In recent years I’ve befriended a number of talented American artists. One artist I’ve grown to respect and admire is Mississippi born Delvon Cunningham, a self-taught artist with a great focus on mixed media work. Now based in Atlanta, he’s developing a body of work and exhibiting at venues such as the Southwest Arts Centre. Now a member of the RAW Artists Network, Delvon’s art was also featured at the RAW Discovery Show in Atlanta earlier this year. He agreed to share some thoughts on art and his aspirations.
Q-How long have you been painting and what inspires you?
Thanks David for including me in your Blog, it’s my great honour! Although I’ve been somewhat “creative” since grade school, my current body of work began about 6 years ago. Beforehand, I was designing greeting cards, all handcrafted. Card making really opened me up to the world of mixed media, while helping me develop a lot of self-taught skills and techniques I now use.
Inspiration? hmm…this age old question is difficult to sum up. Ideas for my artwork can be quite random and eclectic, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is the great gift of being an artist, the freedom to express from a natural, organic space. You will find a timeless simplicity in much of my work. People inspire me a great deal, our individualism, inner spirit, beauty, personalities, style, and rich cultures. I’m convinced that we are genuinely fascinated with each other, one of the reasons I think people are drawn to my portraits.
Inspiration also comes from great music, African-American culture/history, photographers, fashion, contemporary designs, abstracts, current affairs, pop culture, colours, rich textures, nature, my fellow artists and most of all – The life-force that wakes me in the morning. I challenge myself to interpret different creative impulses that may arise. I trust that these inner feelings are invitations to explore something that wants to be expressed through me. Amazing things usually happen when I listen 🙂
Q What is your preferred medium and why?
I definitely prefer working with mixed media, as opposed to just one medium like paints, pencil or paper. I enjoy mixing it up a bit. Juxtaposing different mediums is fun and spontaneous, with unlimited possibilities. It can be unpredictable, especially if experimenting with a new technique but I love this element of surprise.
Q You have a distinctive and admirable style. Can you explain the process you adopt for producing work such as Taste of Freedom?
I appreciate your kind words brother David! I get a lot of feedback on the textures and patterns I incorporate, whether it’s fabric or textured paper. My “Taste of Freedom” piece is one of my more abstract styled portraits. This was my interpretation of black men, both past and present who may have experienced a form of discrimination, racism, profiling, violence or any injustice due to his skin color. The red, white and blue colors are distorted on the face of the subject, almost in a violent manner, with a taste of “blue” blood dripping from his
lips….so I called it “Taste of Freedom”. I used pencils, acrylics, ink and paper for this piece.
Q How do you manage the commercial/income generating aspects of being an artist?
Well, I think I’m getting better at this with time. I manage to generate income as best I can without giving my work away. I work a 9-5 to put kibbles n’ bits on the table…lol
Q We met through the Black Art in America initiative which provides a great platform to view black art. Whilst this is great, is its existence reflective of mainstream art galleries not representing a wide enough variety of art and artists?
Yes we met via BAIA, a great network of artists and art Lovers. I personally haven’t had those thoughts about the network. I haven’t known BAIA to discriminate based on someone’s art form or style. Membership is pretty much open to all visual artists as far as I can tell. They featured my work shortly after I joined, which was a huge honor for me. To me, its helpful tool to connect, network and market – which is pretty much self- driven by how much, and how well one engage the site. I did not join BAIA to have them “represent” me like a gallery would. I joined to connect with creative minds like you.
DEN- I wasn’t implying there’s a restrictive process executed by BAIA, far from it. My question explores the mainstream art world; is there an adequate celebration of quality artwork representing the African diaspora in public galleries?
Yes absolutely, I believe its existence speaks to the large imbalance of representation between black artists and other groups. BAIA is a pretty large network and still growing. I think this is because there aren’t many networks committed to promoting the African diaspora in visual arts.
Q I love your image TASTE OF FREEDOM 2. This is a powerful and thought provoking piece. Your work reflects and celebrates the African American experience. How important is the visual artist in modern day America?
Thanks David, this piece is an extension to the first “Taste of Freedom” piece I did. I will certainly continue the “Taste of Freedom” series, depicting situations associated with black people in America. ” Taste of Freedom II ” features a young Trayvon Martin wearing the all too familiar hoodie. The background gives somewhat of a visual commentary via photo collage, with glimpses of Pres. Lincoln and Obama, a pic from Jim Crow era, Boxers Ali and Jack Johnson, among others. It’s meant to provoke thought and dialogue around our journey, and the state of our Freedom in America today.
Visual artists often communicate ideas/feelings that cannot be expressed in words. That’s a powerful thing! The idea that one can manipulate paint or shape clay that overwhelms us with emotion- what a miraculous power to behold as an artist! I think it’s good for visual artists to bring forth their best Self, and pour it into their works. Art plays a hand in shaping pop culture and social dialogue. That’s pretty important.
Q You say you want to work with and positively influence young people; how have or will you be doing that?
Yes sir, it is essential to invest in, nurture and inspire our youth. This principal is really a way of life that I continue to cultivate. As my art brand grows, so will more opportunities to use my art to collaborate, and work with other causes and organizations that focus on the needs of youth. I want to also support art and music education in schools. Kids should all have the opportunity to build on whatever creative interests they may have, other than just sports.
Q So what projects are you currently working on?
There are a couple of new works currently in the making, with some exciting new techniques I’m having fun with. Many recent works can be seen and purchased at: http://delvon-cunningham.artistwebsites.com/…I started a Facebook Group about a year ago, “DISCOVER BLACK ART. As it continues to grow, I want to expand that community on the Internet; I think there’s some potential there to do some great things with my fellow artists.
Q What career aspirations do you have for the immediate future?
At the moment, I’m engulfed in creating and growing my body of work. I have so many great ideas to bring forth. Stay Tuned!!
I wish Delvon the very best with his career.
Art by Delvon (contact info):
Facebook Page – Art by Delvon