In a previous post, Unlocking the Gate of Dreams, I showcased a striking painting at the Yale University Art Gallery that was titled — UNTITLED:
And this is what I said about it: Another painting, by a painter of whom I’d never heard before, simply riveted me. Kerry James Russell, her name is. This is a detail of her large self-portrait, Untitled. Brilliant colors lighting up a blinding whiteness, stark velvety black of skin so powerfully there, a beam of energy emanating from the whites of the artist’s eyes transfixing the viewer — A photo can’t do justice to that effect, it has to be experienced. A strong woman, an intense woman, what would it be like to meet Kerry James Russell? What is she like? A wonderment.
Usually I look up people or places or subjects I feature, but in this case, I really didn’t want to. This was such a mysterious painting, it so captivated me, that I didn’t want to rush to shed light on the mystery. Untitled did seem an unusual title for a self-portrait, but hey, artists are entitled. So I just went ahead with what seemed to me to be obvious, that this was a wonderful self-portrait by a black woman of immense power.
It’s possible that the unnamed black woman painter is all of that. She certainly looks it. But she didn’t paint THIS picture. First of all, in my haste I’d scribbled the name of the artist down wrong. It’s Kerry James Marshall, not Russell. Second, the first name fooled me. I’m used to female Kerry’s. This Kerry James Marshall is not the woman painter gazing at us. He is a painter, yes. But as you’ll find out when you click on the link above, he’s a male painter who’s 57 years old. He’s one of the most eminent artists in the US, based in Chicago, recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant. The extraordinary velvety blackness is one of his signature effects, and adds power to the combined beauty and political content of his work.
Just because I’m ignorant and over-fond of leaping to conclusions is no reason for you to be misled. So now I hope I’ve cleared up my error, and cleared the way for all of us to discover more works by a very great painter indeed, Kerry James Marshall.