Cultural Art Inspiration
Since the age of eight cultural art, particularly the painting below, has been one of my greatest inspirations. My mission is to use various art forms to encourage, inspire and nurture spirituality and creativity, as well as, promote the arts as culture, history and connectors of people.
As a Cultural Art Enthusiast, I perceive cultural art as exciting expressions of imagination that invigorate and educate the mind. Cultural Art is expressed by artists in forms of oratory narratives, performance, visual art and music. It serves as the creative expression of artists and as an archive of knowledge, language, customs, philosophy, and spirituality. Although, I find the art and performance expressions important, the narrative or story contained within them, surrounding them, and imagined from them, by generations of people, are of equal importance.
I enjoy this medium of creative expression, because it brings together various aspects of my experience through writing, education, audio and video presentation, social media, digital media, transliteracy, and the development of transmedia storytelling projects about the art that I love, and the artists and communities that create it.
Art that energizes me, enriches my life, educates others, is thought-provoking, is reflective of my personal life experiences, embodies the philosophies of family, friends, and communities in which I have lived; and strongly influences my sense of character and faith.
My love affair with Cultural Art began at a critical stage in my eight year old life, with a gift from a dear family friend. The unsigned, woodblock print in black ink on brown paper, sealed onto a panel of wood, similar to that from which it was carved, is displayed below. While the artist who created my piece is unknown, during those times, African American artists such as Hale Woodruff; created woodcuts for their affordability, strong sense of style, and the ability to create multiples that could reach a larger community. Using knives and blades, artists carved the wood from areas where they did not want an image. The ability to remove wood for printmaking is known as Relief, because ink only touches the uncarved wood; and the paper pulls away ink from the surface that remains. These works not only communicated their mastery as artists, but often communicated narratives about African American life from cultural perspectives.
The Little Black Boy
The prized artwork below, which I affectionately titled, The Little Black Boy, became my immediate confidant at an early age, and has been a stabilizing presence in my life for over forty-five years.
“Little Black Boy” titled by an eight year old Me Artist Unknown
I suppose my attachment to this unique art piece stemmed from the fact that “The Little Black Boy” mirrored emotions I carried in my heart, mind, and soul, during most of my childhood years, and well into adulthood.
When this piece was given to me, I had just been promoted from the second to third grade. At the beginning of the second grade school year, the teacher incorrectly arrived at the conclusion, and boldly declared to me, that I, the only black student in the class, and one of two in the entire school, knew too much to be in the second grade. So, instead of teaching me at my aptitude level, or moving me to a higher grade, she devised and implemented a plan to “dumb me down“.
Initially, upon completing assignments early, I was assigned janitorial chores until the rest of the class was ready to move on. As the school year progressed, my academic assignments decreased, and the chores increased; basically turning me into the class domestic worker. However, the “A’s” continued to appear on my report card. This literally amounted to a complete waste of my entire second grade year, and placed me behind other children my age. Her scheme may have worked, had I not received this awesome piece of artwork.
My Second Grade Class – Central Elementary School – 1968
I still remember my reaction upon receiving it. At first glance, I noticed a black boy whose confidence had been attacked. Upon further study, I saw that the boy was possibly a young child, like me, emotionally wounded and guarded, but yet, still curious and open to the world around him.
I knew that second grade had done a number on me, but I did not fully understand it, and could not explain it. Furthermore, since my report card had straight A’s, my parents would not have understood anyway. So, on that hot day, in the summer following the second grade, I was in great need of the wonderful gift of art that I received.
I was instantly inspired! Just like me, “The Little Black Boy” looked confused, and although the discouraging expression on his face mirrored the way that I felt inside, it gave me a sense of hope. Now, that I had him, I was no longer alone in my mental anguish. Maybe, I thought, if I kept listening like the boy was doing, I could figure out what had happened to me.
The new inspiration empowered and endowed me with self-affirmation, and a sense of cultural authority. Looking at the piece, and knowing that it was mine, encouraged me and my problem-solving skills kicked in. His expression and disposition summoned my young mind to begin testing possibilities and working through challenges, similar to how scientists experiment to find solutions. My eight-year-old brain engaged in discovery of the “how” and “why” of things that affected my life. It was during those early years that I began formulating a vision of how I did and did not want to feel moving forward in life.
Several years ago, while performing research for a writing project about my arduous educational journey, I realized that my youthful experience with art was not necessarily unique. In fact, substantial research exists on the impact that visual art can have on a child’s education and creativity. The way in which this art affected me is only one example of the variety of ways in which people, especially children, respond to art.
A seemingly insignificant piece of artwork had a significant impact on my childhood development, and interesting enough, I am now living the life that it inspired. Art can be extremely important in a child’s development, and in my case, it was a work of African American Cultural Art.
In retrospect, the “Little Black Boy” painting provided the initial inspiration for the creation of the “Little Flower” project, which was developed nearly forty-five years later.
GOD – ART – PRAYER – MIND
Recently, I was thinking that if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a picture, which is a form of art, is worth a thousand words. So the fact that prayer is words, whether spoken – verbally, or unspoken – mentally, to convey a message of praise, thanksgiving, or a solemn request for help or guidance, means that Art and Prayer are linked by the Mind.
I see it this way, art comes from the mind of the artist. A mind, which contains a message to be conveyed to an audience. The sole audience might only be the artist, or any number of individuals from family members to friends and strangers. The artist may choose to provide a narrative to underpin the artistic creation; but only to set the record straight for posterity, as a basis for comparison, when art critics (amateur or professional), provide their imaginative interpretation of the artist’s mental masterpiece.
Art has the ability to lift our minds and spirits to higher planes of thought. This must be acknowledged as we consider the masterful gift given to the artist, which allows their work to be transferred to our visual space, in order to communicate loftier ideals of humankind’s ability to “read” the world. This conveyance from earthly to loftier spaces quickly transposes our thoughts of appreciation of art to a spirit of thanksgiving and praise to God, the Ultimate Creator of the ability to produce, or “make” art. Thanksgiving and praise, in turn, leads to prayer for the blessings of intellectual acuity, and mental clarity to formulate an idea, and to work that idea into a visual form that can be interpreted by the viewer.
Art in its entire menagerie of forms, has the ability to reach out and grab the eye of the audience; thereby transporting the viewer to another place in time; where a clearer message is imprinted onto the mind that will never be the same, for having taken the journey down that mental road of discovery and enlightenment.
Prayer takes us from where we are to a place where we speak directly with God about daily concerns; ranging from the minutest to the grandest, in our daily walk upon this ephemeral earth.