Monday, April 24, 2023

406 N Howard/Main Floor Studio


build from things that linger: Collage Construction Fusion

        study] Abstract Art Language [how/why it communicates

                    premise: art has an experiential quality.

Looking is not passive- 

artists creating with intentionality have a  goal: 

readability & intelligibility.

Object making is such that neither artist nor viewer can

see anything that has not been seen before. Meaning

is drawn from the common fund of daily visual enterprise and adventure.

Abstraction references both the artists' memory and the viewers' 

recollection of having seen the same thing. When art shares a common

(idea) (experience) (view) what thet have in common is what the art


Imagine (ideas)

Slipping into Darkness
(poured acrylic, paper pulp, burlap, recycled paper, thread)

Imagine (experience)

Testing The Water
(poured acrylic, paper pulp, burlap, recycled paper, thread)

fusion exercises: 

Dream Vacation

materials: rag paper, vellum scraps with random markings, acrylic

paint a rectangle/square on rag paper then place vellum on wet surface


HellHound on My Tail

materials: rag and tracing paper, acrylic, oil stick

begin as above replacing vellum with tracing paper 

add color by pouring paint behind the tracing paper so it's more

beneath the surface of the piece than on top.


drawing exercise: 

Charm City (work in progress)

materials: rag and tracing paper, graphite, charcoal, acrylic

flatten the cityscape to translate the surrounding

neighborhoods using linear rhythms and geometric shapes

to establish relationships across the field to create movement

as if walking down a street.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Last of The Washington Years/Welcome to Baltimore

 Summarizing 2022:

-DC Commission Artist Fellow

"Intersectional Painting" exhibit @ McLean Project for the Arts

(Washington Post Review)

-Superfine DC @ Gallery Place

-June Open Studio

"Color + Form = Blackstraction" group exhibit @ Honfleur Gallery

(Washington Post Review)

-Distinguished Artist of Ward 8 Award 



"Editions" group exhibit
New Door Creative
1601 St Paul Street
Baltimore, MD 21202

April 12-15, 2023
Gallery Place

Baltimore Open Studio Tour
May 2023

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Putting The Word Out: Public Offering 2022

This year, Public Offering is two things:

a group exhibition with Adjoa Burrowes, Gail Shaw-Clemons and Claudia "Aziza"Gibson-Hunter

Honfleur Gallery 

1241 Good Hope Road, SE, DC 

Thursdays - Saturdays through September 24th.

(photos by Greg Staley)

Artists' Talk 9/17 moderated by Zoma Wallace, filmed by Denaise Seals

The second thing is this short and long sleeved cotton tee!

Available as a limited edition thru October 1st, they will be delivered to you in mid to late October directly from Custom Print. Short Sleeves: $25  Long Sleeves: $35

Putting Out the Word 2022 Fundraiser - unisex shirt design - back
Hanes Authentic Crewneck Short Sleeve T-shirt

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Saturday, June 18, 2022

Gatekeeping in the 21st Century?


                    Note in this essay:  artist = maker of traditional studio objects (paintings, sculpture etc)

What art is is an opinion... 

an opinion that changes with time.

What the average person knows about art- from the mysterious “art world”

to rumors of murky financial deals and money laundering- is based on a

long-standing model of wealthy patrons. It’s always been consumed as a

luxury item, access limited by class and connection. These same wealthy

patrons are also supportive of “art in community” through outreach

programming in museums and schools thereby influencing how the general

public experiences art, the subject matter, and artists themselves.

This structure has not been challenged in any meaningful way that impacts

the sector’s ability to solely determine what is culturally significant, that is,

to decide what is and is not art. Right now, though, independent artists and

their patrons are part of a moment bringing new meaning to the words

“public artist.”

A business that began in the great houses of Europe then in burgeoning high

society in the US, art has essentially been their domain to define and expand

into a full-fledged international industrial complex complete with

conglomerate galleries and trading on the stock exchange. A proliferation of

themes, independent curators, fairs and the potential for fast money in the

market over the last thirty years began driving the direction of what art gets

made as well as the course of art history.

Focused on a coterie of celebrity artists best representing what they consider

to be investment quality art, galleries and dealers are no longer showing a

cross section of the myriad ways artists explore media. Identity art is

popular as it proves the canon has diversified by including an array of artists

who are not white men.

In a symbiotic relationship, dealers rely on museums to create value for

artists they represent and collectors with interest in adding value to their

holdings sit on museum boards. They continue to decide what is culturally

significant and how we talk about it. It is a clear conflict of interest when

museums exist in public space and purport to be repositories for all cultures

when they have started to depend on commercial enterprise to evaluate the

impact and importance of human creativity.

