Friday, February 5, 2016

Jonathan Green


Jonathan Green was born in 1955 in the Garden Corner, located in the "Low Country" of South Carolina. He was born with a membrane or "veil", over his face, which in the Gullah culture is a sign of a special person who will become a "seer," prophet or leader of his people. Therefore, he received special training by the elders of the community as he was growing up. Today, he sees his special gift as that of recording through his painting the Gullah culture he knew in his childhood and youth. When asked what he wanted us to know about him, he said, "I love life."

Dressing up, 1988. Oil on Masonite, 23X23' 
In "Dressing up." the artist takes off on pop art optical illusions as seen in the geometric design of the wallpaper in the painting. He goes even bolder by positioning one pattern against another, the little girl's green and white polka-dot dress with the wallpaper. The images seen through the mirror offer a sense of greater depth to the flat plane. In the mirror, we observe the figure of a young woman in a white slip about to put on a blazing red dress. What shapes do you see? What is happening in the painting? How do you think the people feel? How can you tell? How does the color, space and size of the figures affect the mood of the painting? 

Escorting Ruth, 1988, 36X48" 
This painting emphasizes the theme of family and communal support in the traditional Gullah life. Such support was considered necessary because it was believed to help ward off evil influences,as can be seen in the image of the pregnant Ruth safely placed between two women companions while the young men steer them safely toward a waiting midwife. A large sweet grass basket is a dominant image in the painting as is the boat. The image of water and its importance to almost every facet of low country life is a recurring theme in Green's work.

The Silver Slipper Club. 1990, Oil on Canvas, 99X67"
Green spent most of his early life in Gardens Corner. While his mother found employment in New York. He lived with his grandmother.  "When I was a kid," Green said, "my grandmother was such an important figure in the community." She was the matriarch of the family. She was a seer of the community. "She believed in having a house as in a house of God, and a house as in a house of the Spirit. She had a nightclub, and it was very important for her to be in between worlds. She would go to church, and she would be in her nightclub. She conducted business of the church, and she conducted the business of the nightclub. In the middle of all of this were these grand kids whom she loved. That's what I learned about life-That you always have to live between worlds." What shapes do you see? What kinds of lines? Flat, wavy, horizontal, diagonal, vertical? Do you see repetition of lines? Shapes? What textures do you see? How does the artist show texture? Artists us line, shape, form and sometimes color to indicate movement. Does he create movement in this painting? If so, how? 

Pride, 1990. Oil on canvas, 72X55"
Green's work comes from the Southern experience. Out of his fond childhood memories come celebrations of life. That is why his painting appears pure, innocent and honest. He pulls the past generations to the present and builds a bridge between the two. In the process, he emphasizes the importance of love, belonging, and a sense of spirituality and work- which for Green are the four most significant elements of the Gullah Community. Why do you think Green painted this picture? What does this picture tell us about the people? Why might someone paint something so ordinary? Does anyone in your family tell stories? 

Daughters of the South, 1993. Oil on Canvas, 72X72"
The whole idea of painting hats is homage to Eloise, Green's grandmother. 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 a way of life is being bulldozed out of existence in the name of progress: condos, highways, fast food chains which is causing displacement of people. What do you think the artist wants to tell us in this painting? How do you think the people feel? How do color, space ans size of the figures affect the mood of the painting? Would you like to spend time here? Why?

White Breeze, 1995, Oil on Canvas, 48X60"
Here we see the connections and contrasts between clouds and a white sheet, land and sky, and women and birds which are painted in the tight detail. The woman stands with pride in humanness and whiteness as she vicariously soars with the crow to new heights in the clouds and cloth. She is in the middle. Green portrays what was once the competition in the countryside- to have the whitest and brightest laundry on the line. He remembers that everyone washed their clothes-the white ones first and next came the colored clothes. As you went down the road one would see all of these wonderful colors blowing in the breeze.

White Scarf, 1995. Oil on Canvas 18X24"
Is there a focal point in this painting? If so, what is it? What are the main colors of this picture? How does it affect the  mood of the picture? What is the significance of the book and its color? What does it tell you about this girl?

*Here is a more info about Jonathan Green. (If you click on the text it will show up as a picture and you can increase the size)