Sunday, December 26, 2010

SERVICE is now on Quashie website

Hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday. I'm using the downtime to catch up with some work. I always wanted to have a single page on my site that showed the entire "Service" painting along with the bio's and events depicted in the entire piece. I'm finally on my way to doing just that and just launched the page. 



Now all you have to do is scroll the cursor over the faces and the shortened bios will pop up underneath. I'll be adding more info on each in the future as well as links to other sites that have far more info than I do on the individuals and events depicted. Select this link to view the page.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Since so many asked....

I have gotten many requests for posters of 'NUTS'. So here they are in two sizes - 16" x 20" and 20" x 30". Anyone who wants to order select the link below.

16" x 20"

20" x 30"

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

New Art - J. CROW Apparel Advertisements

Sorry about the disappearing act. As many of you know, I used to do some writing in Hollywood and they came calling again. There was some interest in a screenplay that I had written as well as pilot to a sit-com. I needed to take the time to do a polish on both and send them out to La-La land. Hopefully they will interest a few notable people and who knows, they may actually make it to the big and small screen, respectively - but I seriously doubt it. The odds are tremendously long for any such thing happening but you have to roll the dice and get it out there. After all, they won't get there if you write them. We'll see what happens.

In the meantime, back to the art. I finished a couple more pieces of the Plantation series - the somewhat misguided ad campaign for the equally misguided Jim Crow Apparel clothing line. I'm having so much fun with these.

This will be the last post until next year. I have some really nice work planned. I'm off to Florida to hang out with mom for Christmas. have a great holiday and please be safe if traveling!




J. CROW APPAREL - Branding Irony
acrylic and gel on birch panel
36" x 48"


J. CROW APPAREL - Stripes
acrylic and gel on birch panel
36" x 48"


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Shameless Christmas Plug!

Want a great Christmas gift? How about a decent book? I wrote this last year and am working on a sequel (while the paint dries).



Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Blaccessories?

The latest installment of the Plantation series bounces back with another ad campaign for the Jim Crow (J. Crow) apparel line. The line is was inspired by the many 'celebrity' clothing lines that are targeted toward fans and their slice of demographics. I wondered why racists didn't have a mainstream clothing line and that led to the J. Crow apparel concept.

One of the more controversial practices that is fairly or unfairly (depending on your perspective) covered by the press is that of white celebrity parents adopting black babies. There are those that interpret the motivation as a deep seated guilt complex rather than an act of love, compassion and validation of the so-called 'post-racial' society. Many see it as a manipulation of the press considering that black celebrities who adopt black children are rarely given equal exposure. 



"Blaccessories"
48" x 72"
Mixed media

Regardless of your take, there is no doubt the discomfort is rooted in the memory of slavery. In slavery days, black babies were a thriving business. Strong slave women and men were labeled 'breeding stock' and forced to conceive to produce superior offspring that were used as laborers. Some women produced up to twenty for this purpose. Slave life was particularly hard and to replace their losses, women were expected to start having babies as early as thirteen and produce at least five by the age of twenty. Plantation owners promised women their freedom once they had produced fifteen children. Many slave owners purposely impregnated their female chattel (it wasn't considered rape because slaves weren't considered 'people' with rights, but property). One particular Virginia slave trader boasted that he had sold as many as 6,000 slave children in one year!

I found a wonderful article online that delved into the issue of black adoption by Hollywood celebrities. Article: Black Babies: Hollywood's Hottest Accessory?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

New Art - Follow Me

The Plantation series rolls on with a screenshot of Harriett Tubman's Twitter homepage. The dots for this idea connected when a friend asked, via email, why I didn't have a Facebook account. "That way people could follow your art." Hmmmm. Followers. Isn't that what Twitter is for? And had it been available, who in slavery times would have needed a Twitter account? No one would would have had more followers than Harriett Tubman. From her own words, "I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves." 

And yes, I actually opened a Twitter account for Harriett Tubman and HurryIt_UpMan is her profile name. She has yet to tweet anyone but already has one follower.



"Follow Me"
56" x 42"
acrylic on birch panel

Biography of Harriet Tubman

Harriet Ross Tubman (1822-1913). Born into slavery on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Tubman gained international acclaim as an Underground Railroad operator, abolitionist, Civil War spy and nurse, suffragist, and humanitarian. After escaping from enslavement in 1849, Tubman dedicated herself to fighting for freedom, equality, and justice for the remainder of her long life, earning her the biblical name "Moses" and a place among the nation's most famous historical figures.

Originally named Araminta, or "Minty," Harriet Tubman was born in early 1822 on the plantation of Anthony Thompson, south of Madison in Dorchester County, Maryland. Tubman was the fifth of nine children of Harriet "Rit" Green and Benjamin Ross, both slaves. Edward Brodess, the stepson of Anthony Thompson, claimed ownership of Rit and her children through his mother Mary Pattison Brodess Thompson. Ben Ross, the slave of Anthony Thompson, was a timber inspector who supervised and managed a vast timbering operation on Thompson's land. The Ross's relatively stable family life on Thompson's plantation came to abrupt end sometime in late 1823 or early 1824 when Edward Brodess took Rit and her then five children, including Tubman, to his own farm in Bucktown, a small agricultural village ten miles to the east. Brodess often hired Tubman out to temporary masters, some who were cruel and negligent, while selling other members of her family illegally to out of state buyers, permanently fracturing her family.

