- Faith & Family
Artists of color are finally starting to get the recognition they have long deserved during Art Basel Miami — an annual exhibition of some of the best and most sought-after artists in the world. It’s the kind of event where one’s dreams of stardom can come true in an instance. One hardworking artist that hails from Miami and intends on making his mark is T. Eliot Mansa, a New World School of the Arts High School graduate who says he’s been perfecting his craft “for as long as I can remember.”
Mansa will be one of a carefully selected cadre of Black artists from the U.S. or Caribbean nations whose works will appear as part of the Art Africa exhibit that runs from Dec. 6 – 9 in an 8,000 square foot exhibition tent adjacent to the Lyric Theatre in Overtown [919 NW 2nd Avenue]. Mansa will be showing a series of portraits — large frame paintings that are actually his own friends and relatives that are recast as West African gods.
“For the past few years I’ve been looking at the structural causes that have influenced the development of our society and have recently changed my focus to the cultural causes,” he said. “African religions, ideas and traditions have often been viewed in a negative light. I wanted to show them in their more appropriate, positive light.”
The relevance of the environment
Mansa has long focused on portraits but he has expanded his collection to include gritty, urban scenes that illustrate the significance of one’s environment.
“You see Black faces in my work but then you see the subtle backgrounds — pawn shops and check cashing stores where our people continue to be exploited — or beauty supply stores which in truth aren’t built on the notion that Black aesthetics are beautiful anyway.”
Mansa describes his work as borderline photo realistic that is both urban but also expressive.
“I try to be exact in the representation but never to the point of being boring,” he said. “You will see brush strokes and expressions that are more in line with my vision than what you would see in an actual photograph.”
Mansa was born and raised in Miami, finished high school at the prestigious New World campus and then headed off to Baltimore for additional studies. But he says he couldn’t stay away from home for long.
“I am at a place where I am trying to find ways to take my career to a national level and while things are blossoming for me in Miami, I think in order to do really well here, I will need to do a residency or get into a good graduate program — I need that exposure that comes from going other places. But I was given a great foundation at New World. When you leave there you can compete with anyone because they not only pick good talent but they nurture you.”
For more information go to www.artafricamiami.com. Additional exhibits can be seen at the Little Haiti Cultural Center, 212 NE 59th Terrace, from Dec. 6 thru Feb. 16th.
By D. Kevin McNeir