Before going to art school- the only Black visual artists I knew was Jean-Michel Basquiat. I knew his crown work. I knew that he was homeless during the start of his career. I knew his work became more expensive after his early death.
The summer before my first semester at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago I was so blessed to just happen to be going to the Museum of Contemporary art of Chicago during the Kerry James Marshall, Mastry Exhibit! This show featured work from KJM from over the last 35 years and when my eyes touched the work I was awe inspired.
I learned that KJM has Chicago roots from the artist video displayed at the beginning of the exhibit. I read some labels- but mainly I took pictures of the work with my soul-camera.
By the time school started- I had become a Kerry James Marshall Enthusiastic. I went to the MCA to see the the Mastry Exhibit five more times that summer and raved about it to anyone who would listen. I watched his interviews, Googled his paintings and casually worked him into any conversation about art.
I learned about a lot of visual artists as a student. My advisors would talk about Black visuals artists in our sessions and I would take notes and later research the artist and their work. I would also ask all my artist friends to tell me about their very own faves all the time. I started a note in my phone that I would add to whenever someone talked about an artist I hadn’t heard of. I even used to google Black Visual Artist and check out artist books of those artists from my school.
Sune’ Woods is collage goals. I learned about her work via my advisor Ayanah Moor. She was the first non-writing advisor I had and when she asked me about my practice she suggest I do some collages and look at Woods’ collages as a reference. Another advisor, Kamu Patton introduced me to Rashid Johnson’s work when I told him I wanted to make a wall installation for my MFA Show. Fun-Fact: Rashid actually received an Honorary Doctorate from my school during my graduation ceremony.
I knew Kehinde Wiley and Kara Walker by name but when I checks out their artist books from my school I got a deeper understanding of their work respectively.
There is a Queen Sugar episode- season 2 episode 11 to be exact- when a character in the show, KeKe was asked who her artist influences were and she said many of the same artists who had recently become part of my rolodex of knowledge. I felt so cool and in the know. I think it’s important to know about these artists and uplift them by sharing and talking about their work.
So here I am- name dropping and linking you to some of my favorite Black visuals artists in hopes that you will be intrigued. I have found so much inspiration in their work and it’s been a light in my life I love shining on others.
I hope you will Google and research these artists and more! The fine art world was uncharted territory for me two years ago. Art is inaccessible if you don’t know it exists.
In just two short years I have learned the value of taking up space in the Fine Art World I There is space to held and a tradition to continue -- so do you Googles and go to a museum!