The Gullah people depicted in Jonathan Green's world look like they got dressed while staring at rainbows. His art is a love song to his past. You imagine him singing as he paints, an ode to joy and the bright astonishment of memory…
He paints what made him, the source he issued out of, the forms that inspired his rare sensibility. It is this singular, unshakable vision that gives his work its aura of astonishing originality. Each one of his paintings looks as though it were a commemorative stamp imagined out of the backcountry of Jonathan Green's unconscious. He is the immaculate real thing, and his art is a cry of pure love for his community, his family, and the geography of the Carolina Sea Islands.
Pat Conroy, famous author
Gullah Images; The Art of Jonathan Green
University of South Carolina Press
For those who long for an artist who treats African American women with loving adoration, Jonathan Green is the man. Just as his native Gullah language uses only the present tense, Green paints remembrances of his 1960s-70's childhood, vividly as if the people (many are women) and scenes exist today, without nostalgia. His work encourages us to perceive African American folk culture not with our biased and self-deprecating adult eyes, but through his pure and innocent childhood eyes. We see black folk culture in its essence- glamorous and vibrant. Green's work projects a primitive flavor compatible with his folk-culture theme. Yet, the art student quietly points out additional technical achievements that indicate fourth-generation-educated Green is a highly trained, sophisticated artist.
Los Angeles Sentinel, 07-21-1994
"Patricia Lee Gauch, who has written more than 30 books for children, provides in her "Noah" a simple, lilting text to support Jonathan Green's 15 vivid paintings. They were inspired by the clearly exuberant spirit of the Hesbath Baptist Church in the Gullah region of South Carolina where Mr. Green was raised, and they also evoke Gaugin and Henri Rousseau. Mr. Green's massive animals (two by tow," insists the refrain, and the pairs crowd the landscape at Noah's call) are splendid.
Amy Edith Johnson
The New York Times Book Review, 03-27-94
A serious and sensitive American artist, Jonathan Green paints his cultural heritage through impressionistic eyes and first-hand Southern experience. Through his vibrant paintings he explores a diversity of skin tones in a continuing quest to discover the similarities, as well as the individualities, among all people. His art springs from the spiritual and familial bonds he formed as a child of Gullah people - African Americans communed in coastal areas from Jacksonville, NC to Jacksonville, FL. He captures everyday experiences - snapshots from the relatively insulated culture - and merges them into the melting pot of modern humanity.
Naples Guide, June 1993 Pg. 5
Weather illustrating a woman about to give birth (The Escorting of Ruth" or women picking flower (Gladiolus Harvest"), all of Green's intensely colorful paintings give the viewer a sense of observing and participating in the daily functions of others - and thereby heighten an awareness of one's own relationships to other people, nature and the world in this way. Green's art rise above cultural and ethnic boundaries to instill a universal sense of pride and dignity.
Though unobtrusive in his art, Green uses his artistic talents to reach out to his community by actively supporting arts and cultural development, and numerous charitable organizations. He serves on the board of directors for Share Our Strength, one of the country's largest hunger relief organizations, and on the Collier County United Arts Council in Naples. He is heavily involved in the educational and promotional programs of Penn Center, in St. Helena, S.C., which Green says was the first school in South Carolina for, blacks. Green has taught high school and college art classes and frequently has a protégé working with him+. He praises art education for younger children but says high school program suffer severely from lack of money and support from the community.
A student not just of art, but of life, Green continues to learn about human relationships, as well. "One of the most poignant experiences I had was going back to my old high school. I was in a breezeway and heard kids' voices coming from around the corner. My first thought was "Why aren't these kids in class?" I recognized their dialect and assumed they were black. Then I turned the corner and they were white." For this reason, Green likes to think of his work specific to any ethnic group - and would like people to focus more on the themes of people living and working together despite cultural differences. Green sums up his philosophy on his art, "It's important to see the differences in people and to respect people for their differences."
Martin, Heather, associate editor,
The Press, Intertec Publishing, Overload Park, KS
RVolume 16, Number 6, May 1994, GPS. 22-24
Each of Green's paintings tells a story. They are full of brightly dressed people working, playing, attending church, listening to stories and going about the business of their daily lives. The flattened forms and powerful colors have the eye-catching appeal of patterned fabrics. The world Green's people inhabit seems honest and serene. : These works are intensely accessible, not just to one section of the community but to everybody.
Jan Sjostrom - Daily News Arts Editor
Palm Beach Daily News Vol. XCVIII, No. 201 4\9\94 GPS. 1-2
Green was inspired by the color of Matisse and the vision of Gauguin. He has also looked hard at the work of African-American artists Romare Bearden and Jacob Lawrence. "A picture is pretty much preconceived in my mind before I put it on canvas," he said. "The composition and colors are pretty much already figured out." There's a gentle quality to Green's work. The memories are fond as well as fresh. Water also appears in many pictures-water being the element that binds Gullah folk together. "His goal is to bring forth a story and reflect it visually in a language to which people can relate," according to the exhibition catalog. "That is why his paintings appear pure, innocent and honest.
The Palm Beach Post, "Arts and Entertainment"
Sunday, April 17, 1994, Section J GPS. 1 & 3
Green is a highly sophisticated man, well educated, urbane, involved in arts, charity and other public service activities on the Naples area and well beyond. His paintings depict a simpler though equally valid way of life, emphasizing planting, harvesting, doing the wash, and maintaining the religious rituals of this close-knit Sea Islands society. His work seems to suggest an American primitive style; it is direct, forthright, and apparently unsophisticated. It avoids bravura intricacies of technique. At the same time, it reveals the careful planning, draftsmanship, imaginative palette of colors, and the clean sense of design in each painting. Green is no primitive.
Nadel, Norman, The Phil
The Magazine of the Philharmonic Center for the Arts, 1994-95
Naples, FL, pgs. 15-16, and 124
The best thing happening on the East Coast is the Jonathan Green exhibition at the Norton Museum in West Palm. The opening was packed, as was the slide show on Sunday. Over 300 people showed up-and they were visibly enthusiastic. This is in Palm Beach, where reserve has been reduced to its stuffy essence, remember. The 50 works on display need no explanation or curatorial erudition. If you come-and you should-you can look through them like windows into another world. They are not sentimental, but if they don't touch you somewhere, it's possible you don't exist.
Casey, John, art critique,
Sarasota Arts Review, Volume 4, Issue 8
May 1994, Pg. 34
While most of Green's best efforts are his larger and more colorful pieces, he can also work very effectively on a more condensed scale and with a more subdued palette. He demonstrates that in several paintings here, most notably one titled "Praise House." In the shade of a thick forest, a woman wielding a broom sweeps the threshold of a one-room chapel whose whitewashed exterior walls match the pristine traditional dress she wears in this intimately scaled painting from 1988. Green's strong compositional skill, his feeling for color and his tendency to omit facial details are characteristics he shares with Romare Bearden and Jacob Lawrence - two artists whose influence is evident in these paintings. Despite these affinities though, Green has forged a straightforwardly distinctive style that is an appropriate vehicle for his personal vision of life in a traditional African-American community.
By: Tom Patterson - Art Critic
The Charlotte Observer
Return to Gallery Chuma main page