Inspiration: 'Off Kilter' from the Church of Broken Pieces / by Shawn Theodore

Two of my strongest influences from the New Negro Movement are Jacob Lawrence and Aaron L.  Douglas I'm a huge fan of both of their styles, but most importantly, my work grew from (and merged) their mutually exclusive themes of everyday black life and the conceptual fantasy of black existential life, Lawrence and Douglas, respectively.

It's my belief that the two artists not only understood the trajectory of black critical thinking and culture, they understood their positions and importance in the earliest days of African American Arts and Culture. However, my current exhibition is, without a doubt, inspired by Douglas' ideas of how spirituality and sense of self identity is often guided by the supernatural or the supremely spiritual, and in that, the notions of 'belief' or 'faith' are that much more real to us or the subject than the reality one may actually live. We often speak of that particular type of 'safe space' but rarely do we consider what it would look like - Douglas does that! Man, like damn, he gives me the chills.

Case in point, my photo 'Off Kilter' which is inspired by Douglas' 'The Negro in an African Setting'. I wanted to convey the same sense of urgency and connectivity to a self-identified African in America through a clear expression of identity and action(s) that are uniquely African by design, of Africans by Africans. In Douglas' painting, he depicts a man and woman dancing to a steady drum beat, surrounded by men with spears while concentric circles of light emphasize the heat and rhythm of the dancers' movements. A sculpture floating in a central circle above their heads conveys the importance of ancestral connectivity embedded within handcrafted objects created throughout African culture. In 'Off Kilter' I used a yellow backdrop to convey sunlight, and lots of it, from end to end in the scene. My initial idea was to convey the effects of magnetism, more specifically, when one tries to make magnets connect from the same polar side. I thought of using the idea of magnetic fields as an expression of cultural similarity. We cannot see the source of the energy transfer between them, we see the effect. The result is somewhat surreal, a moment of rising and falling, or both rising, or conversely are they both falling? I'm of the mindset to let the viewer make that decision.

As I move forward in my process, I will introduce more of the influences behind what and how I create. As always, thank you.

"Off Kilter" from Church of Broken Pieces. Shawn Theodore, 2016

"Off Kilter" from Church of Broken Pieces. Shawn Theodore, 2016

"The Negro in an African Setting" from Aspects of Negro Life.

"The Negro in an African Setting" from Aspects of Negro Life.