28 Feb 16
- AUTHOR Magalie Yacinthe
- CATEGORY Blog
Artist Talk: Frank Woods
Works from the Invitational 2016 include Salome with the Head of John the Baptist (2015, Acrylic on Canvas Board 16” x 20”, $475) and The Annunciation (2015, Acrylic on Canvas Board 11” x 14” NFS, $450).
My name is Frank Woods. I am a professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I hold a BFA and MFA in Studio Art and a doctorate in Art History with a concentration in African American art. I have been an active artist for as long as I can remember. I have just completed a new biography on Henry Ossawa Tanner, perhaps the greatest of all African American artists. It is from years of studying Tanner that I derive inspiration as a scholar and as an artist. I see myself as an African American artist who carries on longstanding traditions of my painter and sculptor ancestors. I believe I am in a unique position to understand their early struggles for acceptance and equality in art and life and it guides me as I, in a small way, carry on their visual legacy.
I never created art as a vessel for articulating social change or reflecting on specific issues linked to race, gender, and class. My early paintings and sculptures were non-objective and my later work embraced portraits as character studies and landscapes that captured the glory of nature. Many of the nineteenth-century black artists worked within racially neutral themes that reflected their mastery of solving technical problems of form, light, color, and space rather than making declarative statements on social issues. I have followed their example, and I hope my work speaks to universal truths from which most can readily identify. Still, as a teacher of the African American experience, I have a sacred duty to informed all my students of past accomplishments and sacrifices, current affairs that have strong ties to that past, and, perhaps, help them take that information into the future for the benefit of us all. In this light, they see that all significant social movements begin with one person determined to make a difference.
It is true that black women have received less credit for their work in civil rights movements of the past. On visual art terms currently, I still see the work of Bettye Saar as a prophetic link to present day social consciousness movements and view the work younger artists such as Carrie Mae Weems, Kara Walker, and Renee Cox, as maintaining a visual climate of race and gender engagement.
In conclusion, the majority of artists labor under anonymity—it just comes with the territory. But the beauty of being an artist centers on the ability to make “statements’” that communicate something special to a viewer. Once that “voice” speaks to many, a movement—even on a personal level—is born.