Floyd Newsum, Houston’s legendary mix master, combines colors, symbols, personal material and images from other cultures in his works on paper. Newsum’s work can be found at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Art Museum of South Texas in Corpus Christi, and many private collections. He is a professor of art at University of Houston – Downtown. As one of top three Artadia award winners, his work will be featured in $timulus, opening this weekend at DiverseWorks. Newsum talks about his work and life.
29-95: Tell us about your new work, Ghost Series Sirigu, Janie’s Apron.
Floyd Newsum: Sirigu is a small village in Ghana. I have two friends that live there. It seems the women are responsible for the decorations, and I have always liked the way they make art. Janie’s Apron refers to my great grandmother, Janie Graham LaMondue.
29-95: Personal material often finds its way into your work. How did your great grandmother happen to make an appearance in this piece?
FN: She was a domestic worker who was able to save money. I recently received an inheritance check from her estate. She was only one generation out of slavery, yet able to take care of money and bless others. Here is a woman taking care of children’s children. I wanted to dedicate a painting to her.
29-95: Combining is a big part of what you do.
FN: Yes. I mix and mingle things. My paintings are complex even in the way they are made. There are many parts to a whole. The title is Ghost Series Sirigu, Janies apron. This has reference to the past, and to my grandmother and the women of Sirigu who paint the images for decoration are a reflection of thoughts in a visual manifestation. I have always put many different images and thoughts together in one composition. There are two paintings in this show with “Ghost series” as part of the title. Some of the images are reccurring and some just appear because they make good compositional visual elements. My work doesn’t always have an element in it that has a meaning.
29-95: Talk about your process.
FN: I use multiple pieces of paper that are collaged together. I am known for works on paper and multiple pieces of paper that become one composition. I even collage on collage. As for media, I use all kinds of stuff, oil stick, acrylic, even Crayolas.
29-95: Why paper, other than it’s great for Crayolas?
FN: That’s what I am known for. When I was in undergrad I used to win all the watercolor awards. I like working on paper. It’s what I love; it’s my passion.
29-95: What does it mean to you to be one of the top three of Artadia award winners?
FN: The jurors really spend time visiting studios. It’s a great honor and it’s the kind of award you want to win.
29-95: Your work will now be included in the David. C. Driskell at the University of Maryland, which is one of the most prestigious collections of African American artists in the country. Your sculpture will grace the Hazel Harvey Peace Youth Center in Fort Worth this fall, you are designing the windows for the lobby for the new building for Crocker Elementary and you recently wrapped up a solo show at HCG Gallery in Dallas. I know there’s more but those are some recent high points. Your career is on a bit of roll, wouldn’t you say?
FN: I have been blessed.
DiverseWorks presents $timulus Artadia Awardees Houston 2008, July 17-August 15, 2009. Opening reception Friday, July 17, 6-8 p.m.
Reprinted from 29-95.com.