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Friday, January 2, 2015

Authenticity

Charity, 1993, watercolor, by Luvon Sheppard
My sister-in-law works in Washington, DC and is no stranger to the many and varied rudenesses of straphanger culture. Yesterday she read aloud from Brittney Cooper’s Listen when I talk to you  in Salon.

Leaving aside Professor Cooper’s self-promotion (she is, after all, a teacher of women’s studies and Africana at Rutgers), these are perilous times in race relations in America.

My friends come in every hue, and they have commented on Ferguson, and their comments have been nuanced and insightful. Why is my experience so different from the reported experience? I live in the urban, integrated north. Moreover, many of my friends are evangelicals, and we have different values from society as a whole.

Title unknown (but it's Rochester), by Luvon Sheppard
Rochester was the site of one of America’s earliest civil rights era race riots, but it is by and large sitting this out. In September, a shooting killed one cop and injured two others. Last month, I was in church listened to a black woman talking about her fears for her husband, also a cop. It was a sobering testimony, but it reflects the violence in our city and our vulnerability to it.

Title unknown (but it's Rochester), by Luvon Sheppard
Questions about authenticity are central to art, particularly this year, when a bogus African-American woman was included in the Whitney Biennial. Among the fist-pumpers in this year’s protests is one of my favorite students. His experience is not that of urban black America; his parents are both doctors and immigrants from the Caribbean. I hate to see him appropriate someone else’s story. In doing so, he derails his own.

Rochester is pretty much sitting out the current wave of anti-police violence. Photo by Chip Walker.
Sometimes a teacher teaches best by getting out of the way. I introduced this young man to Luvon Sheppard at RIT. Luvon is black, a native of Rochester, and lived through the race riots. In addition, he’s one of the best painters to ever come out of Rochester. He will have more to say to this gifted young artist than I ever can.

Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in Maine in 2015 or Rochester at any time. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops! Download a brochure here.

2 comments:

Benny Campanelli said...

unsigned Ralph Avery's:

https://www.google.com/search?q=ralph+avery+artist+rochester&biw=853&bih=547&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=ZbemVPKdIsScNrORgsAJ&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAg

Carol Douglas said...

The similarity lies in the medium more than even the subject matter. Avery was a commercial artist; Sheppard is painting a statement. I can appreciate Avery's technical skill but I don't want one of his paintings, whereas I'd jump at the opportunity to acquire a Sheppard.