28 Feb 16
- AUTHOR Magalie Yacinthe
- CATEGORY Blog
Artist Talk: George Steele
Works from the Invitational 2016 include Buffalo Riders (2015, 12 in X 36 in, acrylic on canvas, $900) and The Last Exodus (2015, 16 in X 20 in acrylic on canvas NFS, $1000).
- Tell us about yourself. Who you are and what you do? What’s your background? How do you identify; is cultural identity at the front of your work/process?
My name is George Darren Steele, I am a black male and Baptist pastor, born and raised in Richmond County, North Carolina, with good Negro values. These values include love of God, love of family, and love of neighbor. I was born in a society that devalued most, if not all of our values. Injustice and hate were the tone of this society and unfortunately remains a stain on the anthem, “America the Beautiful,” it was not and is not to my ethic group or culture, “sweet land of liberty.” Yet, the ethic values obtained from Godliness in my culture, taught us to love even when our society is in chaos. My mother teaching, “nobody is better than you and you are better than nobody”, reinforced this ideology. Some progress has been made in America, of which we are thankful that God has corrected injustices. Yet, it remains clear that there is more to be done to prevent digressing into the past and progressing into the future.
Of course culture identity plays a prominent role in my life and my work. I believe a “true artist” is one whose music, whose paint, whose writing, whose dancing, and whose voice exposes, introduces, and unapologetically declares the relevance of his/her art.
- For decades and particularly during this country’s civil rights movement, many high profile artists of color were expected to represent that struggle in their work. When they did not they were often called out and criticized by peers and movement leaders for not moving the cause forward. Do you feel it’s your responsibility to promote social change, cultural reflection, race, gender, class issues, etc. in your artwork?
We have mistakenly imposed upon every person of color to be a “Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, or Nat Turner,” which is an unfair determinate for black lives in America. If in the village everyone is a fire starter then who will cook, who will feed, who will clean? Martin, Malcolm, Nat, and George Steele are products of a very diverse cultural. Each one has in some facet been a promoter of social change, cultural reflection, race, gender, class issues, etc. The degree of influence in the areas may different greatly but any open statement by a “black man or woman” in the United States of America is a slap in the face of “Jim Crow.”
Therefore I am convinced that weather I do fantasy art, folk art, religious art, etc. does not matter because “black hands” did it. Somewhere in the stroke the brush and in the light of the eye, my blackness is exhumed.
- What other ways can artists/activists engage the movement outside of developing lyrics, music, images that speaks specifically to the movement?
I hope you do mind if I use Dr. King and Brother Malcolm X as examples of the village ideology. But their success was due in part to a supporting cast, those who provided funds, food, housing, protection and encouraging words, etc. These individuals never named and never filmed were often the backbone of success. Harriet Tubman was an engineer on the “Underground Railroad” but every train has to stop to refuel and rest, these stopping points were just as significant as the engineer and the train. As artist, we too can contribute in these areas and often do without the admiration offered to those at the forefront.
- Black women have always been an integral part of American civil rights movements, but women have not always received the credit for their work. Which black women do you believe currently embody the spirit of the black women activists of the past?
Hallelujah! Indeed black women have been, are, and will always be in the forefront of the struggle facing her children. For the last time, Martin had a mother (Alberta Williams King) and a wife (Coretta Scott King), who supported the passion reverberating within his heart and soul. Others include Michelle Obama, Camille Cosby, Angela Davis, Loretta Lynch, Alma Adams, Tara Green, and all mothers, wives, and sisters who have black sons/daughters in the struggle (voluntarily or by force) are heroines.
- How do artists with less exposure engage in the movement? In what ways could their lack of public exposure work on their behalf?
The support previously outlined in this questionnaire (3) is the avenues of engaging in the movement from the background. There is always a reward for the soul that aids in the progress of fairness and righteousness. Everyone need not have appeared in Washington on January 20, 2009, yet from our dens, churches, kitchens, offices, sound rooms, studios, farms and schools, we all felt a sense of accomplishment. The clandestine ballot, forged in booths throughout America revealed the first African American president in the United States of America, President Barack Obama. Less exposure is often a tactic of success in revolutions.