Saturday, March 19, 2005

Colin Quashie

Along with several co-workers, I enjoyed meeting Colin Quashie at Charlotte's McColl Center for Visual Art today (OK, technically yesterday). He shared some of his more recent work with us and described his creative process in some detail.

When I heard him described as "an equal-opportunity offender," I had a feeling I'd appreciate his work. His subject matter distills ideas and stereotypes down to their essence to create very precise and satirical art--the sort of acerbic social commentary that's often immitated, but seldom successfully.

Born in England and raised in the West Indies, Quashie came to the U.S. with his parents when he was six. He's completing a three month residency here in Charlotte right now, and usually lives in Charleston, SC. Some of his work was banned in that state. Ironically, in South Carolina, it's been fine to fly the Confederate flag on the Capitol grounds, but you can't display art which satirizes racial sterotypes in a public gallery.

Quashie has also written for Mad TV. He seldom sells his art and explains on his site why he seldom accepts commissions:
I have always stated that patrons buy the artist, not the art. If I had commissioned Picasso to paint my portrait and he came back with an image that had five eyes and three ears, then that's how he saw me and is exactly what I commissioned him for...his vision! If you want a presidential portrait, commission a presidential portrait artist or if you're too cheap, hop on over to Wal-Mart and take a picture with the woodland scene in the background. As for the whole HGTV decorator palette, save yourself some time and just go to an art gallery and look through the poster catalogues for something that matches your drapes. Patrons need to spend more time appreciating art and educating themselves about the artist and less time stuffing their faces with cheese and fruit while swilling free wine at art openings.
Here's a site devoted to his O.J. Coloring Book, which you can even download as a PDF.

We also met the South African artist Colbert Mashile, whose vivid art also offers some powerful criticism of life in these United States.

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