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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Void in Art

For the last couple of months I’ve been assisting an old high school buddy with taking his art career to the next level. Given that I’ve grown into a social media junkie, I’m also consulting on his social media presence and how to polish up his personal brand and message.

Shades by DWats
No, I’m not an art curator, nor an art expert, but I did take plenty of art history classes in college which taught me how to appreciate the art scene. But, before I could help my friend I had to educate myself on what the art world is all about, specifically the African American art scene. The ultimate goal is to get his work into notable art galleries and in front of the eyes of perspective collectors. Yes, Shades is by DWats. 

Given that I love to read and research, I decided to head to Barnes & Nobles to pick up a couple of books on African American artists. I was surprised that I couldn’t find one book on the topic in B&N’s art section. They probably just sold out…besides I only went to one B&N. 

I then turned to Google and entered the keywords African American artists. This is where I found out about Black Art in America and the Harlem Fine Arts Show. It’s a shame that these are the only two organizations that I found that really does a superb job in representing Black artists throughout the United States. If you know of any others please let me know.

Black Art in America has a great Facebook fan page. The works they post are absolutely breathtaking, inspiring, and it is also a great tool for me to learn more about the art scene in the African American community. The Harlem Fine Arts Show also gave me great insight into well-known and emerging artists in the Black community.

Nevertheless, I knew it was going to take a lot more than just searching for books and scanning the internet to understand the dynamics of the art world.  So I decided to volunteer my time at this year’s fifth annual Harlem Fine Arts Show by writing up a couple of pieces for their website. I figure this will help me kill several birds with one stone by learning, networking and getting to admire fine art in the African American community.

The HFAS starts at 6pm on Jan. 30, 2014 at the Riverside Church in Harlem and runs through February 2. To set things in motion there will be a fundraiser for the Harlem School of the Arts. Art enthusiasts had an opportunity to get a sneak peek of works that will be on display and for sale during the preview reception, which was held on January 23, at the New York Times building in the heart of NYC. That was my first night volunteering and I got to admire fabulous pieces of art from new and distinguished artists.

[Lailah Greene (right)]
(Art by Synthia Saint James)
Synthia Saint James wasn’t physically in attendance but her paintings made an appearance. I’ll admit, at first I couldn’t place her name to her art work but then Saint James’s east coast representative and framer, Lailah Greene, was able to fill me in.

Saint James' works appeared on the set of The Cosby Show sitcom; the WB Television network sitcom Steve Harvey Show; reality television series Raising Whitley, which is currently on the Oprah Winfrey Network; and the cover art for Terry McMillan's book Waiting to Exhale.

As you can probably imagine Saint James' work is well known and respected within the African American community, but I later learned that she actually refers to herself as a multicultural artist. "I've always identified myself as a woman of color," she explained to me during a phone conversation from her Los Angeles home. Yes, Ms. Greene was kind enough to get the first lady of multicultural art on the phone for me. I was ecstatic! 

One of the topics I brought up with Saint James was the lack of exposure of multicultural artists throughout the United States. She said it really depends on where you live. Saint James, who has family in Harlem and also lived in Brooklyn, N.Y., said New Yorkers have a better opportunity to be exposed to art through theater, the opera, museums, art galleries and exhibits throughout the city.
(Art by Bernard Stanley Hoyes)

"We don't take a big interest," added Greene who also noticed the void. She explained that as a culture a vast part of the African American community isn't getting out and heading to the art shows, galleries, the ballet, etc. I agree with Greene. From my point of view, people of color are making an impact but they still have a long way to go on their own journey into the pristine art world.

Renowned artist, Bernard Stanley Hoyes, is also selling his work at the HFAS. "My work is about finding that vortex," Hoyes explained to an attendee during the preview reception. "I've been working at this for a longtime." I plan on sitting down with Hoyes during the show to get a little deeper insight into how he got into art scene. I believe he’ll be able to give me his side of why there is such a huge void in the Black art scene. 
I had the opportunity to spend some time with Arcmanoro Niles, a newcomer to HFAS. Buyers got an exclusive look into some of his paintings including Infinite Regression - an oil on canvas painting of his grandfather who was "dying from cancer."
(Art by Arcmanoro Niles)
The 24 year old artist has already made a name for himself and advises that others who are trying to make a name for themselves should keep pushing forward. "Focus and the universe will make it happen." Maybe I should pick his brain on what he thinks about the void in the African American art scene.
The four day show will have lecture series, networking events, exhibitions along with a list of other events. If you’re in the tri-state area and interested in attending the show: visit Or you can keep an artistic eye out for future posts from yours truly. Hope I can figure out how to fill the void in the African American art world. Wish me luck.
Tweet me with any suggestions @TCsViews

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