Bright and early this morning I took the dogs for a two mile walk in the neighborhood. I wanted to get them taken care of so I could run off for a day trip to Richmond, VA. As a former art teacher and still practicing artist, I have a strong passion for the arts, and when something good comes through I have to see it.
Several years ago I took a summer educators class through the National Portrait Gallery called Learning to Look. The class was excellent. It taught us different methods of getting our students to look at and understand works of art. It was one of the rare courses that can be useful for all subjects and grade levels. Each educator walked away with a stipend, and a behind the scenes experience you can’t get any other way. I fell in love with a Kehinde Wiley portrait of LL Cool J while I was their. I had never seen his art before, and I was blown away. Since then I have been looking for his pieces. A few months ago his work came to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and because I spent so much time touring the country, I hadn’t had an opportunity to see it. It leaves September 5th, so I had to get there soon or totally miss out. My art teacher friend and I made a day out of it, and even with traffic and 5.5 hours of driving, it was totally worth it. Check out my favorites.
Known for his larger than life portraits, ornately detailed wallpaper like backgrounds, and saturated color schemes, his works can capture your attention from across a busy street. Wiley began as a portrait artist, inviting african american men into his studio to strike a pose from famous classical paintings. He would photograph them, then turn the photos into large scale portraits. He continues to be the portrait painter, but now employs apprentices to create the ultra detailed backgrounds. The backgrounds add to the symbolic meaning of the composition. If you look closely you may find gold sperm, or notice that the tapestry shown is a specific cloth that is important to a certain culture, or a pattern often found in a country’s ceramics. Each piece has meaning in its posture, color, culture, gaze, etc. Each one could be explored for a lifetime.
And who knew he did sculpture too?