Working as a field hand while a young teen, Tubman was nearly killed by a blow to her head from an iron weight, thrown by an angry overseer at another fleeing slave. The severe injury left her suffering from headaches, seizures and sleeping spells that plagued her for the rest of her life. During the late 1830s and early 1840s, Tubman worked for John T. Stewart, a Madison merchant and shipbuilder, bringing her back to the familial and social community near where her father lived and where she had been born. About 1844 she married a local free black named John Tubman, shedding her childhood name Minty in favor of Harriet.

On March 7, 1849, Edward Brodess died on his farm at Bucktown at the age of 47, leaving Tubman and her family at risk of being sold to settle Brodess's debts. In the late fall of 1849 Tubman took her own liberty. She tapped into an Underground Railroad that was already functioning well on the Eastern Shore: traveling by night, using the North Star and instructions from white and black helpers, she found her way to Philadelphia. She sought work as a domestic, saving her money to help the rest of her family escape. From 1850 to 1860, Tubman conducted between eleven and thirteen escape missions, bringing away approximately seventy individuals, including her brothers, parents, and other family and friends, while also giving instructions to approximately fifty more who found their way to freedom independently.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 left most refugee slaves vulnerable to recapture, and many fled to the safety and protection of Canada. Indeed, Tubman brought many of her charges to St. Catharines, Ontario, where they settled into a growing community of freedom seekers. Her dangerous missions won the admiration of black and white abolitionists throughout the North who provided her with funds to continue her activities. In 1858, Tubman met with the legendary freedom fighter, John Brown, in her North Street home in St. Catharines. Impressed by his passion for ending slavery, she committed herself to helping him recruit former slaves to join him on his planned raid at Harper's Ferry, Va. Though she hoped to be at his side when the raid took place in October 1859, illness may have prevented her from joining him. In 1859, William Henry Seward, Lincoln's future Secretary of State, sold Tubman a home on the outskirts of Auburn, New York, where she eventually settled her aged parents and other family members. On her way to Boston in April 1860, Tubman became the heroine of the day when she helped rescue a fugitive slave, Charles Nalle, from the custody of United States Marshals charged with returning him to his Virginia master.

In early 1862, Tubman joined Northern abolitionists in support of Union activities at Port Royal, South Carolina. Throughout the Civil War she provided badly needed nursing care to black soldiers and hundreds of newly liberated slaves who crowded Union camps. Tubman's military service expanded to include spying and scouting behind Confederate lines. In early June 1863, she became the first woman to command an armed military raid when she guided Col. James Montgomery and his 2nd South Carolina black regiment up the Combahee River, routing out Confederate outposts, destroying stockpiles of cotton, food and weapons, and liberating over 700 slaves.

After the war, Tubman returned to Auburn, New York. There she began another career as a community activist, humanitarian, and suffragist. In 1869, Sarah Bradford published a short biography of Tubman called "Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman," bringing brief fame and financial relief to Tubman and her family. She married Nelson Davis, a veteran, that same year; her husband John Tubman had been killed in 1867 in Dorchester County, Maryland. She struggled financially the rest of her life, however. Denied her own military pension, she eventually received a widow's pension as the wife of Nelson Davis, and, later, a Civil War nurse's pension.

Her humanitarian work triumphed with the opening of the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged, located on land abutting her own property in Auburn, which she successfully purchased by mortgage and then transferred to the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in 1903. Active in the suffrage movement since 1860, Tubman continued to appear at local and national suffrage conventions until the early 1900s. She died at the age of 91 on March 10, 1913 in Auburn, New York.

Monday, November 15, 2010

New Art - FledX

One more step towards the goal of completing 20 new pieces of art in the 'Plantation' series. FledX is a pure commercial parody that started out as UPS parody. The escaped slave in the box is named Henry Brown and since the UPS slogan is 'what can brown do for you' the obvious choice was UPS. But, I couldn't resist the synchronicity of Fled X seeing that Henry was fleeing slavery and the 'X' in the confederate flag is so prominent. This was a no-brainer.



"FledX"
acrylic and gel transfer on canvas
48" x 53"
Henry Brown's story:Henry was born into slavery in 1815 in Louisa County, Virginia. In 1830 he was sent to Richmond, Virginia to work in a tobacco factory where he met and married another slave, Nancy, and the couple had three children. Brown used his wages to pay Nancy's master for the time she spent caring for them. However, in 1848, his wife and children were sold to a slave trader and sent to North Carolina.

With the help of James C. A. Smith, and a sympathetic white storekeeper named Samuel Smith, Brown devised a plan to have himself shipped to a free state by Adams Express. Brown paid $86 (out of his savings of $166) to Smith, who contacted Philadelphia abolitionist James Miller McKim, who agreed to receive the box. Brown burned his hand with Oil of vitriol as an excuse for missing work.

