Great American Artists is an exhibition of new figurative works by artists Christopher Batten, Endia Beal, Halima Cassells, Alonzo Edwards, Sydney James, Gregory Johnson, Richard Lewis, Mario Moore, Sabrina Nelson and Senghor Reid. Through a series of studio visits, collaborative meetings and documentation, these artists developed a consortium with two major goals in mind: to increase collaboration among artists in Detroit and to strengthen the network of artists who employ similar themes in their work. Divided into a three-part series, subtitled Roots, Branches, and Seeds, this year-long exhibition represents the generational structure of the group and the development of the artists.
Exhibiting third are Endia Beal, Sydney G. James, and Mario Moore, who form the “Seeds” of the group. They have used inspiration derived from The Roots and Branches to create works that address the social issues of today. All three hope that their work will resonate on a personal level with their viewers.
Endia Beal, a native of Winston Salem, NC, earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She continued her studies at the Studio Art Center International in Florence, Italy, where she concentrated in Color Photography and Italian. Following her return to the United States, Beal was selected as one of four women nationally to participate in a summer fellowship with ArtTable, a program designed to promote women in the visual arts. Representing the Washington, D.C. district, Beal had the opportunity to research and assist in the curatorial process of an Andy Warhol Exhibit at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Beal is currently a graduate student at Yale School of Art in New Haven, Connecticut.
Much like the documentary photographs created by James Van Der Zee during the Harlem Renaissance, Beal seeks to capture the intimate thoughts, dreams, and struggles in the lives of minorities. She explores the most under appreciated and intangible aspects of contemporary life. Beal establishes a bond that exceeds that of subject and photographer. Her portraits reflect the personal connection and trust that is established in that relationship. As a result, the viewer has the opportunity to glimpse into the life of someone outside their reality and to explore their similarities and differences. Beal believes that diversity and an acknowledgement of cultural influence within the arts is critical.
Native of Detroit, Sydney G. James, is a graduate of Cass Technical High School and of the Center for Creative Studies (now College for Creative Studies), where she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts. James began her career in Detroit as an Art Director for Global Hue Advertising Agency, where she primarily created print and television advertising for major international brands.
To expand her career, James moved to Los Angeles in 2004 and secured a staff position as resident artist for the ABC Family Show, Lincoln Heights. Sydney created all of the artwork for the set, lead character Cassie, a prodigal artist, and other characters. She utilized various styles to define each personality her works represented. She worked as an artist for several other network television shows as well as films.
James has showcased her paintings locally in Detroit, and nationally in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, Houston, Washington D.C., New Orleans and New York. Her work can be found in a host of private collections. As Sydney’s star rises, industry insiders anticipate significant interest in her. Sydney says, “My work is always personal and, I want my viewers to experience a personal connection [to it] as well."
Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Mario Moore spent most of his time in and around the City’s many museums and creative venues. From a very young age he sat in on figure drawing classes taught by his mother, Sabrina Nelson, at local colleges and universities. After graduating from Cass Technical High School, he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration at the College for Creative Studies and studied in Italy at the Studio Art Centers International. Moore has exhibited in many group and solo exhibitions, as well. He also worked as a sculptor on two large film productions: Real Steel and Red Dawn. Moore is currently pursuing his Master of Fine Arts at Yale University.
Moore draws upon the history of black people in an effort to reanalyze current social constructs. However, he creates work that correlates to the “hear and now.” For him painting and images are a catalyst for dramatic change in the world. Just as Paul Revere’s engraving, ”The Bloody Massacre,” ignited The American Revolution, Moore hopes his will provide a spark to eradicate injustice.
To Moore, injustice is created by the ruling class, which defines people who are different from them as “the other,” and therefore dangerous, inhuman, among other negative connotations. His work surrounds itself with these issues in an attempt to investigate modern society’s hierarchies and to create a conversation about the other. Moore hopes that viewers will connect with his work as if it were their own biography—their own story.