NYU Black Renaissance Noire Volume 18 Issue 3 - Fall 2018 - Page 52

Hundreds upon hundreds of hours go into a single drawing. I don’t really keep track. When I’m drawing, I’m in a zone and I’m not really aware of time. With portraits, I get to know the subject — through the contours of the face, the eyes — there is so much expressiveness in minute details and subtleties. Emotionally, it’s gratifying to complete a work. But the time-consuming and meticulous process that I use to draw does take a physical toll, such as tendonitis or back aches from standing for extended periods of time while working. I have to pace myself. Who are some of your influences? I look at different people when I’m working on different projects — for Mugshot Portraits, I looked at the lithographs and woodblock prints of Elizabeth Catlett — especially her works that depict Black women’s empowerment. I also looked at the portraits of the Neo-classical French painter, Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres. His portraits were commissioned, so the biographies of the sitters are documented, as opposed to some of the subjects in my project, Mugshot Portraits, where there may be little biographical information besides their names. I also looked at Warhol’s 13 Most Wanted Men from 1964. What do you think is the general state of affairs with contemporary arts in terms of quality of work being produced/exhibited/collected, opportunities for exhibition and recognition, competitiveness (cooperation) among artists? There is art for every preference — from the highly crafted object to conceptual work where ideas are privileged over craft. Quality is subjective and assessing quality is complicated, at best. What I have observed over the course of my career is that the art world has become more inclusive of artists of color and women, though there is still much work to be done. Today, artists are creating their own opportunities and are more entrepreneurial, and there are multiple platforms for work to be seen and shared. There are artist-run spaces, galleries that are run out of studios, garages and living rooms, recognition and sales via Instagram, artists publishing their own books and zines, artists blurring the lines between art, design, music and performance and not relying on traditional means of support to do it. Artists are competitive, that’s just the nature of the game. But there are also areas of support. Among my circle of artist friends and my larger network, there is cooperation and generosity; we support each other, share resources and opportunities and we are happy to see each other succeed. Jimmie L. Lowe, 2018 Graphite and conté pencil on paper 33 1/4” by 47” Your drawings are especially powerful, sensual and detailed, and often large scale. How long does it take you to complete a typical drawing and what toll does it take physically or emotionally? o