During the trip, which began on March 23, 1849, Brown's box traveled by wagon, railroad, steamboat, wagon again, railroad, ferry, railroad, and finally delivery wagon. Several times during the 206 mile, 27-hour journey, carriers placed the box upside-down or handled it roughly, but Brown was able to remain still enough to avoid detection. The box containing Brown was received by McKim, and other members of the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee. When Brown was released, one of those present remembered his first words as "How do you do, gentlemen?" He then sang a Psalm he had previously selected for his moment of freedom.

Brown became a well-known speaker for the Anti-Slavery Society. He was bestowed the nickname of "Box" at a Boston antislavery convention in May 1849, and thereafter used the name Henry Box Brown. He published two versions of his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown; first in Boston in 1849 and the second in England in 1851. Brown exhibited a moving panorama titled "Mirror of Slavery" in the northeastern United States until he was forced to move to England after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. Brown toured Britain with his antislavery panorama for the next 10 years, performing several hundred times a year and visiting virtually every town and city over that period. Brown stayed on the British show circuit for twenty-five years, until 1875. In the 1860s, he began performing as a mesmerist, and some time after that as a conjuror, under the show names Prof. H. Box Brown and the African Prince. Leaving his first wife and children in slavery (though he had the means to purchase their freedom); he married a second time, to a white British woman, and began a new family. In 1875, he returned to the U.S. with a family magic act. There is also a later report of the Brown Family Jubilee Singers. The cause and date of his death are unknown.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Orlando Jones and Mad Tv

The work of any decent artist is the amalgamation of their life experiences. Those experiences are unique to each and when combined, influences greatly the path the artist will choose (or was chosen by providence for them) that they will follow. The older one gets, the clearer one sees when and where the dots connected. A major dot was connected with a phone call in 1988.

The greatest peripheral influence on my art (I use the word peripheral in this case because the help came from outside the normal artistic realm), was from Orlando Jones. I met Orlando shortly after leaving the Navy in 1987. I was hired to do a photo shoot with one of his roommates, called to make an appointment and Orlando answered. Though complete strangers, we talked for nearly an hour as though old friends and when I called again, the same thing happened. We formally met a few weeks later at a house party he was throwing and a month after that, we were roommates and have been best friends since. Brothers really.


Orlando was still in college but would soon depart for Hollywood to become a writer for 'A Different World', 'Sinbad', 'Roc' and 'Martin'. His on air break came with Fox's 'Sound FX' before joining the initial cast of MadTv. We always stayed in touch and during the first season of MadTv, I authored a few sketches for him that made it to air, with the first being 'Racism vs. Spam', based on one of my paintings. I had no desire to become a comedy writer. While painting I would simply have ideas run through my head that I would pass along to Orlando. He would ask me to write them up, then tweak and pitch them.



In 1996 after yet another censored exhibition, I grew tired of art (and the annoying people around it), and decided to quit before yielding. Orlando told the Exec. Producers and Head Writer about my writing contributions to the show to date, and after an exhaustive process, I was hired as an apprentice writer. I had no writing experience whatsoever outside of the few sketches written for him. I was dubious, but he flew me out to Los Angeles, provided lodging, money, a car and a laptop and told me point blank, 'There's a writer in you, you just don't know it. Write, and I will correct." Little did I know how that act of selfless generosity on his part, along with blind faith on mine, would forever change and shape the art that I had just vowed to quit.

Artists by nature are nomads. We usually operate on a singular creative level - from head to hand to canvas with nothing betwixt or between. It's up to us to shape the process and the resultant product as we see fit. On day one, I learned that television does not work on that creative schedule. It is by definition, a collaborative medium. Ideas that were once my own now belonged to the cruel and heartless room of writers (15-20) sitting around the conference table during a Monday morning pitch session, all there for one reason - to get their ideas and jokes on air and justify their jobs. It was brutal. You pitch an idea that you may have thought was complete and funny, only to have it make its way around the room. By the time it was filtered by the many voices and made its way back to you, it was unrecognizable, but somehow better, streamlined, funnier and edgier than your original pitch. It was also assigned to someone else who contributed more to it that you did, to write the first draft.

At first, the process demoralized and depressed me. I was working with smarter, funnier, well traveled and more informed people that seemed to have an indispensable fountain of comedic and pop references at their disposal. With an hour show to write and tape on a weekly basis, the speed of the game was extraordinary and I struggled mightily to keep pace. It was Orlando Jones that coached but never coddled me. After all, 'This is the business. This is what we do." Our relationship evolved and resembled that of Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins in 'Bull Durham', and I could hear him telling me on a daily basis, "Quit thinking Meat and just throw the ball. You have the talent or you wouldn't be here."

One immutable fact registered with authority. The audience, or in other words...ratings. It's about them - so write for them. Unlike art, this was no longer about satisfying my impulses, it was about reaching and sustaining audience. The average sketch is 6 pages long, three minutes of air time. That's all you had. Establish the joke, deliver the joke, get the hell out while they were still laughing. In other words, 'come to the party late and leave early.' I remember pitching a sketch idea to Orlando that I thought was hilarious only to have him stare at me like an idiot before asking, "Are you going to knock on every door and peddle that sketch to the audience with a manual? Simplify, son, simplify!"

