward the improvisation he highlights as part of African American culture.

 

STEPHON SENEGAL featured in the April/May 2014 edition of Uptown Magazine

8 May

 

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ART

Stephon Senegal
Washington, DC

Stephon Senegal creates personal diaries through sculpture. By putting himself on display, he creates bold and beautiful pieces revealing the oftentimes tumultuous ebb and flow of the human condition. As a Louisiana youth, he would make his own toys out of popsicle sticks and black electrical tape, but has since graduated to bronze and other metals because they help present the body as a metaphor for life. “The work is a deconstruction and rebuilding of the self and the things that go with it in terms of vice, obsession and sexuality,” says Senegal. “An individual really can’t access who they are completely until they are tested both physically and mentally in regards to the ability to deal with what life may throw at them”.

Visit http://www.mortonfineart.com to view available sculptures and drawings by STEPHON SENEGAL.

CHARLES WILLIAMS featured in Azalea Magazine

11 Mar

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charles williams azalea

After Spreading His Wings, Artist Charles Williams Longed To Return To His Roots. So He Painted His Way Home.

When I met Charles Williams, he was tucked into a small studio space at Redux Contemporary Art Center, working on a commissioned landscape piece. He invited me in, and asked if he could continue painting as we talked. I eagerly agreed; this offered me the opportunity to watch him transform a blank wooden canvas into a brilliant Lowcountry panorama.

Born and raised in Georgetown, SC, William’s talent was harnessed from a very young age. His parents were aggressively instrumental in his success.

“My mother noticed I was pretty good at coloring within the lines of my Ninja Turtle® coloring book,” Williams says, smiling. “She always had me drawing with a pen and pad.”

In elementary school, his mother made arrangements with the school’s art teacher to keep Charles after school, working on different art techniques, from colored pencil to water color
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William’s mother wasn’t the only one supportive of his talent. On his first day of high school, his father visited the art teacher, Heath Hampton, and asked him what he could do for his son. Hampton took Williams under his wing, arranging private lessons with a local painter. There, he learned advanced art techniques, as well as the business side of the art world. When most kids were out partying or heading to Myrtle Beach for the weekend, Williams was at home painting, and with Hampton’s help, Williams received a scholarship to (SCAD) Savannah Collage of Art and Design.

“I switched majors back and forth”, Williams says. “They offered so much; I wanted to do it all.”
Williams graduated in 2006, with a major in advertising and a minor in fine arts. He got a job in Tampa, FL, with the Publix Corporation®, working on the design team for their Greenwise® product line. Although he found success with Publix®, Williams missed home.

“I was eight hours from home, so I started painting it,” Williams says.

He painted scenes of the Lowcountry, reliving memories of his life on the Black River. Williams submitted his work to a Tampa Gallery, and was accepted into a group show. Little did he know that a late night mistake would come to shape the signature of his work.

While working on a small painting for the group show, he spilled a cup of water on the canvas, making the paint bleed to the bottom. He put it aside and forgot about it. When the gallery director stop by his studio to check on his progress, she saw the painting, loved the drip look, and asked to have it.

Williams sold out his first two gallery shows, and things snowballed from there. Selling numerous paintings, including private and corporate commissions, Williams quit his job at Publix® to begin painting full time.
In 2009, Williams was accepted into the Hudson River Fellowship in New York, where 32 artists out of 5,000 applicants were invited to walk the trails of master landscape artists, and study the anatomy of nature.
“It was like a painting boot camp,” Williams says.

After completing the Hudson River Fellowship, Williams knew what he really wanted, so he moved back to Charleston. On a visit to the Robert Lange Gallery, he told the owner that he would one day be featured there. She smiled, gave him a hug, and told him to submit his work. After five “no’s,” the Robert Lange Gallery gave him a shot at a group show, where he sold every one of his paintings. He was given more shows, which also sold out. Williams was finally invited to join the gallery.

On top of managing the stresses that come with being a full-time artist, Charles Williams also gives back to the community that has given so much to him.

“I am always thinking of the kids in the classrooms who have talent, but don’t know how, or may not have the resources to cultivate that talent,” Williams says. “I want to give them the opportunities and experiences that my teachers offered me.”

In an effort to help foster creative students in multiple art forms, Williams formed the C.E. Williams Collaborative, offering what he has learned to middle and high school students interested in pursuing a career in the arts. He passes along the foundations and technical attributes of art, teaches students how to articulate their work, and how to build relationships with collectors.

“They are receiving all the important aspects of being a complete artist,” Williams says.

The C.E. Williams Collaborative recently held it first student art exhibition at Robert Lange Studios, giving the nine students of the Georgetown and Charleston County collaborative the opportunity to show their work.

“They have some killer work,” he says, smiling.

Today, Williams is working on a new series of paintings. He has a museum exhibition scheduled for the Spring 2015, at Burroughs and Chapin Art Museum in Myrtle Beach, where he will show works that reflect an issue dear to his heart.

“I have had multiple near drowning incidents in my past,” he says. “I have taken swimming lesson, but never been a confident swimmer.”

