oil on canvas 30″ x 24″ framed by the artist
Ambassadors is a celebration of freedom and equality. It is an expression of my ardent prayer that one day humanity will find true equality, while at the same time be able to celebrate our differences. The diversity of cultures is what gives our life on Earth meaning. At the most basic human level, we are alike. If you think this is magical thinking, then I invite you to think again.
I rarely work from other people’s photographs, but I had to make an exception for this one. I painted it over-sized, again. It was created in conjunction with Dwana, a student, who also is painting from the same photograph. I think painting along with my students is a very effective way to teach. The photo did not have a credit. It was in a meme. But whoever took this photo, I am grateful. I made a few subtle changes: the direction of their gaze and expression. Ambassadors has taken its place among my favorite artworks from “The Quench Project” series, which I started when I visited Haiti in 2015. I had a similar feeling as I looked into the eyes of the orphaned children and the amazing people I encountered during my vision quest. What seemed exotic and foreign, at once became familiar and enticing.To look the “other” directly in the eyes and feel his/her humanity is to truly understand what it is to be human.
The setting is either Ghanaian or Kenyan. In Kenya, the Samburu are a proud warrior-race of cattle-owning pastoralists, a section of the Maa-speaking people amongst whom the Maasai are the best known. I had a brush with Ghanaian drumming of the Ewe people, back in my NYC days, with the New Renaissance Chamber Artists. I had the privilege to study authentic Ghanaian drumming and spent one summer, every Friday evening, drumming on the Hudson River at sunset. I will never forget the feeling of being inside the rhythm of the the drums. They say God is in the downbeat, upon which no once was allowed to play. In the midst of the thunderous sound, I experienced God and it was truly sublime.
Ostensibly, it was in preparation for the original music we of the NRCA had commissioned, which was intended to combine world cultures with American musical and theatrical traditions. As noble as this sounds, in this particular instance, the results were, shall we say, mixed. I received a terrible review in the NYTs for my performance.
This is also part of my “Faces of the Lowcounrty” series.