Over the coming months, I never really got comfortable, but started learning how to shape and filter ideas. I began to hear the voices of the other writers (primarily Orlando's) in my head, challenging, questioning and streamlining my pitches. The result was the beginning of understanding how to structure and work out a specific process to find the 'joke'. How many times had Orlando asked me, "So, what's the joke?" The joke - the spine of the idea on which the comedy is hung. What's this sketch really all about? Boil it down to it's most basic, realistic, and essential elements then rebuild it comedically. Quit writing comedy and start writing reality - a strange idea for a comedy show. Not really. Anything can be made funny, but first it must make sense. The greatest and most successful comedies are at their heart based on realistic premises. Find the joke and the rudest and most savage of thoughts could not only be delivered effortlessly, but accepted by the audience using comedy as the delivery device.

Between 1996 and 2006, I had gone on to write for 6 comedy series, 4 of which involved Orlando directly. The teaching and learning has never stopped. By the time I made the decision to return to art, the filtering process had taken hold and to this day shapes the way I approach all of my ideas about art. ALL OF THEM. Before my stint as a writer began, there was an oppressive element of anger about my art that was correctly translated as offense to the audience. It was my trademark and eventually led to my demise in 1996. Not only is that element still there, it's admittedly worse. The difference is that because of what I learned as a writer, I now employ a creative process that takes the same difficult topic, reduces it to its core element to 'find the joke', rebuilds it with an emphasis on identifying and embracing an audience, then infuses it with humor to dull the senses until the laughter stops and reality sets in. In a phrase, 'It's all fun and games until I poke you in the eye.' A statement from the latest review of my exhibition 'Subjective Perception' by Mary Bentz Gilkerson sums it up:


                 "This is precisely what makes his work so challenging not only to the average viewer,
                   but to many art insiders as well. His imagery is very accessible, luring the viewer into
                   a dialogue that then turns their preconceptions upside down. Images that are
                   associated with comfort and ease are turned around to force a sense of unease."

Because of the process, it's become somewhat easier to produce the product. I admittedly still struggle with ideas - but that's the challenge offered by the need to push further with each new painting. Once that stops, you're done. I've been blessed to have people like Orlando Jones in my life and write this as a 'thank you' to a debt I can only repay by continuing to honor the knowledge given by applying it and urging others to take the time to find and recognize the roots of their creative process. It is an unconquerable force that once you humble yourself to its power, let go and trust it, it will take you on a frustrating and at times, rewarding journey. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Urban League Silent Auction

For all those that always ask about purchasing a piece of my art - here is a great opportunity. My friend Sandra Campbell asked me to contribute a piece of art for the Urban League auction tomorrow night, so I created a smaller version of the slave 'Resume'. Though a quarter the size of the large piece, it is a great piece of art and best of all, NOT A PRINT but an distinctive piece unto itself. Contact Sandra at sandcampb@aol.com or call her cell 813-8168 to bid on the piece. I did not set a minimum price so good luck!


(select to enlarge)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Native Magazine Interview

Kurt Walker of Native Magazine interviewed me while I was working on the UNC School of Government 'Service' mural. Thanks, Kurt. You did a great job of editing out the parts where I sound like the idiot I really am.

 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Benedict Exhibition Review


This has been a trying but rewarding week. I absolutely love engaging college students. They can be trifling at times but if you can appeal to them on issues that are important to them, they open up and embrace you wholeheartedly. 

I have been at Benedict for the past two days. Yesterday I had a talk with an Art Appreciation class that started off a little flat but ended on a high note. After that I spent a few hours with some students in other classes and the gallery before the big talk in the auditorium followed by the reception. I didn't get out of there until 9. 

Today was more of the same. Met with three classes and the art department majors and had a workshop on creativity where we interacted and talked at length about creativity. Great talk. After that I visited a couple galleries and artists in the area as well as the Columbia Museum of Art.

Tomorrow, I have a session two-hour session with another class then I head home to sweet sleep and another painting that's been racking my head to get out. There is still a few rumblings on the campus about the exhibit but the tide has turned and the show is doing what Tyrone intended it to do - create dialogue.


Issue #23.44 :: 11/03/2010 - 11/09/2010
Quashie Offers Witty But Unflinching Racial Commentary

A review of Colin Quashie: Subjective Perceptions, on view at Benedict College’s Ponder Gallery through Dec. 10.

By Mary Bentz Gilkerson

Colin Quashie’s work is some of the most socially and politically engaged in the state, if not the region. The artist’s unflinching examination of the lingering influence of racism in contemporary American culture is witty and ironic, but definitely far from subtle in the message it conveys. While this might make his work too strong for some, it is work that needs to be made and needs to be seen.

The directness of Quashie’s approach and content makes the artist’s work controversial at times, so much so that getting a chance to see his work can be difficult. Subjective Perceptions, the first solo exhibition of Quashie’s work in Columbia, is on view at Benedict’s Ponder Fine Arts Gallery through Dec. 10. A reception will be held Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m.

Quashie lives in Charleston but is hardly a typical “Charleston artist.” The artist was born in London in 1963 and raised in the West Indies. His family immigrated to the United States when he was 6, and he grew up in Florida. After attending college for a short time, he joined the Navy working on submarines. He began actively pursuing his art career after his discharge in 1987. The challenging content of his work led to the censorship of an exhibition in 1995. Dropping art for two years, Quashie moved to the West Coast and started writing comedy for Mad TV. He began making art again but has continued writing for the film and television industry.

