I am sure by now you've all seen the unveiling of the Barak & Michelle Obama's portraits that they commissioned from world famous Kehinde Wiley & Amy Sherald. As I watched the interviews of the artists yesterday I had a flash back to a conversation I had with a painting professor my university days. His name slips my mind but I never forgot what he said. He told me that Fine Art was the "last frontier" for black people in North America. Now being from Jamaica where I was never a visible minority (race or gender) many of the isms that minorities who where born in North America face had never been an issue for me. It wasn't until I moved to Canada for my post secondary education that I encounter some of those isms.
Ok I digress...... back to that professors conversation. He began to explain the many issues and isms that I would face with as a black woman in Fine Art & Design living in North America. He talked about how people of African decent was not seen in the same intellectual light as other fine artists. He also listed many of the well known African American artist where just well known as "African American" artist.
I remember leaving his class room feeling really depressed and disappointed it also made me realize why I was the only black person in 97% of my art classes. I was also really grateful and happy that I was from Jamaica where I didn't feel bogged down with other peoples baggage.
With that being said I've always been a hopeful optimist in a realistic sort of way. So am much as he gave me a dose of his reality I always hoped that things would be different when I was done doing my thing and it was for me. The thing is, I moved back to Jamaica after school and at that time that was my saving grace.
Fast forward to me being back in North America, I noticed some of those issues that professor had told me about still being played out today. Although there has been some change that change has been slow until now.
Today, the day after the unveiling there is a new twist on an old conversation I am once again hopeful & proud. The works of Kehinde Wiley & Amy Sherald speaks volumes in more ways than one! Just look at the past portraits the style in which they were painted the emotion they once wanted to evoke. What the Obamas did is a refreshing change especially now that we are living in what I call the " Us & Them" period in time. For me this unveiling is especially important to all the hopeful budding artist out there that there is a place for them.
Now all I can hope is that some of that positive ebb and flow moves north.
Happy Tuesday everyone!