Description and example of the Lithography Process
Title: Bessie Mae
Restless artistic temperament brings painter back to Lowcountry roots
By Adam Parker
The Post and Courier
Sunday, July 19, 2009
After 10 years living in Chicago and more than two decades in Naples, Fla., painter Jonathan Green is coming home to the Lowcountry.
The artist, widely known for his use of intense colors and emotional explorations of Gullah culture, will take up residence on Daniel Island by the end of July, he said.
The move is partly a consequence of a restless artistic temperament, he said.
"I'm returning to Charleston because I think I've done enough in Naples as an artist and resident," he said. "I have to move around a little bit ... to gain experience and knowledge."
Green, whose work has been featured at the Gibbes Museum and other institutions, is an art activist, promoting the idea that art education should be an intrinsic component of any school curriculum. "People just don't understand the importance of the arts," Green said.
Black culture in particular is poorly represented in the world of visual arts, yet exposure to painting, a universal language everyone can understand, is a critical way to learn about identity, faith, history and contributions to society, he said.
"We focus strongly on everybody else's culture," he said, adding that it's time to do a better job presenting black culture.
Green, 53, said his passion is informed by his childhood, growing up in rural South Carolina and New York City and reared by his mother and grandmother. In those years, he did not see his own culture repre-sented in major U.S. institutions despite the significant contributions of black people, he said. Black culture still is woefully underrepresented, he said.
He is involved in the development of an arts-infused curriculum for the new Sanders-Clyde Elementary School scheduled to open in January. He has designed a mural for one of the school's outer walls.
Born and raised in Gardens Corner, a rural community not far from Beaufort, Green attended Huspah Baptist Church, a reincarnation of the Tabernacle Church founded by Robert Smalls. From an early age, he was made aware of history and celebrated his cultural inheritance, he said.
In the Windy City, where he attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he became active in politics, then disenchanted by the city's political turmoil, he said. Still, it left him with a clear notion that art must take politics into account.
He said he is driven today by two main ideas: To make sure art is ensconced in our community — its public facilities, schools and churches — and to help women understand that they are the "force and guide" ensuring that their children conceive of themselves as free to pursue all opportunities.
"No mother would not want her child to have human rights," Green said. Any mother who fails to stand up for her children — white, black, straight, gay — has abdicated her responsibilities, he said.
Angela Mack, executive director of the Gibbes Museum, said Charleston can only benefit from having someone of Green's professional character and reputation.
"I think it's not only natural, but a wonderful chain of events," Mack said.
The Gibbes long has provided Green with a forum for his art and ideas. The latest show dedicated to his work was the 2004 exhibition "Rhythms of Life: The Art of Jonathan Green."
He has worked extensively in the Charleston area, creating a Spoleto Festival poster, joining panel discussions, producing his famous painting, "Seeking," which hangs in the library at Mepkin Abbey, and promoting the arts in the community. Mack said his relocation to Daniel Island will raise Green's profile regionally and result in new opportunities.
"This could begin a new chapter in his life," Mack said. "And aren't we all lucky that we get to observe this firsthand?"
Reach Adam Parker at 937-5902 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jonathan Green Photo Essay
Now With Bill Moyers
Discover the Art of Jonathan Green
For many people discovering the art of Jonathan Green for the first time, it's usually a case of surprised delight. Many people ask, "why have I missed knowing about such beautiful works". In fact those who profess to be expert collectors and upto date on all the popular artists are almost annoyed they have not discovered the art of Jonathan Green until now.
Painter and Printmaker Jonathan Green was born and raised in the small Gullah community of Gardens Corner, located near the Sea Islands of South Carolina. From the moment of his birth, Jonathan Green was special child. He was born with a caul-an inner fetal membrane covering the head at birth-that some believe is a sign "that the child is touched by uncommonness and magic that will bring inordinate grace to the community". Jonathan Green was raised by his grandmother in a matriarchal society that relied heavily on oral traditions. As a special child, he was deferred to and taught many things about his people, their traditions and their beliefs. " I was always interested in things, in how crafts were done, who everyone's relatives were and the religious functions of the community," says Jonathan Green "I had all these stuff in my head but I didn't have a place for it until I started painting."
The following article by Carroll Greene Jr. best describes the art of Jonathan Green.
COMING HONE AGAIN
ARTIST JONATHAN GREEN
RETURNS TO HIS GULLAH ROOTS
By Carroll Greene Jr.
American Visions, volume 5, Number 1, February 1990, pgs 44 - 52.
When artist, Jonathan Green talks about growing up in South Carolina's Low Country in the 1960s, one begins to realize that through his art he hopes to recapture a quintessential part of himself. There is a certain urgency and depth of purpose.
"My culture is in me, Jonathan Green says. "And my art is connected to the spiritual, mental and social concerns of the global environment." He seeks to recall the feel, texture and color of a way of life he knows is rapidly disappearing. And quite literally on some of the islands near his mother's home, a way of life is being bulldozed out of existence in the name of progress: condos, highways, fast-food chains and displacement of people.
"I know I can't save a whole culture," laments Jonathan Green, "but as an artist I can help create greater awareness perhaps. All of the change is not bad. But are they throwing out the baby with the bath?"
Some 250,000 African-Americans known as Gullahs in South Carolina and Geeches in Georgia are clustered along the Atlantic Coast--from Jacksonville, N.C., to Jacksonville, Fla. The word Gullah probably came from Angola, home of some of the Africans brought to the region during slavery. The Low Country is a place of broad flatlands, marshes, numerous inlets, rivers and islands bordering the Atlantic--romantically called Sea Islands.
Jonathan Green learned the Gullah dialect and culture as a child growing up in the home of his maternal grandmother. After leaving the area to study art, he has now returned to give the Gullah life he recalls his own aesthetic vision. It is an artistic odyssey that has come full circle.
Through the years many African-American artists, such as painters Eldzier Cortor and Ellis Wilson, photographer Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, and the late folk artist Sam Doyle, a native to the area, has featured the colorful Low Country and its people in their work. But Green's body of work, about 150 Gullah works, is perhaps the most ambitious artistic expression of Sea Islands' culture ever successfully undertaken.
Jonathan Green's most vivid memories of Gullah life are culled from the 160s. " I can remember things as a child that are on now-such as hair wrapping, men weaving fishing nets, farming and hunting. There is very little of these activities going on now. What fishing and hunting that goes on is mainly sport and not out of necessity as before. Food used to be preserved in various ways drying, canning, and smoking. Now, only gardening seems to continue. Mattresses were made of Spanish moss, and men made furniture for use in the community."
Within the community each family was known for providing some specific goods or services. For example, one family would sell seafood, another family would sell produce and another family, and moonshine and so it went. "My grandmother was a quitter.'' Jonathan Green recalls. One must bear in mind that the first bridge connecting one of the Sea Islands to the U.S. mainland was constructed only after World War II. Indeed, many of the island residents had never been on the mainland before that time.