It’s worrisome that galleries and dealers are now producing catalogues and

films about artists and that critics, looked upon as impartial, have lost the

power enjoyed by someone like Clement Greenberg to sway the course of

art. It’s worrisome when a representative from the Middle East Institute

assures her PBS audience the artists from the Middle East in her exhibition

speak “the same art language we do,” reflecting centuries old belief that the

art that matters is western in concept and execution.

In the middle of the 19th century with rising popularity of the photograph,

what had been a skill-based studio business documenting and decorating the

lives of the rich and famous reinvented itself. It began by creating a

distinction between what they sold, “fine art,” and other decorative products.

Instead of portrait, landscape and other types of commissions, they turned

to the buying and reselling of goods.

This pivot allowed for more diversity in the ways that artists worked and it

established the gallery and dealer to act on artists’ behalf because then, like

now, unless you were born into a wealthy family or had connections, you

needed to be “introduced” by someone who “mattered.”

Someone like Van Gogh painting away in his studio is the image conjured in

most minds by the word artist. What is not pictured- aesthetic, historic or

pictorial research; preparing the work for documentation, exhibition and

storage; cataloguing, marketing, promoting and selling- complete the artist’

job description.

Jean Michel Basquiat’s short and tragic career began because of a

serendipitous meeting with Andy Warhol on the streets of New York. His

guerilla entree into a milieu he would have a hard time breaching otherwise

led to an explosive presence that ended with a heroin overdose and a

questionable body of work unlike any paintings seen before. When he died,

museums refused gifts of his work- now, by their own metric (auction sales),

he is one of the most important artists of the 20th century. History shows

Basquiat did what he had to do.

For Sam Gilliam that meant and still means being at the top of his studio

game. Language pared to the barest elements of color and shape, he’s

reaching a pinnacle after a lifelong exploration of painting in three

dimensions that started with structured draping and wound its way to an

elegant fabricated form. He has yet to be acknowledged for his contributions

to the field of painting.

With a beginning as auspicious as he experienced, you would think an artist

of his caliber would have been celebrated in the art world his whole career

but it is only in the last couple of years that Gilliam has been represented by

top tier galleries, i.e., the people deciding which artists are important and

what art is culturally significant.

That many artists practice outside these parameters and are consistently

making a comfortable living making new work needs more visibility. Many

are not rich or famous yet sustain a successful practice producing and selling

work that for whatever reason does not resonate with the “art world.”

It is a popular fiction that success as a fine artist can only be found

participating in the traditional art market with its well documented history of

sexism, racism, ageism, misogyny and exploitation. Because of its elite

origins and operating structure, art is rarely thought of as an industry and

artists are not seen as the common laborers found in other professions.

Most spend years in the field with little to show for their hard work because

it has been difficult to direct a practice to the attention of the general public

without gallery representation and remain in contention for museum

exhibitions and collections.

The art world that we read about in mainstream media and that we talk

about when we talk about buying and selling art is exclusive to a very

wealthy group of people. Great monetary values don’t always equal great

cultural value except to this very wealthy group buying and selling what

THEY DECIDE is art. In 2020 that included a questionable Leonardo da Vinci

and the first AI-generated painting auctioned at Christies for more than

$400,000. In 2021, it included non-fungible tokens and fully embracing the

new media and technology, eliminated a need to trade for physical objects.

Dialogues about cultural diversity, inclusion and an expanding art public

suggest this needs to change. Contemporary arts marketing acknowledges

new potential buyers outside this realm and targets a more diverse base

with disposable income to introduce to collecting.

Outreach by museums in neighborhoods and schools has resulted in a bigger

and still growing art appreciating public. If an artist’ goal is to sustain

practice through the sale of objects, this is a demographic to seek out and

cultivate. One way this happens is placing galleries representing artists and

artists representing themselves selling in the same venue.

Precedents include the bi-annual National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta first

held in 1988 and the New York art fair, Art Off the Main, organized by Loris

Crawford presenting artists and galleries of African descent beginning in

2004. One such current venture is the SuperFine national network of six

fairs featuring galleries and artists representing themselves.

In the 21st Century, artists have finally understood the importance of self-promotion

and can create new career paths by building personal audiences

with the tools available to promote and sell to a general public trained to

appreciate art by museums in the community and school outreach

programming mentioned earlier.

When artists practice outside the traditional boundaries, they erode a tightly

held control over the entire industry by unlimiting what work is available. It

increases the likelihood that artists will make the work they want to make

without regard for viability in the art market and challenges the art world to

be more stringent in the work it chooses to champion.

We live in an age when the course of art and culture does not have to reflect

the tastes and opinions of the very wealthy.

