written by AAC Marketing and Development Intern Erica Sobers
Fall 2016 SOLOS artist Michael Booker uses his latest exhibition, The Huntview Sculpture Garden, to tell a story of the past and the future. Heavily influenced by African-American culture, the 12 works are made using oil on woven canvas.
The Tiffany Gallery serves as the perfect backdrop to showcase this collection as the rich tones from the gallery complement the colors in the works and the rich history they represent. As you read on you will realize that while these are impressive to look at they have a deeper meaning that goes beyond their aesthetic.
Below, Michael shares insight on what inspires him and how he wishes his art will transcend time.
What inspired this body of work? What story are you telling?
In my previous work, I had been working with quilt-making and the hidden symbolism in African- American quilts, particularly those that were used during the Underground Railroad.
Since most slaves were illiterate, specific patterns in quilts were used, hiding in plain sight, to give directions to traveling slaves.
Since the story of these quilts were mostly passed down orally, a lot of that information has been lost, to the point where historians are questioning whether the use of quilts during the Underground Railroad was even true.
The interest in lost information with quilt-making also led me to think about what else do we not fully understand. Stonehenge, Easter Island, Egyptian Pyramids, ancient artifacts, relics, tablets, languages and everything else that civilizations have created in the past that have remained in the past.
The Huntview Sculpture Garden is a particular interest in how stories, information, and knowledge is gained and lost as time passes.
I view my paintings as artifacts that depict stories of my life to be left behind. So 500 years from now, those artifacts will give hints to remember me by, or forget me completely.
With all of the work being deeply personal, I wanted to bring in influences of African American culture, southern culture, and hip hop culture, and see how all those things fit into a larger context of art history, where people of color are not as prevalent.
“So 500 years from now, those artifacts will give hints to remember me by, or forget me completely.”
How does your exhibition fit with this particular gallery?
For one, I love that I am in the Tiffany Gallery with stained glass windows lining the back wall. It adds to the fiction of The Huntview Sculpture Garden being an actual museum that has gathered these lost artifacts together in one place.
Also, I am able to share my story in a place that is already rich in history, and add to a dialogue of the people who have come before me.
What is your most important source of inspiration?
No one else will believe in you if you don’t believe in you. I have to make sure I can inspire myself so I can inspire others. Be proud of myself and take pride in myself, but still remain humble and realize I am but a man, but ideas can live on. Being black in America, being from Mississippi, the history and the present of what those two things mean is what drives me.
What one thing do you hope viewers take away from this work?
We are the past for the future. We are ancestors for our children. We have a responsibility to shape our culture, our goals, our beliefs into building blocks that will lay the pathway for better things to come.