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This journal is a creative outlet of all the things Kali Brown loves, from fashion, diy's, art, museum galleries to even food.  I am not a professional blogger and the things I share are my sole opinion. Enjoy my creative voyage!

Filtering by Tag: Black Artist

Black History Art: Gordon Parks

Kali Abdullah

Invisible Man, 1952. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Invisible Man, 1952. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Growing up I spent my summers in North Carolina with my grandparents.   My grandfather was the original budding photographer in our family, he had a variety of different cameras and the whole art fascinated me.  I was around seven when he gave me my first camera and that is the officially moment that I fell in love with photography and decided it would be a part of my career.  Though my family fully supported my creative process, society and grade schools made the decision to be an artist or a photographer as a profession a form of failure because the arts was not considered “a real job” or a successful source of income.  Then I learned about a self-taught artist who turned a fascination into a life long career. Gordon Parks is the reason I decided to embrace my love of the arts and pursue photography in college.

Gordon Parks (born November 30, 1912) is what I would consider a renaissance man.  He was a musician, writer, and film director, but was most celebrated for being a photographer documenting many of the most important aspects of American culture ranging from issues of civil rights and poverty in the African-American community to glamour and fashion.

Department Store, Birmingham, Alabama , 1956. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Department Store, Birmingham, Alabama, 1956. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Born in Fort Scott, Kansas, Parks left home at the age of 15 after the death of his mother. He lived with relatives for a short time before setting off on his own, taking whatever odd jobs he could find. At the age of 25, while working as a waiter in a railroad dining car, he began seeing the portfolios of portraits in magazines and decided to become a photographer.  He purchased his first camera at a pawnshop and started a portrait business in Chicago.

Gordon Parks became the first African-American photographer for Life and Vogue magazines. He also pursued movie directing and screenwriting and was the first African-American to produce and direct major motion pictures. He developed films relating the experience of slaves and struggling black Americans, such as The Learning Tree and created the "blaxploitation” genre which produced Shaft.

American Gothic, Washington DC. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

American Gothic, Washington DC. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

He is best remembered for his iconic photos of poor low-income Americans during the 1940s taken during his fellowship with the Farm Security Administration (FSA).  Parks created some of his most enduring photographs during this fellowship, including one of his best-known photographs, American Gothic, Washington, D.C.  Parks striking photograph shows a black woman, Ella Watson, who worked on the cleaning crew of the FSA building, standing stiffly in front of an American flag hanging on the wall, a broom in one hand and a mop in the background. Parks had been inspired to create the image after encountering racism repeatedly in restaurants and shops in the segregated capital city.
 
When the FSA job ended he became a freelance photographer for Vogue. Parks worked for Vogue for a number of years, developing a distinctive style that emphasized the look of models and garments in motion, rather than in static poses.

Long Haired Fur. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Long Haired Fur. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Eartha Kitt 1952.  Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Eartha Kitt 1952.  Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Relocating to Harlem, Parks continued to document city images and characters while working in the fashion industry. His 1948 photographic essay on a Harlem gang leader won him widespread acclaim and a position as the first African American staff photographer and writer for LIFE magazine, at the time the nation's most prominent and highest-circulation photographic publication in the world. Parks held this position for 20 years, producing photographs on subjects including fashion, sports, and entertainment as well as poverty and racial segregation. He took memorable portraits of African-American celebrities, politicians, and leaders, including Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, Adam Clayton Powell, and Muhammad Ali.  In the 1970s, Parks served as the editorial director during the first three years of Essence Magazine’s circulation.

Harlem Gang Leader. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Harlem Gang Leader. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Muhammad Ali.  Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Muhammad Ali.  Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

(l to r)  Ethel Shariff in Chicago , 1963;  Evening Prayer, Muslim Father and Son , New York, 1946. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

(l to r) Ethel Shariff in Chicago, 1963; Evening Prayer, Muslim Father and Son, New York, 1946. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Many of Parks photos capture the essence of activism and humanitarianism in the mid-twentieth century America and have become iconic images, defining their era for later generations. They also rallied support for the emerging Civil Rights Movement, for which Parks himself was a tireless advocate as well as a documentarian.

Gordon Parks

Gordon Parks

I had the opportunity to meet Gordon Parks my junior year of college when he came to speak at my school Pratt.  It was a full circle moment in my life.  He was an active photographer until his death on March 7, 2006, at the age of 93. Parks spent his life expanding his style, a style that would make him one of the most celebrated photographers of his age. He broke the color line in professional photography while creating remarkably expressive images that consistently explored the social and economic impact of racism.  He will always be a legend and one of my all time favorite artist.

Black History Art: Kerry James Marshall

Kali Abdullah

Portrait of a Curator (In Memory of Beryl Wright)

Portrait of a Curator (In Memory of Beryl Wright)

Kerry James Marshall (born October 17, 1955) is an American artist who uses painting, sculptural installations, collage, video, and photography to comment on the history of black identity both in the United States and in Western art. I was recently introduce to his work while doing research for a project.  He is well known for paintings that focus on black subjects historically excluded from the artistic canon, and has explored issues of race and history through imagery ranging from abstraction to comics. As he describes, his work is rooted in his life experience: “You can’t be born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1955 and grow up in South Central [Los Angeles] near the Black Panthers headquarters, and not feel like you’ve got some kind of social responsibility. You can’t move to Watts in 1963 and not speak about it.”

