KERRY JAMES MARSHALL
I visited the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA Chicago) a couple of months ago. On the second floor, I was greeted by a painting of a Black woman who was painting a "paint by numbers" picture of herself in the same pose. Underneath the painting was a box and a notepad. There was a message for people to interpret what they felt or thought the painting meant. I didn't participate, however, I just stood and stared at this particular painting for quite some time.
The MCA Chicago, is really small. I wouldn't necessarily consider it a "museum", but more of a gallery space. In the midst of this gallery, if you could imagine, the artists exhibited aren't very diverse. So to see this black character, whose skin is literally painted black by a black artist - I was stopped in my tracks. In the art world, it's more common to not use actual black paint but instead to build with other colors to create a dark form. This artist however, is defying traditional artistic methods to highlight black people as the subject. Instead of using brown, he layers black in different shades to create the form and leaves their eyes stark bright.
Typically, black artists that are featured by galleries or museums show the black experience from a point-of-view that is not always so positive. They will usually tell the stories of struggle and oppression. Of which, honestly, this particular tone of black culture, the museums and galleries seek out. Marshall's paintings counter those stereotypical images. The female figures that Marshall paints are black, curvy, and bodacious. The black males are lovingly engaged with their black female companion. The black family is full, in their neighborhoods, their homes - together. It's in your face blackness. It is mesmerizing, intriguing, stimulating. I want to see more.
I am left feeling inspired to create and showcase the positive black experience.