I am never sure what will be the subject of my next painting. Sometimes I have a few images taped on my wall that I think may be possibilities.
But until I strip the wrapping off a new canvas, I am never really sure what my next painting might be. These photos are from the gardens surrounding the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC.
The inspiration for “Brown and White” came from this same visit to the Hirshhorn this past March, but from inside the galleries.
I hadn’t been to this museum in over a decade and had forgotten how much great sculpture there was.
When I came across “Lick & Lather” (1993-94), a twin piece by Bahamian sculptor Janine Antoni, I was fascinated. The brown bust is made from chocolate, and Antoni, known also as a performance artist, cast the piece and then licked the details and refinements in to the chocolate self-portrait.
For “lather”, she cast herself in soap, and then actually submerged the bust in a tub of water with herself and lathered the details in to shape. Fascinating.
When I saw the two pieces I immediately went to the wall to the left to read about the work. Following me, a well dressed middle-aged black gentleman did the same thing, trying to identify what the pieces were all about. Part of the explanation for the pieces talks about our love-hate relationship with physical appearance.
Several weeks later, the riots broke out in Baltimore over the death of a young black man while in police custody. It was one of several incidents that had been very troubling this year involving police misconduct against black individuals. I started thinking about the issue of race in this country, something that I have pondered more and more often in the last decade. Having lived in the Caribbean in a West Indian society had made me even more conscious of the differences and challenges of race in our country.
And of course, now that I live in the southern part of the United States where the issue of race is never far from the surface, I have pondered it even more.
All of a sudden, the photo I had taken back in March 2015 at the Hirrshorn had a new impact for me.
I chose it as reference to do “Brown and White” as my next painting. The color palate and simplicity of composition spoke to me as strongly as the underlying message. It was March when I saw the museum reference…the world was still brown and white, struggling to come out of winter in Washington.
Somehow, everything just seemed to be obvious for the painting.
“Brown and White”, 30 x 24″, oil on linen.