Open engagement with the public permits artists to build a constituency of

supporters that will follow the artist’s career with interest and insight into

what making art really means. This consistent exposure over time gives the

public agency to decide who can be an artist and what “fine” art is, the same

way it has been decided exclusively by the art world in the past.

Artists targeting the general public may seem of little consequence but like

all artists’ movements, the changes it brings will be absorbed and

incorporated into the machine soon enough and the business of art will plod

along albeit with one important change: more people participating in the act

of identifying and preserving art and culture.

(in memory of Stevens Jay Carter 1958-2021)

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

"Intersectional Painting"

 Intersectional Painting

Atrium Gallery

McLean Project for the Arts

December 2, 2021 - February 19, 2022

curated by Nancy Sausser

from the series of  22

10 works that show how the narrative evolved from hanging to suspension- flat to round to Killer Air, a wall hanging that is not quite flat against the wall and the last work completed.

Artist Talk: https: 

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Writing Abstraction: Pushing the Boundaries of Human Visual Expression

 So far, I've discussed what I discovered studying abstraction. 

This time I'm going to talk about what led me to study.

I've called this talk

Writing Abstraction: Pushing the Boundaries of Human Visual Expression

(or Blackstraction is always Abstraction but Abstraction is not always Blackstraction)

Let's start with a couple of definitions:

a system of communication between members of a group.

the expression and application of human creative skill, spirit and imagination.

When I started looking at Language AS Art in the mid1980s I decided
because all meaning is derived from the creative and unorthodox usage of grammar, sentence structure, punctuation and words within the poem,
poetry can be considered the original formalist abstract art.

After tracing abstraction in western art back to modernism and the european response to African and oceanographic art, my theory was 
after nearly 100 years, abstract art must be a language of sorts.

I thought abstract artists spent most of the 20th century dissecting and isolating surface treatments that could act like words. the challenge was to create syntax- grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation- mechanisms that supported intelligibility because as a language- the art would communicate with people who understand abstraction (and perhaps a few that do not...)

Writing abstraction requires subconsciously accessing the deepest recesses of both soul and intellect. Writing abstraction requires an all encompassing knowledge of technique and material as well as an intuitive ability to use that knowledge to make work pushing the boundaries of human visual expression.

I'm going to explain what I mean using two works executed between March 2020 and May of this year, one an exercise, the other execution of an idea. Worked on simultaneously, they depict the same time: one a kind of emotional diary and the other a portrait of the circumstances.

"M o o D"

20 mixed media drawings on recycled rag paper with perforations

record my state of mind day or night using graphite by marking each page once each time I worked on them for however long I worked on them 

An exercise that would have yielded pages of graphite markings of various strength and depth changed when I accidently used a blue coloring pencil one night.

At this point, I began to consciously add communicable signs and make choices about to what to record, beginning with a firm straight red line and the title, yellow circle/sun brown square/warmth, using pattern outside the square made me separate the drawings into two sets- prompted use of red in the body to refocus attention to the center and pattern inside the square to communicate boredom and anxiety.

"inher sanctuary"

a response to lockdown, isolation, and finding solace within

painting project:  
use white as a dominant color to convey a sense of safety and security in a kind of wall plaque like my mothers' religious wall sayings...
starting point: 
12 labyrinth drawings on rag paper collaged with Japanese paper and painted over with titanium

transferred images of wooded areas using photocopies over the labyrinth drawings, applied a layer of white repeated the process then reinforced the colors  introduced by the photocopies using graphite, coloring pencil and paint... repeated this twice, then concentrated on layering white and reinforcing the colors three times.

(each time I paint, I am subconsciously channeling my intent...)

I mounted the pieces on foam core with Japanese paper and gave them a blue braided loop to hang from thinking I had taken them as far as I could. I had them photographed but kept thinking they could be stronger... 

I cut off the backs and began to paint layers of white and color again fusing content and the idea of turning inward. I decided to fold them along the edges of the Japanese paper to give them an actual interior and to hang them from an arced light greenish plastic coated wire at the top to suggest chapel. 

Finally, closing the backs using paper painted blue suggested rounding so color is reflected behind and the arc become a steeple...

Abstraction. Blackstraction.

Meaning derived from the work.

M o o D, Abstraction = a surface treatment  (bored anxiety?)

inher sanctuary, Blackstraction = an object treatment (meditative solitude?)

Abstraction is not always Blackstraction but Blackstraction is always abstraction.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Blackstraction in Context

When I coined the term blackstraction to refer to the objectification of painting in 2000, it was the result of research that I began in 1980 as a creative writer working as an artists’ model at the Corcoran School of Art. Looking at language as art led me to see poetry as the original formalist abstract art because all the poem’s meaning is based on relationships created with words contained in the body of the work.

