Over the centuries, nefarious forces have come up with all kinds of ways to divide human beings into "us" and "them". To this day, those methods of division still exist and are successfully being used. Since early 2017, as I have watched societies become more and more divided, I have become more and more discouraged and saddened. This series of oil paintings, done on canvas, was born out of that sadness. It attempts to demonstrate the humanity of People of Color (POC), specifically, those of African descent, and the normalcy of our lives. Since I love drawing and painting the human figure, and I love to create narratives, this body of work fell naturally into place for me.
I used family members and a few friends to stage memories of my youth as well as those of my life as a mother and wife—ordinary snapshots of moments that show how normal our lives are behind the scenes. For example, Sunday Morning is a remake of a typical Sunday morning routine in our home, getting ready for church as I comb my daughter's hair with my son hanging around, talking and/or playing. As models, I used my nephew's wife and their two children to recreate that moment in time based on a picture my husband took of the three of us as we got ready for church one Sunday morning.
This series shows that the lives of Black people and other POC are no different from any other human being on this earth yet, in America, we are constantly more concerned about our children as they venture into a society unfriendly to their dark skin. Contemplation shows a moment in time of the beginning of that concern. I used my daughter, who isn’t pregnant, as a model for this painting because, as I began working on these paintings, the pandemic hit and I wasn't able to use any of the three pregnant models I had planned to use. I had to improvise. My daughter was a “last resort.”. Since I like painting things that are authentic, I had to figure out a way to make that painting feel "real". I had her wear a maternity shirt that I began sewing 29 years ago when I was expecting her and finished sewing, and wore, four years later when I was expecting my son. That act alone helped me to feel an authenticity to the painting.
Over the time I've worked on these paintings, my process became more consistent. I began with a grisaille, in the manner of the old masters, each of which could actually stand as completed paintings on their own. After the work dried completely, I added layers of muted color, building those colors up to a more saturated look as I got closer to the focal areas.Type your paragraph here.
A Reneé Holmes