Artist of the moment….Kerry James Marshall…..

Kerry James Marshall is a well known artist who is known for his paintings of people and the effects of racism. He was born in 1955 in Birmingham, Alabama.

In this clip Marshall talks about growing up in many locales across the United States where race became the number one topic on peoples minds. His family lived in Birmingham, Alabama and he grew up there as a youngster. Then the family moved to Watts, one of the toughest places to live in Los Angeles, known for drugs and gangs. Then the family moved to South Central Los Angeles. The Black Rights movement and Civil Rights movement both had an long lasting effect on the artist towards his views on racism.

For his collegiate education the artist attended the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. Whilst in college Marshall was able to study under the great African-American printmaker Charles White. Below is a great example of Charles White’s  signature style. White was also briefly married to Elizabeth Catlett, the great American born artist who moved to Mexico and became famous for her ability to use art to help change people’s lifes for the better. White was known for several WPA era paintings.

charleswhite

Marshall now lives and works out of Chicago, Illinois.

The artist is very innovative and enjoys painting on unique surfaces such as plexiglass.

Marshall has won the MacArthur genius grant taking the prize in 1997.

In this clip the artist talks about wanting to portray people of color in fine art. It is far more common in modern times that we have many celebrated African American artists such as Mario Robinson, Dean Mitchell, Kehinde Wiley, the Saar family, and Samella Sanders Lewis. Marshall seems to think every people of color were seen as only periphery of the paintings, not the focus.

He is married to the actress Cheryl Lynn Bruce. Bruce has appeared in the television show as “Prison Break.”

For his portrayal of African Americans the artist works with characters that seem to be out of stereotypes that took place during the Jim Crow laws era. He painted people as black similar to coal, rather than shades of darkness. In this manner the artist reminds of Kara Walker. Walker is the famed artist who portrays usually on the silhouette of the people she portrays. Many times Walker plays with feelings of hate and racism that took place in the 1800s. With her samed silhouette style the artist seems to say like Marshall you are either black as coal, or you are not with no middle ground. Below is a wonderful example of Kara Walker’s art and I have written about the artist before.

kwalker1

Also like Kara Walker the artist has even portrayed the transportation of slaves to America in works from the 1990s. He forces to confront their feelings, for the most part negative, about being a person of color in the United States. He even has done paintings questioning if the media finds women of color as desirable as other women.

The theme that I enjoy most about Marshall’s work is his ability for him to accurately portray the amount of style involved in everything that goes with being a person of color. As Marshall says an black person doesn’t walk, you learn to walk with style. EVERYTHING becomes a statement of style and culture and Marshall does a wonderful job portraying that in his artwork.

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