I cannot say I ever imagined living in a world where alongside my books and artwork I would be happy to offer people designer face masks. Under the current coronavirus circumstances, use of the word ‘Beauty’ along with ‘Face Mask’ in a headline might strike some as contradictory, or even frivolous. I promise it is not.
Extraordinary masks have been employed for centuries in different cultures for holiday celebrations as well as times of battle. Right now, the world’s populations are very much at war, more this time around with an assassin virus than with each other. Since the threat of COVID-19 apparently is not going away any time soon, the option to add potentially life-saving face masks to the inventory of art products offered through my Fine Art America and Pixels.com shop is a welcomed chance to support a critical mission.
The move also supports and demonstrates a long-held contention that art in and of itself is innately functional in many important ways. This time it is proving useful in the fight to help flatten the coronavirus curve long enough for scientists and doctors to come up with a vaccine and/or cure. The opportunity to contribute to those efforts would naturally mean a lot to someone for whom creative artistry and civic activism have often gone hand in hand.
What’s Beauty Got to Do With It?
After making the decision to commit some of my visual works for use as mask designs, I thought at first only the newest images created for the Confronting COVID-19 collection would be suitable for face mask designs. Some of these had already sold in other formats. Then someone pointed out how any number of my Silk-Featherbrush paintings could be customized for the same purpose. Customers themselves retain the ability to customize the mask by adjusting the image size and specific area of the artwork they would like printed on the mask.
Beauty, the inner variety as well as the outer, inspires determined effort and determined effort often makes all the difference between an operation’s failure or success. Art’s therapeutic effect to help relieve stress and heal trauma is well known. It can provide, as I have always hoped is the case with ELEMENTAL, the Power of Illuminated Love, a more creative life-affirming response to conflicts between nations or individuals. It can replace inertia with energy and transform a sense of hopelessness, such as that which so many are experiencing these days, into one of inspired resilience.
Harlem Renaissance Centennial
Last month (May 2019) the editors of Excellence Reporter, a website based in France, asked me to respond to these interview questions: "What makes a compassionate city or community?" and "What is the meaning of life?"
The way my creative instincts work these days, questions of this kind tend to inspire both verbal and visual considerations. Anyone wishing to check out the verbal part provided Excellence Reporter is invited to visit the following pages:
The visual results came in the form of two new works of Silk-Featherbrush art now available at Fine Art America and Pixels.com. The one seen just below is titled Journey towards a Brand New Day, and the other further down is called Battle for the Beauty of the Sun.
Journey towards a Brand New Day is my visual metaphor for engaged citizens around the world taking stands against different forms of social and political injustice while simultaneously celebrating their appreciation of life and each other. They are motivated more by visions of compassion and unity than by political sleights of hand.
Election years, like the one we're in right now (or soon will be as 2020 approaches), tend to come with built-in headaches. But there's also a lot of beauty in the way diverse communities assert themselves to participate in a process where the outcome is usually uncertain. Protests currently taking place in Hong Kong are one form of such expressions.
On this canvas we see waves of determined chromatic lines moving toward a shadowy horizon. Streaks of magenta reflecting against a cobalt blue and indigo sky symbolize emerging potential and hope that sometimes wavers but never completely fades.
The Extraordinary Adventure that Life Is
I see the image here titled Battle for the Beauty of the Sun as representative of resistance to different forms of extremism which increase polarization and encourage violence as a means for resolving conflicts. Although done with a minimalist approach in the Silk-Featherbrush style, it is meant to convey movement toward balance and fulfillment.
In addition to the questions posed by Excellence Reporter, the composition of Battle for the Beauty of the Sun was also heavily influenced by my reading of Asian author Yang Jisheng's Tombstone, the Great Chinese Famine 1958-1962. TOMBSTONE in particular reminded me of some human beings' strange habit of intentionally corrupting or destroying the abundance of beauty which surrounds us on a daily basis. But how fortunate we are that many more employ their energies toward the exact opposite: preserving and creating all that which makes life the extraordinary adventure it is.
Harlem Renaissance Centennial
"Redbird Dreaming about Why Love is Always Important" is a mixed media vertical-formatted work consisting of nature photography, layered oil, digital painting, custom-designed matting, customized framing, and signature Postered Chromatic Poetics digital processing.
This print is the first in the new Redbird Series. The brightness of the colors make it stand apart from succeeding prints and it is also distinct in the series because at this point it is the only vertical portrait-print in the collection. The vertical formatting makes it particularly suitable for t-shirts, posters, bed covers, and greeting cards.
"Redbird Dreaming about Why Love is Always Important" is the official first print (posted August 9, 2018) in the Redbird Series. I started working on the art collection in the summer of 2017 when I spotted a male North American cardinal flitting about the back yard trying to draw the attention of a female. It hung around for several days and sometimes kept still long enough for me to get some interesting shots later used as models in the creation of a mixed media canvas.