Williams has been researching the history of swimming, and how slavery and other cultural influences might have affected the African-American community’s relationship with swimming. Through his research, he found that for every Caucasian drowning, there are three African-American drownings.

“We hear all about deaths that result from drugs and violence,” Williams says. “But drownings are like a silent killer in this community.”

For William’s upcoming museum exhibition, he is working on a (social awareness) series of paintings pairing objects such as shoes and jewelry, items he feels the African-American community sees as status symbols, with water environments like pools and shorelines. He hopes this series will shine a light on the importance of focusing on water safety rather than the false security of material things.

Charles Williams truly embodies the spirit of art. Not only is he a master of the techniques that make his work so captivating, but he also processes humility and compassion that shows vibrantly in his work away from the canvas. He has both literally and figuratively taken the scenic route to where he is today…a place where he can create his own landscape.

By Will Rizzo

New work by GA GARDNER

14 Jan

 

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Colours and Motion – Art Workshop with MAYA FREELON ASANTE in Lesotho, Africa

8 Jan

The Hub

December 30, 2013 · by 

On the 19th of December, 2013, Maya Freelon Asante – award winning artist and daughter of jazz musician Nnenna Freelon – held a one-of-a-kind art workshop in Morija, Lesotho. The workshop took place at Linotšing art studio, adjacent toMaeder House – one of the oldest recorded buildings in Lesotho – and involved 35 local youth between the ages of 4 -25.

Throughout the afternoon, young people were given the chance to discover and create with a range of materials. In the space of a few hours, Linotšing was transformed into a bustle of activity as the children discovered the myriad of exciting creations that could be made by combining paper, water and multi-coloured tissue paper. Finally, working together under Maya’s guidance, the children helped to glue and stitch together a quilt of tissue paper, which will be used by Maya and Nnenna in their multi-discipline theater project – Clothesline Muse – set to premiere in the US in April, 2014.

At the end of the workshop, as the children contemplated the final creation, Maya said to them: “with your hands, hearts and your energy, you have made art that is going to help your community.”

The workshop coincided with a fundraising concert titled A night with the King. It was held to benefit the renovation of Morija Scott Hospital, where Nnenna, invited by King Letsie III, was the headline performer. Auctioned at the concert were two collages, created by Maya and the group in Morija the day before, with proceeds also going to Scott Hospital.

More information about Maya Freelon Asante:

Maya Freelon Asante is an award‐winning artist whose artwork was described by poet Maya Angelou as “visualizing the truth about the vulnerability and power of the human being,” and her unique tissue paper work was also praised by the International Review of African American Art as a “vibrant, beating assemblage of color.” She was selected by Modern Luxury Magazine as Best of the City 2013 and by the Huffington Post’s “Black Artists: 30 Contemporary Art Makers Under 40 You Should Know“.

Maya has exhibited her work nationally and internationally including Paris, Ghana, and US Embassies in Madagascar, Italy, Jamaica, and Swaziland. She has been a professor of art at Towson University and Morgan State University. Maya has attended numerous residencies including Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, the Korobitey Institute and Brandywine Workshop. She earned a BA from Lafayette College and an MFA from the School of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

More info: www.mayafreelon.com | theclotheslinemuse.com | http://www.mortonfineart.com

photo credit: Meri Hyoky Photography

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THE GUARDIANS, a solo exhibition of new work by artist KESHA BRUCE. December 14th, 2013-January 8th, 2014.

19 Dec

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About the Guardians:

In the winter of 2011, Kesha Bruce awoke in the early morning hours to see a figure hovering silently at the foot of her bed. This brief moment of fascination, terror, and eventually wonder, has beenthe obsessive focus of her work for nearly three years. To date, Bruce has completed nearly 200 works based on The Guardians – a group of solemn, mysterious figures who act as watchers, keepers, and protectors.
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About Kesha Bruce:
Sidestepping the weight and implications of formalized religion forthe better part of her career, Bruce’s work has explored the fertile territory of memory, mythology, African-American folklore, and magical-spiritual belief. With The Guardians her work makes a shift towards questioning not only the place of spiritual practice in contemporary culture, but also the place of genuine spiritual experience in contemporary art making.

THE GUARDIANS Opening Reception and Artist Talk

18 Dec

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About the Guardians:

In the winter of 2011, Kesha Bruce awoke in the early morning hours to see a figure hovering silently at the foot of her bed. This brief moment of fascination, terror, and eventually wonder, has beenthe obsessive focus of her work for nearly three years. To date, Bruce has completed nearly 200 works based on The Guardians – a group of solemn, mysterious figures who act as watchers, keepers, and protectors.
Sidestepping the weight and implications of formalized religion forthe better part of her career, Bruce’s work has explored the fertile territory of memory, mythology, African-American folklore, and magical-spiritual belief. With The Guardians her work makes a shift towards questioning not only the place of spiritual practice in contemporary culture, but also the place of genuine spiritual experience in contemporary art making.
The show will run through January 8th, 2014