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BLACK ART 6

JOHN BIGGERS

(Black artists in a Eurocentrick art world)

HAITI PAINTING

On coming to the U. S. A. I was blessed with the opportunity to meet the artist John Biggers, (see http://www.negroartist.com/negro artist/John Biggers/)
and have had a profound respect for him and his work from that day on. I was actually discovering that there was someone else who painted large, and not only that, but he also focused on a very similar subject matter. It was then that I received an autographed copy of his book THE ART OF JOHN BIGGERS and the two quotations below will give the viewer a great INSIGHT into the dynamics of the struggle that is encountered by an artist when he tries to be true to his African roots in an art world that is predominantly controlled and regulated by a Eurocentric world-view.

(P-40)

"By winning the prizes, Biggers’s work automatically entered the collections of both museums. (The Dallas museum of art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston)
In both cases, the awarding of the prize to a Black artist created unexpected confusion for the museum administrators, whose trustees and patrons were not expecting a black artist even to enter the competition, much less to win it. The directors of the two museums, James Chillman in Houston and Jerry Bywaters in Dallas, were put in the awkward position of having to uphold the segregationist policies of the museum while acknowledging the talent of the gifted young black art professor.
In Dallas, a reception that was planned for Biggers was mysteriously canceled. When the artist arrived at the museum, a representative asked him if he were John Biggers, silently handed him his purchase prize check, and then coldly turned away."

(P-43)
"Very evident in the display of artwork was the philosophy that Biggers had acquired at Hampton and brought to Texas Southern: students should be encouraged to draw upon their African-American cultural heritage rather than look to European history for inspiration.
The treatment of commonplace aspects of Black southern life as artistic subject matter was confusing even to many Black viewers, who criticized Biggers for encouraging his students to create “DEPRESSING” art instead of pleasant still lifes or gentle landscapes. Although the criticism continued for many years, Biggers, Joseph Mack, and Simms were undeterred in their pursuit of African-American cultural awareness. The 1950’s were years of immensely painful self-consciousness for Blacks, many of whom felt they had to prove themselves to society at large. The discussion of whether African-American artists should exclusively portray the black experience was not limited to Houston. This dilemma was as old as The Harlem Renaissance AND LIVES ON TODAY."

The bottom-line to all of this is that

BLACK HISTORY IS AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH.

If it is told honestly it will expose the truth that a great crime is still lingering on the outskirts of the lie of Black freedom.

There are victims and there are beneficiaries. Until the cruel disparities have been addressed some will be uncomfortable with the incriminatory sting of the truth, and some will be constantly coerced by various means to collaborate in muffling their own already stifled truth.

"AND LIVES ON TODAY."

 

Ras Jahaziel
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