His interest in social and political engagement ties him to a long line of artists ranging from William Hogarth and Charles Daumier in the 19th century to contemporary painter Kara Walker. Like Walker, there is a sense of urgency to his social commentary that seems driven by the increased ease of image-powered communication today.

Like many contemporary artists, Quashie pulls imagery from pop culture in a way that goes directly back to Andy Warhol. Advertisements, package designs, billboards and coloring books all provide images as well as formats for works that use the language syntax of the media to address issues of race, gender and social equality — or, rather, inequality.

While his manipulation of the formal elements and the painting medium is similar to Warhol, Quashie’s conceptual framework is for the most part very different. Quashie takes Warhol’s examination of the impact of the media on our cultural mythology a step further, using media-based methods to dissect and deconstruct stereotypical views of cultural relationships.

This is precisely what makes his work so challenging not only to the average viewer, but to many art insiders as well. His imagery is very accessible, luring the viewer into a dialogue that then turns their preconceptions upside down. Images that are associated with comfort and ease are turned around to force a sense of unease.

His series of Coloring Book paintings use the innocent, child-like motif of the coloring book to make very strong social statements. In Whack, the viewer is presented with the typical outlined forms with colored marks scribbled across their surfaces, as if a small child has been happily coloring away. The images appears neutral, almost innocent, until the viewer looks closer and realizes that the painting addresses intra-racial as well as inter-racial violence. The piece makes it clear that Quashie is going to reveal and ridicule inequities wherever he finds them.

Cultural inconsistencies, especially in political correctness, unfortunately provide an almost unlimited array of topics for the artist to address. In BLACKBORED – Racialgebra the artist questions the sort of political correctness that led to the firing of a radio host for using the “N” word on air, but let the police in one urban area shoot three African-American suspects more than fifty times — without consequences.

The controversy Quashie’s work sometimes causes is not limited to predominately white institutions. The questions raised by his work challenge deeply held concepts of race and identity across racial divides. His work invites viewers to engage in necessary conversations rather than politely and unquestioningly sustaining the status quo.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New Art - The Resume

The Resume is the latest installment in my 'Plantation' series. The goal is to have about 20 pieces of art for exhibition that tells the story of the enslaved through the use of modern iconography and concepts to form a connection with the past. The resume is obviously based on the fugitive slave ads placed by many slave owners to secure their property. When I see them, I see a disgruntled worker fed up with his working conditions and without notice decided it was time to move on. Happens all the time with only one exception, we secretly send out resumes ahead of time and try to find another job to transition into. Why shouldn't a slave have done the same thing if it was available to them? Makes sense to me.

Just in case someone thinks I was being funny and mean, the text used on the art is taken directly from fugitive slave ads. I downloaded a huge file of ads and compiled many of the descriptions into each resume. It was against the law to
 teach a slave to read or write so it makes sense that they would use their owners descriptions of themselves as reference in their fictitious resumes. The only thing I changed was the pronoun usage.


The Resume for Freeman the Shoemaker
35" x 49"
(select to enlarge)

The Resume for Emily the Seamstress
35" x 49"
(select to enlarge)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Welcome Home - Juan Logan!

One of my favorite artists, Juan Logan, an art professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, recently posted a new video, "Welcome Home". For those unfamiliar with this creative beast of an artist, here is a short write up about the video:

Welcome Home, the title of Juan Logan's video ironically refers to the words of an older white woman welcoming a white family back to the plantation and its values. Images of a young white woman amidst an army of hooded Klansmen, which celebrates their "protection" of her womanhood, alternates with scenes that include a smiling Uncle Remus, happy in the supposed paternalistic embrace of slavery and Jim Crow, a black "coon" cat running scared from an unseen adversary, Civil War battles, and the face of a young black male, of the present as much as of the past, in the process of being erased. Logan digitally alters the imagery in the video to visually magnify its drama and draw attention to the frightening power of racial caricatures to shape our current perceptions and actions.

In Welcome Home, Juan Logan samples and alters imagery and sound from D. W. Griffin's silent film Birth of a Nation (1915), Walt Disney's live action/animation feature Song of the South (1946), Disney cartoons, footage of a 1920 Ku Klux Klan rally at the Washington Monument, and still photographs of the 1858 bombing of Charleston, the latter borrowed from the archives of the Gibbes Museum of Art.




Although born in the South, Logan’s artworks address subjects relevant to the American experience as a whole. At once abstract and representational, his paintings, drawings, sculptures, installations, and videos address the interconnections of race, place, and power. They make visible how hierarchical relations and social stereotypes shape individuals, institutions, and the material and mental landscapes of contemporary life. For instance, the silhouette of a head, which appears in many of his works, confronts the viewer to implicate him/her in the politics of social space, even in galleries and museums. He has shown extensively nationally and internationally, has had numerous solo exhibitions, and executed many private and public commissions. Logan’s works can be found in private, corporate, and public collections, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Gibbes Museum of Art, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Memphis Brooks Museum, the Zimmerli Museum of Art, and the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. Logan’s awards include fellowships from the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, the North Carolina Arts Council, the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, the Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and Paper, the Carolina Postdoctoral Scholars Fellowship, and the Phillip Morris Companies. 