De Style

De Style

Strongly influenced by his experiences as a young man, he developed a signature style during his early years as an artist that involved the use of extremely dark, essentially black figures. These images represent his perspective of African-Americans with separate and distinct inner and outer appearances. At the same time, they confront racial stereotypes within contemporary American society. This common theme appeared continuously in his large-scale painting throughout the subsequent decades, especially in the 1980s and 1990s.

(l) Untitled, (r) Handsome Young Man

(l) Untitled, (r) Handsome Young Man

Some of Marshall’s notable works include the Garden Project, which critiques the glorified names of housing projects that conceal desperate poverty and the Lost Boys series about young men killed or abandoned by various social systems. This collection was semi inspired by an autobiographical situation where Marshall’s  youngest brother was incarcerated for seven years.  Marshal says it’s about “the concept of being lost: lost in America, lost in the ghetto, lost in public housing, lost in joblessness, and lost in illiteracy. And all of those things sort of changed...all of those things kind of came together with the fact that my own brother now seemed to be one of those lost.

Untitled (Altgeld Gardens)

Untitled (Altgeld Gardens)

Lost Boys: AKA Black Johnny

Lost Boys: AKA Black Johnny

Marshall explored the concept of black beauty in contrast to Western ideals with paintings where a nude female figure, literally blends into her dark surroundings, her sensuous shape barely discernible. Yet once the viewer looks closely, her curvaceous figure evokes a womanly power only enhanced by the deep black of her skin. As Marshall admits, he himself “‘had not considered that a black woman could be considered a goddess of love and beauty,’” but with his painting he proves its possibility. He challenges the classic perception of a goddess as only a Caucasian woman with long flowing hair, speaking again to the issue of African American identity in the Western world.

Small Pin Up Finger Wag

Small Pin Up Finger Wag

Beach Towel

Beach Towel

Marshall studied in Los Angeles with acclaimed social realist painter Charles White and participated in the residency program at the Studio Museum in Harlem. He has received solo exhibitions throughout Europe and North America and his work has been included in prestigious international exhibitions.  His paintings are in private collections and foundations as well as major public collections including the MCA’s.

Kerry James Marshall

Kerry James Marshall

Kerry James Marshall now lives in Chicago, where he previously taught at the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is a 1978 graduate of Otis College of Art and Design.

Black History Art: Aaron Douglas

Kali Abdullah

The Creation, by Aaron Douglas

The Creation, by Aaron Douglas

Aaron Douglas (born May 26, 1899) was an African-American painter, illustrator and graphic artist who played a leading role in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s.

Douglas had a unique artistic style that fused his interests in modernism and African art. His best-known paintings are semi-abstract, and feature flat forms, hard edges, and repetitive geometric shapes. Bands of color radiate from the important objects in each painting, and where these bands intersect with other bands or other objects, the color changes.  A student of German-born painter Winold Reiss, he incorporated parts of Art Deco along with elements of ancient Egyptian wall paintings in his work. Many of his figures appeared as bold silhouettes.

  (l) Into Bondage (1936), (r) Aspirations (1936), Aaron Douglas

  (l) Into Bondage (1936), (r) Aspirations (1936), Aaron Douglas

Douglas contributed illustrations to Opportunity, the National Urban League's magazine, and to The Crisis, put out by the NAACP.  These were the two most important magazines associated with the Harlem Renaissance at the time.  He created powerful images of African-American life and struggles, and won awards for the work he created for these publications. His designs brought him to the attention of W.E.B. Du Bois and Dr. Alain Locke who were looking for young African American artists to express their African heritage and African American folk culture in their art.  He ultimately received a commission to illustrate an anthology of philosopher Locke's work, entitled The New Negro.

Aaron Douglas - Fire.jpg

By 1939, Douglas started teaching at Fisk University, where he remained for the next 27 years.

Aaron Douglas was considered the "Father of African American arts." That title led him to say," Do not call me the Father of African American Arts, for I am just a son of Africa, and paint for what inspires me."

His striking illustrations, murals, and paintings of the life and history of people of color depict an emerging black American individuality in a powerfully personal way. Douglas linked black Americans with their African past and proudly showed black contributions to society decades before the dawn of the civil rights movement. His work made a lasting impression on future generations of black artists including myself (he is one of my favorites).

David C. Driskell, artist and a leading educator and scholar of African American art said, "At a time when it was unpopular to dignify the black image in white America, Douglas refused to compromise and see blacks as anything less than a proud and majestic people."

Douglas died in February 1979 in Nashville, at the age of 79

Black History Art

Kali Abdullah

Black History Artist.jpg

Today begins Black History Month and I have decided to share some of my favorite black visual artist throughout the month.  These artist will range from illustrators, painter and even photographers that I have admired throughout the years.  I am actually really excited for this post/challenge because it allows me to share artist I'm fond of and learn about other artist that may not be as well known.