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Amani Lewis (B. 1994, Baltimore, MD) & Keisha Ransome
Amani Lewis (B. 1994, Baltimore, MD) & Keisha Ransome
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Amani Lewis (B. 1994, Baltimore, MD) & Keisha Ransome

Earl from Yonder (John 10:14)

Details
Amani Lewis (B. 1994, Baltimore, MD) & Keisha Ransome
Earl from Yonder (John 10:14)
Acrylic, pastel, glitter, textile, digital collage on canvas
72 x 58 in. (182.9 x 147.3 cm.)
Executed in 2020.

Brought to you by

Celine Cunha
Celine Cunha

Lot Essay

Early exploration 2018-19
I grew up in Columbia, Maryland, a predominantly white new-suburban town. Once I attended the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, for the first time, Black people made up most of my community. The drastic differences between these two experiences challenged my self-identity. At quick glances, it’s easy to allow the stereotypes associated with Baltimore (drugs, alcohol, homelessness, poverty, and crime) to skew one’s understanding of individual personal experiences. I am constantly challenging these perceptions, and digging into the root causes by asking questions such as: How have these issues been ignored over time? What can we do to change these realities? In my work, I draw viewers into my compositions, and aim to reveal a missing, but, vital element in
these conversations: the people.

In painting, as in society, ignorance allows for the fabrication and consumption of a “pretty picture.” By examining how Baltimore is depicted in the news, press, and across social media, I have deepened my understanding of how this city is perceived through an exterior lens. I begin with found and original photography of quotidian life in Baltimore, and then layer on expressive contour lines, a process that shifts the viewer’s focus away from the reality of the lives and circumstances of my subjects. In creating a visual cacophony, I compel the viewer to look closer, to hone in on distinct pockets of the canvas, and in the process, uncover aspects of the narrative that are seemingly—and perhaps willingly—overlooked. As the viewer looks closer past the vibrant colors and chaotic contours, they may witness the substance that lies beneath the surface; perhaps realizing that we exist in a state of constant manipulation, controlled by those with the privilege to perpetuate inauthentic perceptions. I invite my audience to step out of this cycle to piece together the full story.

Lorr Squeegee Boys series
About a year ago, I was driving to work in the usual Baltimore morning traffic. I sat at a red-light while a swarm of boys ran up to each car window with a squeegee and some Windex. One boy came to my car, extending his squeegee. I told him I didn’t have cash, but he smiled and replied, “That’s okay, ma’am.” He proceeded to clean my window, drew a little heart in the corner and moved to the next car. I put my car in park as the light turned green. I called out, “AY! AY! Come back!” The drivers began to honk as he leaned into my window. I asked him his name. It was Nate. I asked if I could pay him on CashApp. He said, “Don’t worry. I do this all the time...I learned that some people have the means, some don’t, and some don’t want to share it.” It was clear to me that my spirit connected with this boy.

Everybody watches the squeegee boys as they move swiftly through the streets and ask: Why are they out here? What are they doing with their lives? Or they ignore them. For many, the squeegee boys are a spectacle, another city scene to look upon. I believe everybody wants to know their stories, but they don’t want to do the work to commune with everyday people. My art practice is rooted in both building relationships and sharing resources with my people. My people are those of us whose stories are mistold, misunderstood and ignored. With folks like Nate, I introduce myself, we talk, learn about each other and we begin to build a relationship. Nate didn’t need me, but I wanted to know what it would take to know his story, his desires, his fears, his journey and how to be a part of it. In Baltimore, I find myself taking on other people’s weight; taking a bit of their burden and spinning it into gold . My art exists because they do. It starts with a photograph I take of them. From there, I draw their image, digitally manipulating the colors and composition to tell a story. After the image is printed on canvas, I rework the surface with paints, glitters, pastel, textiles and other media.

I am not yet aware of all of the opportunities that may come my way from institutions, academic spaces, or grant awards, but I know I want to grow as an artist, a practitioner, a writer and so much more. With the chance to showcase my work and be granted the Sondheim award from BOPA, I know there will come an intimacy and attention to my work that I will not receive anywhere else because it is the people who have seen these realities up close and personal who will be talking about and sharing the work. It would be my continued honor to be chosen by those who believe in the social work I do so that I can gain the resources I need to share with the people who make up and represent our city.

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