Shared Meal After the Main Event

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In every installment Artists, T highlights a recent or rare work by a Black artist and a few words from that artist that put the work in context. This week we are looking at a painting. Michon Sanderswho will attend the workshop Anderson Farm Arts Center Near Aspen, Col., this summer. His first solo exhibition will open in San Francisco Friends Really Gallery in January 2022.

Name: Michon Sanders

Age: 40

Based: Oakland, California

Originally: Tallahassee, Fla.

Where and when did you do this job? This job finished in 2020 — my school’s studio was closed due to Covid, so I had to move all my work home and that’s where I started this painting. “It started as a continuation of a painting I named it.Repast To Follow” (2019) won the 2020 AXA Art Award. I wanted to capture the same essence of togetherness in that job in a different setting. I moved to Oakland about seven years ago, and the thing about living and working here is that there is such a deep pride in Blackness that I’ve never experienced it before, and that directly impacts my work. I don’t know how ‘Black’ my job would have been, how blatantly and shamelessly Black it would have been if I hadn’t moved to Oakland, maybe followed the same path elsewhere. Living elsewhere, being Black was something you had to move around rather than thrive, but Oakland gave me such a huge connection to the pride of Blackness. Being here has given me a sense of freedom and I have incorporated that directly into my work.

Can you describe what happened in the study? The title is “The Elders and Children First” (2020) and the meal you see, the meal after the wedding or funeral, or the church service or the meeting, whatever. Especially in the South, it is an unwritten rule that elders and children eat first at meetings. So a group of people all sitting down to eat – they are talking, the meal is probably over, there are some empty plates and people are looking at the photos and then there’s a figure in the middle, the person you notice is neither a senior nor a child – and this is someone on the job, maybe it’s an example of a catch where it shouldn’t be. It’s just one of those in-between moments in black lives.

What inspired you to do this? It follows in the same vein as the rest of my personal art practice, which is about capturing those moments of life specifically and especially for Black people. It’s a way of showing our humanity by showing examples of pauses, moments when you might be about to make a decision or change course…or you’re caught in a flash. There’s a strong Black culture around food and gathering, and so I really wanted to make a piece that celebrates that, but not in the traditional “here’s a family dinner table” style.

What is a work of art in any medium that changes your life? I didn’t grow up with a great art background; I knew about the Renaissance and its old masters – Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci – and that was what art was to me. As a kid, believe it or not, I really appreciated the statue of David; it was a miracle for me. Then, as an adult, I went to see him in real life and for the first time had an experience with a work of art where you stood in front of it and got emotional. I just cried. My mom said, “What’s wrong with you?” said. Really seeing it, knowing a little bit about what makes it, and just thinking about what a wonderful piece of physical art it is made me truly appreciate art in a way I haven’t had in a long time. Even before I started looking at art as a career for myself, I was fascinated by the technical work that went into this perfectly carved piece of marble. I guess it was some kind of draw, someone took a stone and made something nice out of it.

When I look at later contemporary portraits, Kehinde Wiley or Barkley L. HendricksStill, it reminds me that there can be much more to art than that. you can add meaning; You can add depth. You can add personality and emotion. Now that I’m an adult and making my own art, contemporary artists are more my jam. Hendricks – he was my first painting inspiration and when I finally saw some of his paintings in person, African Diaspora Museum It hosted Harlem’s “Studio Museum” in San Francisco.Black Breaks” show, I realize the statue of David is a kind of work of art, but the work of Hendricks and the work of all these Black artists – that I was never taught art can be this Seeing this, I realized, “Oh my God, there are Blacks painting other Black people! And that is normal and celebrated and should be celebrated more.”

This interview has been edited and shortened.

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