I think it's easy to see why I love this man and his art.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Invitation


Patrick Nagel, Playboy and Ebony Magazine.

Patrick Nagel has without doubt had the most impact on the visual style of my art. His clean, clinical execution, aggressive use of space and color to create stunning erotic compositions that were then sprinkled with sophisticated design elements combined to produce art that easily defined a generation and made the man an icon to fashion, erotica, advertisers and gawkers like myself.

Patrick Nagel
Patrick Nagel made his presence known in a rather unusual place - underwater. I was an avid artist from my earliest memory but had no real interest in art other than the fact that it afforded easy A's throughout junior and high school. My art teachers begged me to go to art school (one offered a scholarship) but alas, I declined. After a horrible stint in college attempting to pursue a career in medicine (I lasted a year at the University of Florida), I ended up in Houston, Texas, endured two years in that hell hole and joined the Navy to escape. By the way - art had abandoned me. Aimless, I volunteered for submarine duty and in 1983, 600 feet somewhere beneath the north Atlantic Ocean squirming like sperm in what could easily be described as a iron cock the length of a football field, Mr. Nagel appeared from the pages of Playboy Magazine.

Like many before and after, I was immediately taken by the stunning graphics that resided in the midst of Playboy's advisor column. So moved was I that I rounded up every issue I could find, cut out the pics and catalogued them in a journal that I kept. I studied the lines and compositions like a biblical scholar pouring over the dead sea scrolls. I was mesmerized and for the first time in my life, I actually wanted to be an artist! I would spend many days and nights (both the same on submarines) sketching his creations and then applying the style to my own creations. When I was not onboard, I would reproduce large Nagels on the walls of my efficiency apartment (yes, directly on the wall - and no, I didn't get my deposit back). Even the bottom of my Murphy bed had a huge Nagel on it. The style was easy enough to duplicate, but it was the innate combination of design, color and composition that made a Nagel a Nagel and I wanted more than anything to unlock that mystery. Unfortunately, by the time I left the Navy in 1987, Patrick was deceased (he had a heart attack at the age of 38 in 1984) and the art world was left wanting. By then, I could pull any image from the pages of Elle Magazine and create what I felt was a genuine Nagel.

After the Navy I started working at an art gallery and on the side would create my version of Nagel's to sell at mall art stores. I was soon getting commissions and started to adapt the style to feature black women. I wanted to be an illustrator and more importantly, wanted to be associated with a magazine the way Nagel was with Playboy, or Vargas with Esquire and Rockwell with the Saturday Evening Post. Since erotica was the natural style for the work, I sent a few images to a black erotic magazine, Players, out of Los Angeles. They responded favorably and offered a paying gig that I readily accepted and began supplying them with work that was by then a variation between Nagel and Vargas. The collaboration didn't last long as they published but with no contract they refused to pay on time and we soon went our separate ways. By then (around 1990), I had learned all I could learn from Nagel's style and since it was not my own (I was growing tired of people thinking that was all I could do), I retired the style but kept with me the crisp and clean look. The last time I painted anything in that style was a portrait of my then girlfriend, now wife, Cathy (I let her help me paint it). 


Cathy's Portrait

So, beyond that, how did Patrick Nagel get my art career started? I told you that like him, I wanted to be associated with a magazine and noticed that Ebony Magazine had little to no graphics in their pages. So I decided to do like Nagel and paint some images (not erotica!) and stuck them in some presentations of Ebony's advisor column which had no art. I mailed them off and a little over a month later, received a message after a lunch break to call John Johnson, the CEO of Ebony Magazine. I was on my way....or so I thought.



It took an hour for me to call Mr. Johnson, that's how nervous I was. In that time I had imagined every question he could possibly ask from inspiration to salary and yes, I would be happy to relocate to Chicago for a job in the art department. Unfortunately, the first question out of his mouth was one I didn't see coming. "Mr. Quashie, what the fuck are you trying to do to my magazine?" And the conversation went downhill from there. Over the next few minutes (it felt like a lifetime), the man unleashed on me and told me how he hated artists, how I knew nothing about magazine publishing, how he started the magazine and built it into the world's best selling black publication and most important, his magazine was number one because they dealt with 'issues relevant to black America.' He hung up shortly thereafter and I found the deepest hole I could find to hide in.

I remembered a cover of an Ebony Magazine a few years back that had 'Prince and his intriguing women.' Really. A picture of Prince and the women he was fucking! Now that was an issue relevant to black America. I was so incensed at the hypocrisy that I painted one of my first large scale paintings - my response to John Johnson - and titled it, 'EBONY - Issues (Ir)relevant to Black America.' I sat around with friends and literally had a page of teaser articles that were simply designed to make fun of the rag. 




