Arvie Smith, an 85-year-old artist who is in the prime of his art journey. He retired from teaching in 2014 and has since received awards and recognition for his art. Now, he’s bringing his art to New York, and he wants to talk about the Black experience through his paintings.
Arvie Smith: Growing Up in East Texas
Arvie Smith’S art is all about his life as a Black man. He grew up in East Texas in the 1940s, where the effects of slavery and racism were still strong. Jim Crow laws made it hard for Black people to be treated fairly. When he was a kid, the Ku Klux Klan even burned down his great-uncle’s house, and he had to leave to stay safe.
Arvie Smith: A Spark of Creativity
Arvie loved to draw from a young age. His grandpa gave him a book about the Sistine Chapel, and he copied the pictures in it over and over. In middle school, a teacher noticed his talent and encouraged him to paint the Black experience. She told him to paint the kids he saw outside the window, and that was a big moment for him. He realized he could use his talent to paint what mattered to him.
Arvie Smith: Facing Rejection
In high school, Arvie was known as the artist and dreamed of getting a scholarship to study art in college. But racism got in his way. In the 1950s, when he tried to go to art school, they told him they didn’t want him because of his skin color. It was a tough time.
A Long Journey to Success
Despite the setbacks, Arvie didn’t give up. He traveled around the United States and Canada, working different jobs, and eventually made it to Portland. It was there that he finally got to go to art school in 1986 when he was almost 50. That’s when his art career really started taking off. People loved his art when it was displayed in galleries.
Challenging Racist Ideas
Arvie’s art isn’t afraid to tackle racist ideas. He includes them in his paintings along with powerful images of Black people. He was inspired by the story of Emmett Till, a young boy who was brutally killed by white men in 1955. A picture of Emmett Till in a magazine shocked Arvie, and he started painting what he felt.
“Black Athena”: A Special Painting
One of Arvie’s famous paintings is called “Black Athena.” It’s full of different pictures, some beautiful and others shocking. You can see stereotypes of Black people, a powerful figure named Athena on a horse, and even images of Donald Trump. Arvie is very careful when he puts all these images together.
Arvie Smith: A Colorful Palette
Arvie’s art always uses bright and vibrant colors like oranges, reds, yellows, browns, and blues. He got these colors from his great-grandma, who supported his art. When he went to Africa, he saw these colors everywhere, and they became an important part of his art.
The Artistic Journey Continues
Even after almost 40 years of being an artist, Arvie has no plans to stop. He believes he still has a lot to say, especially about the issues Black people face today, like police brutality. His art is meant to inform and start important conversations. It may not be something you’d hang on your couch, but it’s meant to make you think and talk about important things.