Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Recognize who you are and Go with the Flow

I adore vintage leaded and stained glass windows. My latest painting was inspired by them. Additional ideas came from a fabric design incorporating yellow and blue. These are Swedish colors from my mother’s heritage and cemented my vision. I’m currently working on the composition and will share it with you in my next blog.

This week, the assassination of Martin Luther King on April 4 was commemorated. Because of this, my featured artist is Kevin Cole, a recognized African American abstractionist who uses symbolism and color to convey his message.

Imagine using all of your anger and your pain to create something meaningful and beautiful. Using the bright colors of Africa and the symbolic representation of a noose in the form of a man’s necktie, Cole expresses the anguish he felt when he stood beneath a large tree where slaves were once hanged in great numbers when they tried to exercise their newfound right to vote. Dressed to honor the occasion, the ties they wore were used to hang them.

In many of Cole’s works, the symbolism deepens in what Kevin calls “mapping.” Slave families were split apart and sent to other plantations. Cole maps their travels in three-D shapes and symbols using the same colorful ties, tools and weapons they were beaten with if they tried to escape.

Some of Kevin's stories end up as paintings done in broad swathes of emotion and detail. Cole’s work sizzles. According to The Artist’s Magazine where Cole was featured in the September 2013 issue, “Cole’s work has a musicality born from the background of popular music, jazz, and blues that keeps Cole moving around his studio.”

Cole credits his rise and success to a former “high school teacher (Terrance Corbin) who spotted his nascent talent, and many others who encouraged him along the way, first in college and then in graduate school in Illinois.

“Art professor and mixed media artist Kevin E. Cole was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas on January 19, 1960 to Jessie and Sam Cole, Jr. He received his B.S. degree in art education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff in 1982; his M.A. degree in art education a year later, and his M.F.A degree in drawing from Northern Illinois University in 1984.

“Cole began his art career as an art teacher at Camp Creek Middle School in College Park, Georgia in 1985. At the same time, he also became an adjunct professor at Georgia State University’s School of Art and Design where he remained until 1998. In 1990, Cole was chairperson of the visual and performing arts magnet program of Tri-Cities High School in East Point, Georgia until 1994. Later, in 2003, he became the chairman of the Fine Arts Department at Westlake High School where he created the school's first arts program.

“Cole’s artwork is well known for including imagery of neckties as symbols of power and emphasizes the relationship between color and music, particularly jazz, blues, hip-hop, and gospel. He incorporates patterns and textures from traditional African cloths to speak to human conditions and behaviors.

“In 1994, Cole was commissioned by the Coca-Cola Company to create a fifteen story mural celebrating the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. The mural took two years to create and was a little over 800 square feet. He has been featured in Who’s Who in Education and received the Award of Excellence for Public Art by the Atlanta Urban Design Commission.” 

Below Cole tells his own story and shares the inspiration for his collective works:

Kevin Cole’s personal online web portal follows if you would like to see and hear more: