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
As the title indicates, this mixed media text edition of "Climate Change Is Not Fake News" is meant to function primarily as a poster. It is a very different work visually from the first non-text edition on a number of points easily apparent when comparing the two.
Debates get underway every day about the severity of climate change, or global warming, in the modern era and hopefully some will find this work useful. Is climate change real or is it just fake news which media uses to stir up drama and boost ratings?
Some claim we are experiencing a period of increased planetary warming as part of a natural pattern of changes in the Earth's atmosphere. Others say we are experiencing the direct impact of human disregard for the environment. This, they say, has brought us close to a "tipping point" likely to have increasingly catastrophic results. The divisions are so clear-cut that one U.S. presidential administration (Barack Obama's) readily signed up for the historic 2015 Paris Agreement on global warming. But the next administration (Donald Trump's) just as quickly nullified U.S. participation in the program set to begin in 2020.
No matter which side of the debates you stand on, video footage of huge shelves of ice breaking off from the Antarctic, raging fires devouring communities in California (56 currently nationwide), heatwaves causing Europeans to faint in the streets, and horrific floods in India and elsewhere are unsettling. Therefore, they are forcing more and more dialogues on the subject.
Personally, I would prefer to err on the side of overly-cautious preventive measures rather than apathy or negligence. The Earth most likely can survive and continue evolving beyond human-induced anomalies. The real important question might be can we survive such indifference ourselves?
"Climate Change Is Not Fake News FIRST EDITION" is mixed media horizontal landscape-formatted artwork consisting of urbanscape photography, layered oil, digital painting, custom-designed matting, customized framing, and signature Postered Chromatic Poetics digital processing.
This print is the first of a pair examining public narratives pertaining to how reports on climate change are perceived and interpreted. The colors at the center of the image reflect those which have dominated 2018 reports on global warming. The large formatting of this artwork makes it an ideal choice for filling an open wall area.
Have We Reached a Tipping Point?
Some claim we are experiencing a period of increased warming as part of a natural pattern of changes in the Earth's atmosphere. Others say we are experiencing the direct impact of human disregard for the environment. This, they say, has brought us close to a "tipping point" likely to have increasingly catastrophic results.
The divisions are so clear-cut that one U.S. presidential administration (Barack Obama's) readily signed up for the historic 2015 Paris Agreement on global warming. But the next administration (Donald Trump's) just as quickly nullified U.S. participation in the program set to begin in 2020.
No matter which side of the debate you stand on, video footage of huge shelves of ice breaking off from the Antarctic, raging fires devouring communities in California, heatwaves causing Europeans to faint in the streets, and horrific rainstorms in India and elsewhere are unsettling. Therefore, they are forcing more and more dialogues on the subject.
Aug 21, 2018
"All the Flowers We Meant to Give Each Other" is a collage of photography, watercolor, digital painting, custom-designed matting, customized framing, and signature Postered Chromatic Poetics digital processing. As the title implies, it is work inspired by very personal circumstances to which many can likely relate.
How We Practice Compassion
In 2017 I was doing research on how people practice compassion on a daily basis when I came across a website filled with individuals expressing grief after losing someone to the opioid crisis. That was about the time Americans discovered just how bad it was, and is, after seeing the number of deaths caused by it jump from 33,000 in 2015 to 44,000 in 2016. I empathized with those grieving on the website because I had seen how different forms of drug addiction decimated the community where I was raised. What I did not consider at the time was the possibility that 12 months later my family would experience the loss of a niece to social crises numerous families are facing.
I had not seen my niece--actually grand-niece--in a decade. She nevertheless was someone I often thought about because I used to babysit her while her grandmother went to work in a hospital emergency room in southern Florida, and the aunt raising her had not yet gotten off work. Her biological parents were both struggling with the kind of issues that would later impair her life.
I had recently separated from the Air Force and was completing a book project, so would sit her bassinet beside me as I typed. When taking a break, I would carry her outside and pray out loud for her as we walked around a mango tree. The praying came naturally because it was obvious to me that despite all the good loving people surrounding her, she was going to have some serious challenges on her hands once she grew up. And she did.