I photographed the piece, placed it on a notecard (I don't remember what I wrote inside - knowing me, probably 'Fuck you, ass eyes!') and mailed it to John Johnson. No, I did not get a response, but that didn't matter. What mattered was that it felt good and for the first time in my life, I finally figured out what this art thing could be used for. I had literally found my voice (off pitch and untrained as it was), but a voice nonetheless. In that moment I also found my creativity and what triggered it...anger. I was Bruce Banner with paintbrush. From that point on I would give up trying to paint work that matched your drapes and carpet and focus on topics that pissed me off and I would my art to frame my response. From 93 - 96 I slashed and burned my way through art until I burned out in 96 and quit...but that's another story for another post.  

Friday, October 15, 2010

John Biggers and Winston-Salem

I spent the last couple of days in Winston-Salem, NC jurying an exhibition at the Associated Artists Gallery. I was a guest of the Executive Director, Sharon Nelson, and I must say, I had a wonderful time. I was recommended for the gig by my old friend Catherine Heitz-New whom I knew from the Waterfront Gallery here in Charleston. She now resides in W-S,NC and I miss being able to drop by the gallery and converse with her.

Disclaimer: I'm not a fan of juried exhibits. I gave up applying to them years ago and have juried three in my career. The reasoning is simple - too subjective. Juried exhibits have little to do with the art and reflect the sensibilities of the juror - way too much power for one person to hold. Panel juries are a little more democratic in my opinion. I was forwarded a CD with about 290 images and asked to reduce them to no more than 75. It took about 4 hours (I take the selection process seriously). What bothers me about the whole affair is the empathy I feel for the artists. It's been my experience that many of the artists who enter these kinds of exhibits are fairly new to the game and don't realize how subjective the selection process can be. There are so many factors that go into the decision (how the work is photographed, title, dimensions, what I had for breakfast, etc.). I'm a contemporary art man and therefore the show reflects that approach. Sorry. I had my eye on about ten pieces that I wanted to see in person and immediately dropped three from the award list upon view. I eventually settled on a mindboggling pen drawing as the winner from an asian artist living in Missouri. Congrats my friend, the piece was stunning on all levels.

I have to take the time to also give a huge shout out to Diana Greene, a local photographer who gave me a personal tour of the city (both halves) and then took me to Winston-Salem State University to see a stunning mural by John and James Biggers hanging in the O'Kelley Library:



"Ascension"                                                                       "Origins"


Both images are 15' x 30' and I hope that the student body is aware of what a treasure they have at their disposal. I could have stood there looking at them for hours. I smiled at the many references to one of my favorite Harlem Renaissance artists - Aaron Douglass. He was no doubt an inspirational force to Mr. Biggers as well. Here is the official text and history of the project.

In August 1988, Winston-Salem Delta Fine Arts, Inc. visited John Biggers at his studio in Houston to select works for an upcoming exhibition. After seeing some of the murals Dr. Biggers had painted in Texas, and after learning that during his 47-year career he had not painted one in his home state of North Carolina, Winston-Salem Delta Fine Arts decided to undertake a mural project for Winston-Salem.

John Biggers agreed to paint two works to be hung in the atrium of the new addition to the O’Kelly Library (then under construction). Delta Fine Arts agreed to commission the commanding paintings.  The artist presented the preliminary sketches for the murals in May 1990 and began painting in July.  Winston-Salem Delta Fine Arts presented the murals to the university on March 28, 1992.  Dr. Biggers was assisted by his nephew, James Biggers, Jr., an artist and art administrator for the Gaston County Schools.

The Biggers murals, Origins and Ascension, represent an integration of knowledge from many academic disciplines.  African mythology and folklore are fused with mathematical concepts, scientific theories, literary extracts, American historical events, sociological patterns and religious beliefs.

Click on the image to see them larger. To read about the symbolism contained within the murals, select this link: BIGGERS MURAL. I urge anyone venturing anywhere close to the campus to see this incredible paintings. Thank you Diana for dragging me over there!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Triple 'A' Monday - Grant Wood and Regionalism

During the late 80's and into the early 90's when I was still trying to figure this art thing out (I'm a little closer), I embarked on a semi-literate journey to explore works of art and artists that I had always heard of, but knew little of. One of the pieces that warranted investigation was 'American Gothic' by Grant Wood. Few people outside of the art world know the work by name, but I can assure you that everyone knows the painting on sight. It is as iconic as it gets:




Though I love the painting, what endeared me to this work was the story behind the canvas:

Grant Wood was born in 1891 in Iowa and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. After WWI he traveled to Europe and was influenced by the technique used by Jan Van Eyck, a 16th century Flemish oil painter. During the 20's, he became one of three artists (Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri and John Steuart Curry of Kansas) known for their aggressive rejection of the european abstract movement in favor of more figurative and representational art that depicted surrounding urban and rural life. The idea of painting your immediate surroundings came to be labeled as 'regionalism'. In a phrase - paint what you know. What they knew was the midwest. Grant was drawn to the visual of the gothic revival style seen on a cottage (the upper window reflects the gothic medieval pointed arch) and wondered what 'kind of people' would live there. Using his sister, Nan, as a model for the woman and his dentist for the farmer, the painting reflected the rural lifestyle and informs the work.

