February 1st marked the start of Black History Month, which celebrates, commemorates and observes the history of African Americans. During the month of February, people in the US study, remember and celebrate African American history, culture and heritage.
In honor of Black History Month, I thought it’d be great to feature five African American artists that are part of the Art Dealer St community!
The history of the African Diaspora, Slavery, and the Civil Rights Movement still weigh heavy as markers in our history where African Americans were denied a voice. So, for that reason, I made sure to include direct quotations from each artist’s own artistic statement. In this way, I hope to magnify the voices of the artists listed below!
Read on to learn how these artists are making an impact with their art!
1. Ana’ Alu (Andrew Hollimon)
Ana’ Alu is from Palm Beach, Florida, where he creates 2D multi-media paintings in a variety of styles, including figurative, geometric abstraction, and landscape. As a self-taught artist, he lives with the personal mottos, “I paint what interests me first... all else follows,” and “art lives when it is seen.”
One example of his work is the Pandora Diptych, two acrylic paintings on canvas from 2021. In the Greek myth of Pandora, Zeus gifts his sister a box which upon opening unleashes chaos. In Pandora I, (pictured above) Ana’ Alu depicts the vibrant shapes and colors with a stable and organized structure. In Pandora II, the box has been opened and the structure is gone. The second piece in the diptych creates a stark visual contrast to the structure of the first and takes inspiration from the famed Bauhaus movement, in terms of the objects and colors present.
2. Eric C Jackson
Originally from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, contemporary artist Eric C Jackson uses his background in fine art, cinematography and fashion to bring a unique voice to his works. He hopes to, “inspire creativity, provoke imagination, exhibit natural beauty and challenge thinking.”
Jackson approaches each new project as if it were a story waiting to be told. Jackson places importance on the viewer’s ability to embrace the scenes he creates. He wants the viewer to feel and hear the scenes as if they were a part of them. One example of an image that does this is Rise to the Top, a digital print on paper, from 2022.
Buy it Here: Rise to the Top — artdealerstreet
3. Dwayne Lester
Dwayne Lester is an American painter who specializes in sport and music history icons. Lester celebrates the African American experience through his artist outlet! His art reflects his own journey towards self-discovery and self-expression as well as that of African Americans who have come before him.
Many of his images include references to African American contribution in sports and music. In fact, Lester aims to highlight these contributions despite the roadblocks these figures have faced. Lester is interested in rewriting the white Eurocentric history narrative that previously dictated what was deemed worthy of remembering. Of his own experience, Lester says, “my memories are both a source of pain and healing.”
Hopefully, by tapping into his own memories of music and sports, his art will speak to so many others who have felt overlooked. His original painting Madonna and Child, features a black Madonna and her babe. Embracing themes of purity and peace, Lester beautifully renders the Madonna as a black woman, pushing back against the conventional whitewashed religious iconography.
4. Jonathan Jaeger
For the past 6 years, self-taught artist Jonathan Jaeger has been expanding his art career after many years in social work. Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Jaeger now lives and works in Maryland. Jaeger uses both traditional art and digital art to work through his unique identity as an adopted bi-racial artist with no formal training. He says, “I often use creativity to solve creative problems by blending all my art together to create something never seen before.”
Jaeger’s unique voice is expressed through his vividly colored abstract pieces, which recall the works of artists like Pablo Picasso and Jean Michael Basquiat. Hip to Change a Mixed Media on Canvas from 2022 displays this inspiration. It is fitting that Jaeger pulls inspiration from Basquiat, as he is rightfully considered one of the most important American artists of the 20th century and is often celebrated during Black History Month.
Buy it Here: Hip to change — artdealerstreet
5. Jouanne Roberson
Jouanne Roberson is a contemporary artist who lives in Sacramento, California. Not only does she create sculptures, drawings and paintings, but she works in digital and print media. Roberson produces a mix of public and private artwork, installations and functional art, like chairs. She utilizes a wide array of materials including cement, brass, concrete, bronze, handmade paper and glass.
Roberson notes, “I frequently express the inverse of what I mean: finding the right thing in the wrong place.” This practice leads her to form collages, or mosaic configurations, which “helps bring order to a chaotic mind.”
Crayola, gouache and oil stick were early mediums for her creations. A good example is her Odds and Ends, which shows how she utilizes intricate detail to create her artistic vocabulary. It is through this vocabulary that she tells the poignant stories and realizations that have come to her.