Black History Told through Art
For starters, I hope you, your families and those you love are well.
The name of my art show is Back Then. It is an extension of my 2019 body of work and refers to my discovery of Oberlin Village, NC, the inspiration for this exhibit. I am pleased to be able to bring it to you despite the challenges of Covid-19.
Oberlin Village was a freedmen’s community founded in Raleigh, NC, after the Civil War by formerly enslaved blacks, including some of my ancestors. The community flourished through the 1950s but was dismantled by urban renewal and the depression, two major traumas that made it harder for black families to survive there. Gradually, people moved north and west as part of the Great Migration. The Oberlin Village community emphasized land ownership and education. More doctors, lawyers, artists, educators, and good solid people doing everyday work lived there and made “a way from no way” as the old folks would say.
I recently learned of Oberlin Village through a connection to Preservation North Carolina. They acquired my great grandparents’ home, titled Oakcrest. It has now become part of the PNC headquarters as they strive to preserve the structures and homes that were vital to the community. Through their curiosity and mine we have piece together an amazing history.
My paintings are based on photographs taken at the turn of the 20th century that capture the spirit of the black community that excelled there. Featured within the exhibit are portraits of people with connections to Oberlin Village. From an artistic perspective, the exhibit contains images and figures influenced by gestural style, using a variety of media such as pencil, pen, ink, watercolor, and acrylic. Among my work you will see people who persisted in the face of challenges and thrived despite Black Codes, race discrimination, Jim Crow and more. They went on to break barriers in several areas. My hope is that these images will be both a lesson and an inspiration for all of us today.
Bon Voyage II, watercolor, mixed media on paper, 20 x 30, painted from photo circa 1952 send off to Paris, 2019, $950
Founders Day, watercolor, mixed media on canvas board, 16×12, Inspired by a photo of my Aunt Mildred and friends presumed to be at Founders Day, 2020, $600
Fire Place, watercolor, mixed media on paper, 24×18, inspired by photo of my Uncle Willis and his wife, 2020, $850
Brothers, watercolor, mixed media on paper, 24×18, painted from a photo, 2020, $800
Graves, watercolor, mixed media on paper, 24×18, Willis Graves (Uncle Bill) was an accomplished attorney in Detroit, MI, and his law firm specialized in restrictive covenant cases that prohibited sales of property based on race and religion. He lost at the state level many times but one case, Sipes v. McGhee, was appealed to the US Supreme Court and argued by Thurgood Marshall as part of the Shelley v. Kramer trilogy that ruled restrictive covenants in deeds and leases were illegal, 2020, $850
Graves Gothic, watercolor, mixed media on paper, 14×11, inspired by Viney Graves Farrar, my great great grandmother, who owned property in Oberlin Village, NC, and was one of the founding members of the community. She owned property and won a lawsuit in the late 1880s that established priorities in bankruptcy, 2019, $600
Pals, watercolor, mixed media on paper, 24×18, inspired by a photo of my mom in orange and her Oberlin Village girlfriends circa 1930s, 2020, $850
Pandemic 1918? 2020? , watercolor, mixed media on canvas board, 16×12, Inspired by a photograph of two women during the pandemic of 1918, 2020, $600
Porch III, watercolor, mixed media on paper, 24×18, One of several in the Porch series, inspired by a photograph, 2019, $850
Porch Welcome (Blue & Green), watercolor, mixed media on paper, 14×11, One of several in the Porch series, inspired by a photograph. “Oakcrest” in the background is the name of the Graves House, 2019, $600
PPE, watercolor, pencil, on paper, 14×11, PPE mask added to a drawing, 2020, $600
Watercolor, mixed media on canvas board, 12×16, Inspired by a photo of my aunts and a cousin dressed in Sunday best, 2020, $700
Three Bright Coats, watercolor, mixed media on paper, 14×11, Inspired by a photo of my aunts and a cousin dressed in Sunday best, 2020, $600
Porch (Pink & Yellow), watercolor, mixed media on paper, 14×11, One of several in the Porch series, inspired by a photograph. “Oakcrest” in the background is the name of the Graves House, 2020, $600