Hard drugs play their part in destroying lives but I have been forced to wonder about the role played by our daily choice of priorities. Such as maintaining engaged connections with those we say we love versus becoming so involved in individual ambitions that the word "love" loses any relevancy. While I do not hold myself responsible for my niece's death, I am holding myself accountable for having been totally unaware of how difficult daily life had become for her. Therefore, this work of art titled "All the Flowers We Meant to Give Each Other" is dedicated in honor of her and the many people struggling to come to grips with a hellish epidemic that can be stopped.
The word "We" is used in the title out of recognition that even though drug addiction is recognized as an illness, drug addicts themselves have to gain the will and strength to fight for both their lives and the lives of those trying to help them. Making it a point to empower each other is the only way anybody wins.
"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.
"Redbird Sifting Beauty out of Ashes" is the second print in the Redbird Series and my homage to those battling California's historic wildfires of 2018. . It is a landscape-formatted artwork consisting of nature photography, layered oil, digital painting, custom-designed matting, customized framing, and signature Postered Chromatic Poetics digital processing.
The balanced light and dark hues, with colors appearing to emerge from smoky shadows, framed by shades of gold, teal, and rust make it easy to imagine the cardinal at the center of this work surrounded by danger as well as inspired beauty. The landscape formatting make this art particularly desirable for either large wall canvases or smaller purchases like cups and cards, from which a substantial percentage of the proceeds will go toward support for survivors of the California wildfires.
Whether it's because I lived in California for a number of years or because the magnitude of the blazing destruction taking place there at present is so overwhelming, "Redbird Sifting Beauty out of Ashes" is my tribute to those caught up in the 2018 inferno. As horrendous as it is, so many are rising to the challenge of surviving, continuing to fight the monstrous flames, and somehow rebuilding shattered lives.
Yet at the same time that I find myself so deeply moved by the devastation taking place in California, I realize we are living in an era when different kinds of "natural" and man-made disasters are forcing many people to start all over again all over the world. "Redbird Sifting Beauty out of Ashes" is a visualized hope they all find the strength, faith, determination, and support needed to succeed.
I'm not sure how to go about it at this point but am looking for ways to donate a sizable percentage of sales from this work to relief funds for people coping with the wildfires. If anyone has any suggestions I would appreciate receiving them via either message here or in the comments section.
The Harlem Renaissance is celebrated around the world as one of the most important cultural and political periods in African-American and American history. Next year, 2019, celebrations will get underway to mark the 100th anniversary of the Renaissance.
You might say that I started my own celebration of the Harlem Renaissance Centennial with the publication of both Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance (2003 and 2010), and The Wisdom of W.E.B. Du Bois (new eBook edition due out July 31, 2018) followed by launch of the 100th Anniversary of the HR Initiative in 2011. It was probably inevitable once I started producing images that I would tackle tributes in this medium as well. But my aim is not just to salute the past. It is to help safeguard an irreplaceable legacy by adding contributions which hopefully will inspire modern sensibilities to learn more about it and join in on celebrations of the centennial. So please: accept this as YOUR INVITATION.
Many tend to identify the highlight of the Harlem Renaissance as a period lasting from 1919-1929 with events centered primarily in Harlem, New York, USA. But when studying the continued productivity of artists and writers associated with the era, and looking at "spin-offs" that took place in different American cities, it becomes obvious that the 20s were only the beginning of a movement which adapted and evolved for at least two more decades.
The artists of the Harlem Renaissance were essential to American history because their works formed a significant psychological bridge which made it possible for African-Americans and Americans in general to make the difficult transition from the cultures of slavery, reconstruction, and neo-slavery to the progressive social actions of later decades.
Among the most celebrated of these artists were: Aaron Douglas, Lois Mailou Jones, Augusta Savage, Jacob Armstead Lawrence, Elizabeth Catlett, Romare Beardon, and numerous others. Their work, like that of literary counterparts such as Claude McKay and Dorothy West, often struck a fine balance between political propaganda and individual expression.
One of the most important gifts contributors to the Harlem Renaissance gave the world was an enduring strategy for refining the practice of democracy. They painted, sculpted, wrote, danced, sang, marched, taught, and kept striving at a time when Blacks were routinely lynched for not appearing subservient enough, or, for posing what was perceived of as an economic threat. Their everyday courage and commitment to creative civilized responses to sanctioned brutality was remarkable.
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.
Award-winning author and artist acclaimed for works in multiple creative genres.