Experimenting with painting and drawing to study abstract art as language, I started looking at all kinds of paintings to understand how the materials are used. I began reading about what painting is, what art is and how the art world evolves. I found styles of painting correspond to the introduction of studio methodology.

How and what artists painted began to change in the mid-19th century after invention of the photograph. Until then, paintings were two dimensional and mostly flat with impasto used to emphasize details. In the industrial age, artists began to use it to alter how we see and perceive images. Impressionism, Fauvism, Expressionism and Constructivism, all inching away from painting realistically, developed during this time.

Late in the 19th century Modernism arrived. European exposure to African and Oceanographic art opened the way for Cubism, Surrealism, DaDa, Bauhaus and other styles propelling painters fully into imaginary realms. Collage, assemblage and intellectual discourse join the techniques used.

The next important additions come after World War 2. Abstract Expressionism gives us all over painting, Art Brut common materials like fiber and non-traditional techniques like stitching, and Spatialism introduces three dimensionality. While the painting itself remains a flat two dimensional object, pouring, staining, scraping and cutting are now used by artists exploring what painting can be. Depth is incorporated into the picture plane. These three styles lay the foundation for Blackstractionsim.

In the 60s and 70s, artists expanding and delving deeper into abstraction used all the above techniques to experiment with both the image and how the image is constructed. Action Painting, Color Field, Op Art, Hard Edge and other styles followed the trail of expressionism. 

Spatialism led to shaped canvas, cloth alternatives to canvas, and dropping stretchers altogether. Relaxing the rigidity of the traditional painted rectangle ushers in Minimalism and Blackstractionism-- both dealing with the sculptural possibilities of painting. While Minimalists embraced design, industrial materials and commercial execution, Blackstractionists were focused on labor intensive experiments involving both aesthetic and physical properties of painting with depth.

Going into the 1980s, painting had become any and everything, including intellectual discourse. 

The Postmodern era that had been building since the 60s brought new art favoring installation, performance and new media stemming from developing technologies. Indeed, painting is declared dead, art becomes “contemporary” and really of the moment. By the end of the century referential discourse describing what artists are painting is more important than the style of painting executed. We arrive at zombie abstraction.

In the 1965 essay “Specific Objects,” Donald Judd unknowingly described blackstraction when he wrote, “The new work exceeds painting in plain power, but power isn’t the only consideration, though the difference between it and expression can’t be too great either… This work which is neither painting nor sculpture challenges both. It will have to be taken into account by new artists.”

Jack Whitten, one of many artists developing blackstraction, talked about his work in 1983 as “... a precise and continuous development of experimentations dealing with the possibilities of paint, using various processes towards defining a new spatial perception in painting…” Judd, one of the most well-known minimalists and a prolific and influential critic of his peers, consistently denied three-dimensional painting was a movement. Between 1959 and 1975 he did not once review the work of Whitten or Sam Gilliam or Al Loving or Joe Overstreet or Howardena Pindell who were his contemporaries in NY and exhibiting the work he talks about.

As Whitten noted in 1980, “Clement (Greenberg) would never accept the possibility of a Black man leading….” He spoke of one critic but it could have been the entire art industry then or now, as today that same industry seeks to add diversity by monetizing artists like Gilliam and Whitten without recognizing their contribution to the canon. 20 years into the 21st century, Stella is practically a household name for anyone interested in abstract art, while the effect of Sam Gilliam’s draped canvases has yet to be evaluated for the influence it exerted over all the work that follows.

I call this work blackstraction because I trace its beginnings to the European response to indigenous art and to confront the art world protocol of belittling, absorbing and erasing advances made in studio practice by and because of Black, outsider and other minority artists. Blackstraction provides a platform for discussion around the work artists executed in a way that acknowledges the full extent of their contribution which will ultimately direct the course of art because three-dimensional abstract painting remains basically unexplored.

blackstraction (blak-strak’ sh-n) n. 1. the objectification of abstract painting 2. A non-
representational transcendental work of art 
stressing formal internal relationships using African/Asian/American art practices at times employing craft techniques and three-dimensional presentation. blackstractionist n. An artist engaging therein... 

blackstraction (blak-strak’ sh-n) v. t. 1. to make markings with color on diverse surfaces that relate to each other and their environment in two and three dimensions. 2. Painting using depth as part of the picture plane    blackstractioned, blackstractioning

Blackstractionism (blak-strak’sh-niz-m) n. Fine Arts1. a style of emotive non-representational painting appearing in the US in mid- to late 20th century sometimes employing craft techniques and three-dimensional presentation.       2. theory and practice of transcendental three-dimensional painting