This artwork follows up on the visual theme noted in the collage titled "All the Flowers We Meant to Give Each Other." But with a definitive difference. Specifically, the exuberance of the colors in "Redbird Dreaming about Why Love is Always Important," and the playfulness of the title suggests a reconsideration of what individuals and societies consider most important on a daily basis. This print flips the motivation described in "All the Flowers" by celebrating a possibility open to everyone as opposed to mourning its loss after it is too late.
When I look at this artwork in its current form, I am reminded of the late art critic Bertha Husband's description of the style and technique known as "real" painting. In her review of the ELEMENTAL Exhibit then on display at the Jepson Center for the Arts in Savannah, Georgia, she actually excluded from the definition my own fondness for mixed media and growing appreciation of the digital canvas. But what I find applicable from her review and relevant to my experience with this work is Ms. Husband's observation about the artist confronting a blank canvas with just the following:
"...an idea that cannot be expressed in words, and perhaps just a few sketches. The painting is realized in the process of its creation, and the end result can often surprise the painter, himself."
That entire last sentence and the part about being surprised oneself is especially true in the case of Song of Love and Compassion. Believe it or not, it started out as a light sketch for pages containing single words popping up out of a book (I still might try that again). Or maybe just one page containing a quote. In the course of considering things like text fonts and placement, I got so carried away with fusions of colors and lyrical lines until what was supposed to be something more concrete and representational evolved into an abstract celebration of shared humanity. I wasn't just surprised. I was flat-out stunned.
Different people looking at this artwork might tend to see different things. Some may see a mysterious cloaked (possibly winged) figure that appears to be either ascending or descending in a cloud of chromatic light. Others discern something along the lines of space nebulae, a jeweled tapestry, or a simple colorful holiday greeting card. What I see and feel is a small tribute in the form of a visual ode to the ordinary folks of this world who continue to give life invaluable meaning just by treating each other with such tax-free things as kindness, compassion, and mutual respect.
©14 July 2018
Lovers Dancing in the Golden Light of Dawn is one of those pieces I had to force myself to stop working on after years of experimenting with different ideas for it. A number of artists have told me about similar struggles deciding when to quit or whether to "give up" a certain work for sale.
I got started on Lovers Dancing in the Golden Light of Dawn back in April 2016. A lot of U.S. citizens at the time were concerned about unification as an extremely divisive presidential campaign got underway. Thus even though the two figures seen here are confronting each other, they are also celebrating the democratic process of a peaceful transference of power from one political administration to another.
The style chosen for this image was inspired by the painted linocut art of Luther E. Vann published in ELELENTAL, The Power of Illuminated Love, a book he and I created together and published with the assistance of the Telfair Museum of Art. The woodcut images in the book are "The Boudoir" (p. 25), "Washington Park/A Night Out" (p. 48), and "Star People" (p. 71). However, with Lovers Dancing in the Golden Light of Dawn I mixed that particular technique with a layered oil pigment effect.
Early experiments using photographed eagles as models resulted in a single silhouetted figure that was featured in my poster titled How to Hear Each Other. At the same time that I doubled the figures to underscore the significance of balanced relationships, I decreased their physical density. This was done to emphasize the feelings of emotional or spiritual connectedness some people say they experience when committed to consciously practicing love and compassion as an antidote to the damage caused by hate groups.
The final sections of the sound waves in the upper left quadrant, the waves of metallic teal light in the right, and the entire bottom section of the sparkling green river and shadowed banks took months to design and apply. The creation of the gold frame is a developing story in itself and is another one of my attempts to employ frames which supplement the narrative of the portrait or landscape.
Flowers and Wings for Her Years and Tears was almost titled Roses and Wings for Caring and Giving because of the subject which inspired it. Elderly matriarchs in most large southern families in America have traditionally been taken care of by younger female relatives when the time for such attentiveness came. The situation was different in the case of this family portrait. The matriarch seen seated in the lower left corner was looked after by an adult son, standing behind her.
More and more people around the world are coping with the issue of caring for the elderly as different countries' populations age. Depending on the culture, some see the challenge as a burden while others view it as a blessing or ennobling responsibility.
The flowers in this instance represent an accumulation of the woman's grace over the years and also the gifts of wisdom and patience that make caring for each other possible. On the woman's dress is a glowing winged figure carrying a yellow rose but the figure itself appears empty on the inside. This emptiness is symbolic of the loneliness from which many elders (and Millennials for that matter) tend to suffer on our planet even though we number in the billions with individual mega-cities containing populations of more than 15 million. Moving toward the woman to help alleviate the pain of loneliness is another winged figure bearing light and carrying a rose to fill the painful hollow void. The caregiver benefits as much from this exchange of beauty and intentional compassion as the one receiving care.
