On a perfect day in September, when the sky looked as if it was painted by an artist’s brushstrokes, and the weather was like a breezy mid-summer day, Diasporal Rhythms visited three magnificent artists in Indianapolis, Indiana.
The group of seventeen ardent collectors of art of the African Diaspora was royally entertained by master artist Mason Archie of Indianapolis. It is obvious from the questions posed to the artist by the collectors, that not only is their quest for exceptional art, but they are also in constant search of the mysterious key to the creative process. Mr. Archie’s answers revealed that he has a tremendous capacity for uninterrupted focus. Once defined, his attention span never strays from his goal. Moreover, in his own words, he has the ability to attack all subject matter with the same panache.
He is best known for his vibrant and inviting landscapes. Mason’s works are described as blending impressionism with realism. He seems to paint of a time when the world was more pristine using a nostalgic lens to entice the viewer to yearn to traverse the lonely lanes and mysterious wooded areas. It is interesting to note that many of his paintings depict long meandering lanes with a solitary figure either walking away from the viewer, or journeying toward the observer. Could it be that these are spiritual journeys we all must travel alone?
Self-taught, with no mentors or teachers to nurture his youthful love of beauty, he studied the masters and emulated their style capturing technique and using the same materials. He seems blessed with exceptional talent and great good fortune. Perhaps it is these blessings which have freed him to bestow his generosity to other artists and friends.
Mason frequently works on multiple projects simultaneously. He likes to paint in a series, which is a pictorial narration of a familiar and historical story. He is currently documenting scenes of the Underground Railroad. One very intriguing painting in this series was hung on a wall in his home when we visited. It was entitled “The Great Dismal Swamp.” There are barren trees mired in a swampy quagmire. In the opposite corner of the canvas, we see a lone, lovely Egret poised on a dead log. It is so incongruent to see this living and magnificent thing of beauty in this lonely swamp that is in the foreground of death and staleness. In the background, however, there are lush and inviting trees. It is almost as if the artist, Mason, in his depiction of this real area of the Underground Railroad in Virginia reveals that the promise land is right on the other side of the swamp. In our allegory of life, we can use this metaphor of hope that is painted on this captivating canvas.
While growing up in his home town, Dayton, Ohio, he was hired by Lamar Advertising in an innovative and unusually designed high school program which allowed students to work and attend school. Within 15 years he was the Art Director of the company and headed a department. Eventually he left to open his own advertising agency.
In 2005 he began painting full time and has achieved significant success by working with consultants, galleries and at auction houses. Major corporations such as Wells Fargo, Nationwide and others pay him commissions. He has won numerous awards and his artwork is found in many museums
Diasporal Rhythms Visits Indianapolis Artist – Morris T. Howard
As soon as Diasporal Rhythms art lovers entered the home of Archie Mason, our host and Master painter of the visit, we saw a painting of a young black ballerina during practice on the stairway which piqued everyone’s curiosity. The artist had captured the mid-day light as it danced across the floor of the dance studio and landed on the mirror which encompassed a wall of the room. Such detail was sketched in the painting it looked like a photograph. This photo realistic rendering captured the essence of multiple lives as each interacted as a reflection in a mirror. Their belongings were casually strewn throughout the room and equally depicted in the mirror like a second chronical of the painting.
We later learned that this painting was the creation of Morris T. Howard, artist and friend of Archie Mason since he was in the 7th grade in Dayton, Ohio. Morris selects the full human experience as the subject of his canvas. He is an adept story teller using his paint brush to chronical the details of the narrative on canvas. Each of his works led the viewer to become more curious about the subject of the painting, ordinary yet complex documentation of everyday black life and black people.
Morris has perfected the use of light and shadows in his art work. Just as seen in “Practice Makes Perfect,” we saw rain on the ground and sunlight reflected in the rain in “Easy Boogie,” a parade celebrating President Obama’s Election. The teens marching in the parade were individually distinct. There were no stylized representations as often seen in paintings of groups.
It is interesting to note that Mason Archie and Morris T. Howard share the same mentor, Simmie Knox, a master portrait painter and still life artist.
Morris has painted multiple works with varying themes. He is a prolific artist and his art appears in numerous galleries, public buildings, private collections and museums. One painting which can be seen on line, is “Red Bird.” It is so beautiful and poignant it overwhelms the viewer with joyful emotions. The title of the painting, a little red bird perched on a tree limb in the corner of the painting, is relatively obscured. What one sees immediately is a lovely young girl, immaculately dressed in red, undoubtedly for a special occasion. Her red hat is trimmed in net and intricate bows. Her beautiful red coat appears new and perfect for a crisp winter day. A red clutch purse is tucked under her arm. One imagines that she is on her way to church for she is so festively dressed. Across a two lane highway is a weathered two story house and store. There is a coke vending machine and a sign which lets the viewer know that the store is open for business. The contrast between the girl and the red dress and the weathered structure across the highway defines the deterioration of the black community in many cities. It also shows beauty and the exceptional quality of the people that thrive in spite of the pathology where they are forced to live.
Diasporal Rhythms Visits Indianapolis Artist- LOBYN
Our last visit of the day was to the studio of Walter Lobyn Hamilton, known professionally as Lobyn. Lobyn is another self-taught visual artist who credits association with Bombay Sapphire as spearheading his present fame. Lobyn was the winner of the Bombay Sapphire art contest curated by Chicago Gallery owner Andre Guichard, who also curates art for the “Empire” series.
Lobyn has had a sudden rise to greatness as his work dons the walls of the popular television show “Empire,” a Fox’s hit series. His unusual approach to visual Pop art is a representational creation of vinyl records and album covers. He enjoys eliciting social commentary through nostalgic imagery. He is known for his renderings of political and social figures.
Two very fascinating creations of Lobyn’s are faces of an African American intricately covered in vinyl cutouts. The highly stylized hair on the face of the artwork is actually a map in the shape of the African continent.
Lobyn’s work has been recognized in The Chicago Tribune, The New Yorker and other notable print media. His art pieces are included in numerous Collections.
Our trip to Indianapolis turned into a place of wonderment, amazement and reverence. We were most gratified to become intimately acquainted with three self-taught artists whose accomplishments and works were so awe inspiring.