” Marshall told the interviewer that he enjoys having dialogue about art, and style, and the whole dynamic of creating; but he wants his work to be so “undeniably compelling” that the person viewing his art “cant separate the image thats pictured in it from the way the painting is made.”
The artist also talks about a period in recent contemporary history when many black artists wanted to be “part of the mainstream” and to do that, they felt they had to “let go of the black representation” and instead, approach art from a more abstract point-of-view. Marshall added that he believes many black artists did that because there was a kind of stereotype associated with black artists in that the moment he or she presented images of black people, all of a sudden the issue was not art, but “social and political.”
Marshall was asked about his well-known painting, called “Dark and Handsome,” which has points of light in the face of the person. He said that he makes his images “extreme” because they are “emphatically what they are; they are black figures.” And he went on to say that there once was a strong sense of “color consciousness” in the African-American community (and it “still exists in some ways…”) that went against the notion that somebody who is “very dark” can also be “very pretty and attractive” at the same time. As to the points of light in the face of the person in his painting: “…those little stars, those little lights you see, kind of hovering around his face – these are sort of points of brilliance where you see the kind of luster, the shine, the sparkle.”
The image has a “kind of twinkle in the eye,” which Marshall explained was a reference to “gleaming beauty…a twinkling, sparkling kind of beauty.”
At article about Marshall in African Arts (Bernard, 2001) reviews the book Kerry James Marshall: Telling Stories: Selected Paintings; the writer of the review begins by saying that “the most notable quality” of Marshalls book is how “successfully” it conveys “Marshalls love of painting.
” In the book, Marshall “bluntly states” such time-worn questions as “What is Art?” And “What is Beauty?” For his part, Marshall defines beauty thusly:
Beauty is “…an understanding of the relationship between the parts…” In the sense that that the theories of composition taught by the great masters in Renaissance times are still applicable and relevant to todays artist. Marshall writes an essay in the book, called “Notes on Career and Work,” which, according to Bernard, sheds light on how Marshall came to create his “archetypal image of a black person,” which Marshall discussed in the interview featured earlier in this paper. Marshall talks about art “as a product, process, and philosophy” which in his case, explores important references to American history.
In Marshalls work, the past, and events of the past, are “never evoked with nostalgia,” Bernard paraphrases from the book; rather than nostalgic, the art that Marshall creates “reveals the tension with the present,” Bernard continues. When looking at history through Marshalls talented eyes, it becomes a “shifting paradigm, a perspective that allows the artist to constantly revise his own approach to art making.”
On the subject of history, in the interview with Charles Rowell in Callaloo, Marshall states that artists are “…the beneficiaries of all the stylistic and conceptual developments that artists from previous generations have handed down to us.” Those who are receptive to those developments, he concluded, “find ways to synthesize all of those things into something that none of the artists who preceded us had assess to or an opportunity to achieve.” Hes talking about Michelangelo, Rembrandt, the way that very possibly, some young artists fifty years from now will be talking about him.
Bernard, Catherine. “Kerry James Marshall.” African Arts. 34.4 (2001): 93-95.
Public Broadcasting Service. “Art: 21 Art in the Twenty First Century / Kerry James Marshall. Retrieved 21 Nov. 2006 at http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/marshall.
Rowell, Charles. “An Interview with Kerry James Marshall.” Callaloo. 21.1 (1998): 263-272. Retrieved 21 Nov. 2006 at http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ug01/westkaemper/callaloo/marshall.html.
Williams, Eliza. “Kerry James Marshall: Camden Arts Centre London.” Art Monthly. Retrieved 21 Nov. 2006 at.