I wanted a frame for this print that would function as an extension of the artistic theme and of the portrait itself, so worked to construct one of gold-embossed flowers to do exactly that. Felt humbled by the surprising results.
The abstract print Cultural Literacy for Lovers & Dreamers Number 1 along with its corresponding piece, Cultural Literacy for Lovers & Dreamers Number 2, was created out of recognition of the millions of people currently #seeking relief from war, starvation, terrorism, gun violence, drug addiction, & various forms of intense struggles in the world.
The concept of cultural literacy has become an important one as #immigrants attempt to #assimilate into new #communities across the globe. It has also increased in significance as diverse demographic groups--like #Women, Latinos, LGBTQ, #Asians, Middle Easterners--within various countries have begun exercise considerable political power and social influence.
The symbols of opposition in the #painting see here are easily apparent but these are not what ultimately define it. The discerning #viewer will also notice harmonizing forces attempting actions which ultimately result in mutually-beneficial unions. It is a visual representation of one of those strange things about human beings wherein we somehow often manage to extract out of our individual and collective suffering different kinds of #beauty: such as #love, compassion, & yes, art.
My hope is that all the abstract works in this gallery containing this image reflect some of our capacity for transforming grief and horror into inspiration, healing, and love.
Providers of some friendly feedback regarding the first two posters in my Official Dare to Love Yourself Series suggested that, for their specific tastes, the images were "pretty but kind'a tame." I heard them well enough and for this third edition in the series kept the basic visual formula while upping the ante on the color-impact factor. The rationale behind critiques seemed to center on the idea that love in all its forms should exhibit energetic sustainability. (Honestly not sure what was meant by that but giving it my best shot.)
I have posted about the origins of this quote here at Fine Art America, my Bright Skylark Literary Productions website, and on different social media. It has been famously tweeted by folks like David Bowie's widow Iman, and actor and rapper LL Cool J. For those who missed previous posts, here is a little background info taken from my book, Journey through the Power of the Rainbow:
"It came from the poem 'Angel of Healing: for the Living, the Dying, and the Praying.' A kind of rainbow-striped light bulb went off in my head as I noted the poem was part of the original Songs of the Angelic Gaze series written in 2006 during what I have come to call the summer of the angels...That particular haiku stanza [Dare to love yourself/ as if you were a rainbow/ with gold at both ends.], I had hoped, would speak some faith into the hearts of the 33,300 young, old, and in-between cross-cultural individuals in the United States alone on their way to committing suicide; and to the 20 million, according to the World Health Organization, throughout the Global Village who attempted suicide every year.
"Whether naïve on my part or not, it seemed worth taking the time to try to convince others that their lives possessed beauty and meaning worth preserving and honoring. I had hoped too that these lines might help persuade those silently combusting inside suppressed rage and muted disappointments to express their painful frustration in ways other than mass murder. If they could recognize and celebrate value within themselves, then perhaps they could allow the same in regard to those upon whom they projected their own self-loathing and sense of worthlessness." (from Journey through the Power of the Rainbow)
© July 2018
The current celebration of the 10th anniversary of ELEMENTAL, The Power of Illuminated Love, continues this week with the posting of two new print images: Portrait of the Poet as an Angel Drunk on Love, and, Black When Haitians Were Heroes in America (first in a series of 4).
The beautiful irony of this part of the celebration is that for the original ELEMENTAL book and museum project sponsored by the Telfair Museum of Art in Savannah, Georgia, my contribution consisted of poetry and essays. For this 10th anniversary celebration, following the passing in 2016 of my co-creator, Luther E. Vann, on the original work, I am now producing visual and literary art.
In addition to commemorating the anniversary of ELEMENTAL, I like to think the new images on Fine Art America also pay some small tribute to the creative vision manifested in Vann's work. That would, in addition, mean acknowledging the exemplary labors of such Harlem Renaissance artists as Romare Bearden and Beauford Delaney.
You can check out both new images by clicking on the link. The extended descriptions of each can give you some idea of what inspired the titles and creation of the images themselves.
May 11th, 2018
I have received a lot of encouragement from the great community at Fine Art America since joining a couple of months ago and today was notified about my first sale. It is for of a pack of Official Chromatic Poetics greeting cards titled “Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge The Morning After Hurricane Matthew No. 2.”
Have to admit to being very moved by the sale of this particular image because the black and white composition was inspired by the work of my late great friend photographer Jack Leigh.
With hurricane season now fully upon us, this particular image along with the artwork titled “The Hurricane and the Confederate Monuments” make good reminders to plan ahead for possible catastrophic weather conditions. The link is to the Talmadge Bridge image that sold.
Award-winning author and artist acclaimed for works in multiple creative genres.