Visual Research Journal #9-12

Hey friends! I had the chance to go to the opening of Baltimorean Derrick Adams’ show entitled “Where I’m From,” on display at Baltimore City Hall. A lot of his work is centered around his Black identity and culture. These large scale oil paintings are photos from his own family albums, and pay homage to close familial ties in Black culture. He abstracts the forms into blocks of color, really drawing the viewer to examine the figure, their body language, and the importance of an archival of Black family life in fine art.

Another artist who I stumbled upon on Instagram is Baltimore’s Stephen Towns. He won the coveted Sondheim Prize in 2018. His most recent work at the Chicago Expo, a series entitled “The Bridge,” is really beautiful – he paints portraits and stories of freed enslaved black people. Appropriating religious iconography and gold backgrounds reminiscent of Byzantine art, he is remaking art and history through his work.

If you know if other Baltimore artists, let me know! I found the next artist through a teacher’s recommendation – Yinka Shonibare DBE. He is a British-Nigerian artist that explores the layered relationships forged by centuries of colonialism, global trade, migration, politics, and cultural exchange. He is particularly interested in the stories West African and Indonesian batik cloth tell to create a story of fusion and freedom.

Finally, we have Inka Essenhigh, an American and New York-based painter. I’m interested in her work because I see similar themes emerging in my art – idealized landscapes. Mythology, landscape and the urban versus pastoral are recurring motifs in her work. She blends abstraction and figuration in an investigation of psychological and metaphysical realities.

In a 2017 interview, Essenhigh states,

“I think about the archetypes and stories that we tell ourselves, and reenact in some way. We change our consciousness through storytelling all the time. If you want to change how people are thinking about something, you can tell a story about it. It does the job really fast. I don’t think I’m necessarily changing consciousness, but I’m painting another place. I would like my paintings to have that feeling — that other worlds are possible.

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