The painting was displayed at an exhibition at the Art institute of Chicago in 1930. Grant won $300 for the painting and as they say, the rest is history. 
The 26" x 31" oil has come to represent Americana and has been satirized on many fronts which tells you how deeply ingrained in American lore it has become as well as being a primary symbol of the regionalist movement.

The concept behind 'regionalism' really hit home. I wasn't so much interested in the visuals of Americana, but rather, the theoretical planks in the movement's platform -
paint what you know. I understood and interpreted this to mean that if I wanted to connect with my audience in an authentic way, I needed to infuse my work with imagery and ideas that gave the viewer greater insight into what I knew. And what did I know - what was my brand of regionalism...Black America. That was to be my point of view. I felt so strongly about this approach to art that I illustrated it an early painting titled 'Point of View'.


"Point of View"
55" x 80"
silkscreen on canvas

What I declared with this piece was plain and straightforward - I don't care what's on the audience side of the canvas (which is why I painted it black) - this here ain't about you, I'm not painting to please you, nor am I painting to sell anything to you - I'm painting for me. That's me behind the canvas, eyeing, spying and seeing the world from a new perspective through the art. Everything I've painted since then attempts to duplicate this simple philosophy - use my art to illustrate my perspective as a black man in America. Pull the audience behind the canvas and let them see what I see, hear what I hear, feel, question, challenge, accept, reject or interpret. They may not understand it at times, but hey, sometimes I don't either which is why I often use the canvas to ask myself and others those questions.

As an homage to a philosophy that would guide me throughout my career as well as a sincere 'thank you' to Grant Wood and 'regionalism', I painted 'Black American Gothic'.  



"Black American Gothic" (original)

This was my take on Wood's classic. He used the image of the farmer and spinster daughter to illustrate his world, I used Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben. The story of Black America is one of slavery, survival, transformation and adaptation. To me, nothing reflected that more than Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima. Who were they? Madison Avenue's version of fictional characters based on factual lives to market products. The history of rice production in the American south and its association with slavery is well documented. So is the use of 'uncle' to refer to old black men (Uncle Tom - Uncle Remus, etc). The same applied to Aunt Jemima. They represented docile domestic acceptance on the part of whites and as such became effective pitchmen.

Later on I looked at this piece and decided to update it in three separate paintings bearing the same title 'Black American Gothic'. 


 It slowly dawned on me that Oprah Winfrey and Colin Powell had now replaced the former duo as America's most trusted faces. As a disclaimer, I have nothing against Oprah or Colin (what a great name!) - I simply used them to illustrate a point. I also added Tiger Woods to the mix to complete the 'family' motif. Oprah and Tiger are two of the biggest brands in the world of marketing and Colin Powell, one of the most 'trusted' blacks in America, so much so that he was used by the Bush administration to sell the Iraq war to the United Nations and the American public. 

So there you have it. Now you know why Grant Wood is one of my favorite artists and has informed and influenced my outlook on art. 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Studio's are for Pu**y's

Sorry about the long lapse - been doing what I try to do best - paint! I have two exhibits approaching fast - 'Subjective Perception' at Benedict College, a solo, and a group exhibit I was recently invited to participate in at the I.P. Standack Museum at SC State University in Orangeburg, SC. I have already chronicled the problems (in a roundabout way to protect the innocent) with the exhibition at Benedict in previous posts. The exhibit at SCSU is a thick one dealing with some heavy stuff. Here is the overview:

"On Friday, October 22, 2010 at 6 PM, during SC State’s Homecoming Weekend, 
SC State’s I.P. Stanback Museum and Planetarium will open its next exhibition, Partnership in Social Justice featuring Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges, created and circulated by the Museum of Jewish Heritage - A Living Memorial to the Holocaust; and Transcending the Legacy of Slavery and the Holocaust an art exhibition organized by the Idea Coalition. The exhibition continues through Jan. 4, 2011."

SCSU will be exhibiting a couple pieces that I donated to them years ago, and I will also add three more images. I 'm in the process of finishing three new images for the Benedict show. I wanted to do a rather large magazine cover that's been in my head for quite some time now and would be perfect for the SCSU exhibit, but alas, I will not have the time to render it, so there it will remain until I decide to unleash it. I also have to go to Winston-Salem for a couple days to jury an exhibition and review portfolio's - so as you see, my time is being crunched.

Wondering about the title of this post, are you? I borrowed that phrase from a friend of mine, Valerie VanNorte, who used it on T-Shirts for a location movie shoot. I misappropriated it and applied it to my new situation. I'm back to painting in the kitchen. Between there and the garage is where all great artists live and create! ;-) 


As many of you may not know, the studio space I rented to do the 50' painting was the first one I had ever had (other than the studio at McColl during my residency). Now that the work is done, I could no longer afford it and am back to my creative roots. Rather liberating to tell you the truth. Try it sometime - it keeps you humble.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pollice Verso...Up?

It seems that I fought bravely enough and sufficiently entertained the crowds that they spared my life and will allow another performance. The show at Benedict College is back on again. Some of the more obviously raucous works will be excluded but in the end the need to expose the audience to and have a discussion about the works allowed in represents a significant step forward for the school. The exhibit will open on October 17th with a reception to follow in a couple weeks. I'll also be doing a series of workshops (TBD) and lectures. That should be highly entertaining.