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A New Day for an Old Friend

As part of my site update (As you may have already seen) I have finally added my ecomerce platforms to my formerly vacant "store" page, and I am pushing out a re-issue of my "BOY" series as wearable prints. The BOY pieces and I have a long and complicated history. I developed the first black and white, ink and xerox collages years ago. I remember being really excited about the process. Drawing in ink and marker, then cutting figures out, flipping images, reversing images, layering, whiting out areas then drawing and reassembling evrything 3 or 4 different ways.. This was all by hand as I knew NOTHING about photoshop or computers at that time. Almost no one did. This was still during the days when you would catch young guys around the work stations at Kinkos, promoting everything from house parties to live music and club openings armed with nothing but press type, glue sticks and the copy machine. The odd thing about it all, was that for as excited as I was, everyone I showed them to, just got this kind of puzzled look on their faces, and were like, "Why?" These were friends, colleagues, past instructors; people whose opinions I valued. NO ONE was into them. I played around with them off and on for a couple of years as I moved on to other stuff.

Later, I was asked to create a piece for a collaborative exhibition at Artscape (Baltimore's summer arts festival) based on a poem by a fairly well known, local, black poet named R.B. Jones. I remember reading the line, "I am New Africa...and my day is coming." I immediately thought of my old black and white collage series. I got them all out, made fresh copies and dove back in, hand coloring with marker and ink and colored pencil and the first color variation was done! I think I had the title American Boy in the back of my head, but as I reflected on the poem and the piece, I think it was then that the title became "BOY." Whenever my Dad would tell us stories about his childhood on the family farm in North Carolina, they were always peppered with the word; instances of my grandfather, a grown man, being called to, as "Boy." It always put a mild knot in my stomach. At the same time, i can still hear my grandfather (also Archie) with nothing but love, calling out to me as boy. Same word, hitting very differently. I thought it appropriate as the work evolved, it take on a theme of deftly pushing forward in the complicated identity of a black American man.

The day came to drop off the work for the show, but once i got it into the subtle cream-colored mat, and the tasteful, low, profile, black metal frame, that wave of doubt came crashing back in. Is this enough? Maybe I should have made it bigger. The clock was ticking so I grabbed a second drawing from my "Works" series done in my more familiar style, that just happened to be in a frame and walked up to MICA. "I'll decide when I get there" I said to myself. I ended up bringing the Boy piece back home, where it stayed, but I continued to find my way back into it every time I re-arranged my studio. They would resurface and I would get right back into them. Several, color and black and white, variations later. it remained a favorite. Boy 2 is still the desktop on my computer, and when i built my site in 2015, they were at the top of my portfolio page.

Boy 5 always struck me differently, as the only variation without the main figure. No matter what might be added to the middle, that image is the end of the series, returning to the graphic style of the original. I always thought that it would look good on a shirt or something, but it was not really that high on my list of things to explore. Teaching takes a tremendous amount of head space, even while still creating work, and managing to exhibit every year or so.

Since the COVID summer, I have basically emptied my sketchbook, and have quite a bit of work that no one has seen, and gotten more familiar with social media. As i carved out some time to update my site (re-arrange my studio) what was i going to do with the BOY stuff? It still had not seen its best days in my mind. As I worked on the update, I pushed out into the Print on Demand sphere and found a platform that had the quality of product I was looking for, but also, finally, had the design tools and control that let me experiment and create exactly what i wanted. And what is better on a new venture/adventure than an old friend? I am really excited to see these pieces come to life in this new way. I got my first samples back about a month ago and I was knocked out! I gave one to my dear friend, mixed media and performance artist, Niccoletta Dela Brown to wear to a reception at BSA for Jada Pinkett-Smith and she made it GLOW. All-over garment printing is expensive and the profit margin for me is fairly low, but what i am really excited about is having this series take center stage. We'll see where it goes. Please check them out and all my other stuff available as custom prints and selected merchandise, through my website, under the STORE tab. thanks for reading. Look for more posts soon.

photos by Victor Brown


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