Friday, May 28, 2010

Woolworth Menu / Call and Response

I placed a reproduction of a Woolworth menu at the time of the sit-in in the hands of Annie Holland and the first thing that jumps out at you are the prices. Meatloaf with mashed potatoes and salad for .95¢. Wow. Sorry, Bob, but the times, they are a changed! I guess it doesn't matter how relatively cheap it seems if you couldn't have a seat and enjoy the damn meal. And to answer your question is yes, the menu was a serious pain in my ass to duplicate - took all day.

The SPOLETO Festival started today. For those of you unfamiliar with this most high-brow of arts festivals in Charleston, you can read about it here. 17 glorious days of opera, theater, dance, ballet, jazz, chamber music, etc., but no visual art! WTF!!!!! Fortunately, we have the Halsey Institute for Contemporary Art to take up the slack. Last night, Cathy and I attended the opening of "Call and Response: Africa to America / The Art of Nick Cave and Phyllis Galembo." What a tremendous opening. Here's a description of the exhibition:

Chicago artist Nick Cave creates costume/sculptures that he calls Soundsuits consisting of brightly colored fabrics, elaborate embroidery, beadwork, raffia and natural materials. Phyllis Galembo's photographic portraits feature masqueraders from the West African countries of Benin, Nigeria and Burkina Faso. Call and Response: Africa to America / The Art of Nick Cave and Phyllis Galembo pairs the work of these two uniquely American artists, each of whom explores the contours of West African masquerade through their art. This exhibition highlights the role of ritual traditions within the formation of cultural identity. While Galembo's intriguing photographs document actual masquerade performers in elaborate "costume," Nick Cave's Soundsuits offer a poetic response incorporating a cornucopia of natural and cultural elements rich in associative possibilities.The combination of these two artist's work offers a powerful celebration of creativity, imagination, and cross-cultural communication. Call and Response: Africa to America seeks to draw both the obvious and subtle parallels between the works of Galembo and Cave.

Both artists are having a gallery talk tomorrow from 2-4 and I will be in attendance. Mark Sloan, the Curator of the exhibit and the Director of the Halsey, honored me today by bringing both Nick and Phyllis by my studio to see some of my art. I found out that both myself and Nick were alumnae residents of McColl Center for Visual Art in Charlotte. We had a wonderful visit and will be exchanging some art. Here's a taste of what I experienced last night and I promise to take my camera and upload some images of this impressive exhibition tomorrow.

Nick Cave

Phyllis Galembo

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Detail, detail, detail.

I love working on the small stuff that make a painting fill itself out. It's like decorating a cake, tedious in it's own right but you know that the hard work is behind you and the end is near. Here are some of the details I've been working on:

Decided to give a nod to the James Benson Dudley High School Panthers. Ezell Blair, Jr. (Jibreel Khazan) was a graduate of the high school. Football players from NCA&T as well as students from Dudley High joined the sit-ins after the first day. 

Annie Murray looking at photo's from the sit-in.

Chef Joseph McNeil prepared to take Annie Holland's order the moment she makes her selection.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Countertop finally done!

Tough week of painting. At one point (yesterday), I had to just shut down and get some sleep. One of those days when in the middle of the day you put the brush down, clean up, take a slow walk home, take a shower and plant yourself on the couch and go to sleep. Cathy woke me up, I ate dinner and went back to sleep for another 10 hours. I needed that. It helped tremendously. I went in today and finally finished the countertop items. I'll go back in tomorrow and do some more clean-up but beginning next week it's time to start thinking about the background. I should have started it already but I'm procrastinating a bit, scared to take the leap hoping that I can resolve some mental issues before I begin. I can see it but can't seem to get my hand to do what I need it to do. So I'll putter around and start filling in some of the blanks like the menu and newspaper articles until I get the courage to proceed.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

On Beyond Zebra

Yesterday, I received a wonderful gift from Sheila Mullen, one of the participants of the Innovation Institute that I lead at McColl Center for Visual Art in Charlotte, NC. This wonderful woman reached out to me after the session and asked that I answer a few questions about the course for a graduate paper she was working on about the need for innovation training and implementation in corporate environments. In return for my aid, she sent this book which brilliantly summarizes the basic tenet of the Innovation Institute - namely - go beyond what you are used to without fear of failure and explore, explore, explore! Theodore Geisel summed it up best:

"And I said, You can stop, if you want, with the Z
Because most people stop with the Z
But not me!
In the places I go there are things that I see
That I never could spell if I stopped with the Z.
I'm telling you this 'cause you're one of my friends
My alphabet starts where your alphabet ends!"

I am a huge fan of Dr. Seuss (his postal stamp is a part of my growing collection) but I had never heard of this particular book. I look forward to finishing it and using it as reference material next time I have a little art chat with some students. Thank you, Sheila! Your gift was the best kind there is...unexpected! 

Friday, May 14, 2010

A month away from the end

Here's another portion of the countertop completed. More than half is completed and by the middle of next week it should be finished and I can move on to the background. Time is starting to be a factor and even though I am ahead of schedule, I mentally feel as though I am behind for some reason and as such, I am spending more time at the studio. My main concern at this point is the varnishing of the piece. Most oil painting take at least 6 months to dry but I paint extremely thin which means that the curing time is minimal. If I can complete the piece by the middle of next month, I can varnish it and install in the second week of July. 

(select to enlarge)
This is a view of the larger piece so far. As you can see, the diner is getting crowded. As proposed, the piece is visually complicated. I wanted the viewer to take their time and look at everything instead of being able to take the whole painting in at one glance. The length of the piece combined with the physical confines of the space will ensure just that.

(select to enlarge)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Coffee, muffin and great conversation

One of things I like to do during the day is imagine what conversations would be taking place amongst the many distinguished people in this painting. Perhaphs Golden Frinks is telling Charles Chesnutt about one of the more humorous circumstances that had taken place and led to one of his many arrests during the civil rights movement. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Getting hungry?

Not only am I hearing voices from the crowded diner in the empty studio, I'm starting to smell the food. The painting is running downhill now and I'm pushing to have the countertop completed by Saturday. The whole diner thing is starting to make sense now, huh?  

Thursday, May 6, 2010


The next piece of the countertop has been completed - six more to go. As promised, a formal place setting and a pink carnation representing remembrance was placed in front of the two anonymous people in the painting that represent countless unknown slaves whose specific contributions to North Carolina history may never be known, but nonetheless appreciated and honored. Tomorrow we start serving food.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Installing countertop

This week and next I will be installing countertops and serving food to the gathered crowd. The biggest worry is making sure the perspectives are correct. It's a bit tedious but fun at the same time. Filling in the visual barrier between the Greensboro Four and their patrons gives the piece a greater sense of depth as well as placing them in greater context. The only issue now is to figure out whom ordered what.

I took the past weekend off and chilled out with a venerable house guest, Tyrone Geter. He is an Art Professor at Benedict College in Columbia and someone I look up to in the arts. I had a great time hanging out with him and exchanging some creative ideas. He even gave me a 'eureka' moment on the painting and how to install and varnish without killing myself in the process. I hope I can convince him to make the trek more often. By the way, I will be having a solo exhibition next February at the Ponder Art Gallery on Benedict's campus and doing a three day workshop with some of the art students. A wonderful opportunity to poison and corrupt the minds of the next generation of artists. ;-)