D'Wayne by M.M. Green
There's nothing we love more at G-Shock than a bit of art. And Hip Hop. So when the two combine, well, it makes our tiny minds explode.
When a press release plonked itself into our inbox with an oil painting of Lil Wayne and a tagline of 'The Under-Representation of African-Americans in Fine Art', our interest was piqued. So much so that we immediately hollered at the woman behind the paintings, M.M. Green, ahead of her exhibition launch in LA tomorrow evening. Here's what Ms. Green, pic below, had to say about meeting and painting Weezy.
There's clearly a huge under-representation of African American (and Black British, and so on) within the art world. Was there a defining or meaningful moment that inspired this collection or is something that you've wanted to do for years?
I'd say it was a bit of both. For me, I've always felt a strong admiration and affection for the subject matter. I hadn't painted for some time and was suddenly struck with this inexplicable urge to paint again. As I was considering the series I began scanning the history of art, past and present and concluded that there was there was a gaping hole as far as I was concerned. So everything converged, right time/place.
The black experience is woefully underrepresented in the art world, within the history of art in particular. But is this changing? How do you hope exhibitions like your own will chance the art world itself?
I wouldn't feel qualified to speak to that. I can say that there are some really interesting and fantastic contemporary artists (Kehinde Wiley, Kara Walker) who are making waves with their distinctive viewpoints and work. I certainly am happy to contribute in some small way to what I feel is an historical issue in art. In any case, the art world (like the world) is shifting constantly, both in positive and negative ways. Trying to push it a little more positive.
How did you meet initially Wayne? And how was the experience of doing his portrait?
I met Wayne at The Berrics - Steve Berra and Eric Koston's skate park in Downtown LA. He was charismatic and kind. I took his photo at 1am, just before a late night skate session.
He's not known for his love of interviews and photo shoots. How did you manage to pique his interest so that he would sit for you?
I asked and he obliged. I happen to be a fan of his and found him to be an interesting subject to paint, so it was simply good fortune.
Why were you interested in painting Wayne? He has upset some people in the past because of his occasional misogynist lyrics, and the recent line about Emmet Hill, for which he has since apologised?Did it present any problems for you from your own political or social point of view?
I'm also a Wayne fan although I'm not sure if I can explain exactly why. There's something transcendent about the individual which has less to do with artifice and technique and is more about what's essential and underlying. Whether one is a rap superstar or a janitor or a college professor, there's still an essentially good person at the center. I like admiring the "what's good" in people. When I met and spoke with Wayne he told me about his old neighborhood, he'd caused the kids with guns to carry skateboards instead. Anyhow, this particular series doesn't enter in social or political judgement. It's not in its DNA. It suggests neutrality and admiration. So that will have to conclude in another conversation.
There are of course another 19 portraits in the series. How long has this exhibition taken you to do?
Approximately a year.
Who else is featured in the exhibition? Is there a link between your subjects?
Not much more than an incidentally similar age group. It's a slice of social life, from artists to businessmen and between. They all happened to be very gracious people.
'Wallace' by M.M. Greene
What's been the toughest aspect of putting the show together?
The funny part is that, literally, "putting the show together" is the most difficult aspect of the process. Painting the series was fun and easy and really therapeutic. It can be difficult to "pomp up," get out there and say, "look at me, look at my art!" But it feels good to show the work and the process isn't complete without it. You can't/don't just paint for yourself.
The challenge in the arts is to be able to have self-determined thought, coupled with the courage to keep it in tact and to carry it through.
What's the toughest thing about being an artist in the art world today? What challenges have you overcome/ are you yet to overcome?
Everyone has a voice inside them that is their viewpoint. With all the world noise out there in media, advertising and social interaction, that voice is constantly being knocked down and drowned out. The challenge in the arts is to be able to have self-determined thought, coupled with the courage to keep it in tact and to carry it through. I'm doing what I want so I think I'm on the right path.
What's Good opens tomorrow at the Dilettante studio, 120, N. Santa Fe Ave, CA 90012. But if you're not from LA, don't worry, you can check more of M.M's work right here.