Monday, May 11, 2015

john biggers seed project : Our Influences, Christopher-Aaron Deanes

“There is no one form of black art.” Seitu Jones
This process has been an adventure. We started by studying African American artists; the deep creativity, culture and history of North Minneapolis; Dr. John Biggers murals and paintings; the Celebration of Life mural; and Adinkra symbols. The evolution all artists is based on a set of influences— our artistic lineage, symbolism and patterns in our heritage. Seitu Jones and Tacoumba Aiken shared with these influences to strengthen our artistic voices:
  • The Benin kingdom and the Royal Family residence, where artists only could live in the City.
  • Sungbo’s Eredo system of walls and ditches near the Yoruba town of Ljebu-Ode in Ogun state, southwest Nigeria.
  • South Carolina and Georgia’s large earth works where rice was grown in the low country near the coast. Earth works representing the continuity of human life, now used for canoe tours that navigate the canals.
  • Kongo cosmic gram.
  • The Afro Atlantic tradition of the earth diagram.
  • Haitian art verve.
  • Mud used in sculpture reliefs and images in Ghana.
  • The Sankofa symbol, which looks back on the past to create a future. A “call to prayer”.
  • Objects that were not made not only to last, but so traditions and people would last.
  • Thomas Day a noted wood worker, carpenter, and the black craftsman who built the Capital of Saint Paul, designed by Cass Gilbert, with a team of stone masons from Georgia, including Cass Blakey.
  • Phillip Simmons iron gates in Charleston, South Carolina.
  • David Drake (Dave the potter).
  • El Anatsui, the Ghanaian artist, who creates very detailed works in reclaimed metal and stainless steel.
  • In Chicago the Victory monument by Leonard Crunelle, honoring the Eighth Regiment (entirely African-American) during World War I, and William Walker’s Wall of Respect.
  • Maurice Carlton. Rondo artist. He was a Garveyite (follower of Marcus Garvey).
  • Hale Woodruff’s murals in libraries and in Hampton University.
  • Edmonia Lewis, whose sculptures portrayed Native American and African American people.
  • Richard Barthe, relief artist.
  • Augusta Savage, artist and educator, beautiful piece called the harp.
  • Aaron Douglas’s paintings at Phillips Wheatley and Bethune Elementary.
  • Charles White.
  • Romare Bearden.
  • Faith Ringgold.
  • Alvin Carter.
  • Franco the Great.
  • Cush bay (look him up). graffiti artist
  • Kerry James Marshall.
  • Tyree Guyton’s Heidelberg project.
  • In 1966, the people who started tagging and writing on public spaces, in train stations and transit ways.
“Sketchbooks keep the evolution of your craft honest.” Bing Davis
The art historical presentations that were part of SEED were quite extensive, but the sketching component was also extensive. These histories gave our team of artists a great understanding of where we needed to go next. We began to outline a story about the foundations of a seed and its growth from the inception of humanity. Afterward we began a group of sketches. Our first drafts were quite complicated, with each artist creating from their own personal view and style. The images were beautiful and vibrant and individually quite stunning. Each resembled the particular qualities of the personal work of each artist. Over time, however, through an extensive process of collaboration and revision, we have moved from these individual ideas to a series of segments that work together contributing to a strong continuum We are using deep, rich colors, taken from Dr. Biggers works, to celebrate the life of African Americans and the history and contemporary symbolism.
As an artist I enjoy this opportunity to create an orchestrated design that weaves the history of a community, the culture of a people, and the language of the two into the evolution of a future North Minneapolis.
Image: This sketches (left) and enamel works (middle and right) created for the Seed Project by Christopher-Aaron Deanes

Thursday, May 07, 2015

No Teacher Left Behind

The Painting I did was of a studnets, "NATE" who I have been mentoring the last four months.--Oil, Rice, Gesso, pastels on wood
One of the most phenomenal shows that I was blessed to play a part of this year was the No Teacher Left Behind Show at Homewood Gallery Studios. This show allowed for teachers to explore the possibilities of the how to teaching with passion when the boundaries and barriers at placed by politicians whom are usually disconnected form education and the process of it. I was fortunate to work with Christina Benz who is not only a teacher/advocate and artist herself (our world is small). Here is sample of the call for tis show that went out:



The education of our children has been controversial since Aristotle’s time and probably before. Concern for, awareness of, AND community concern for the plight of teachers has been as serious a concern but has received less, and often little or no, attention.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, more commonly known as the No Child Left Behind law since its 2001 reauthorization, legislation which has been in effect in one form or another since the 1960s, but was thrust into the hotbed of disagreement in the early 2000s, has placed an inordinate burden on teachers. The law, perhaps with the best of intentions for our children’s welfare and learning, has created an almost untenable situation for teachers who are required to spend inordinate amounts time documenting how they are following the law’s precepts. The sad result is these dedicated teachers have little or no time to create and sustain meaningful, nurturing relationships with their students.

If you are a teaching artist, or an artist/teacher, and you would like to submit work addressing this disparity, please consider an exhibition being planned for March 2015 at Homewood Studios in North Minneapolis.

Already created work, (in any medium), or new work, (also in any medium), which addresses how NCLB has affected you as an artist/teacher is eligible. Anyone working in public education, including charter schools, in any school district, may apply.

Inspiration for this exhibition
Christina Benz, six-year art teacher in the Minneapolis Public Schools, (Washburn High School), brought the idea for this exhibition to us with an installation informed by the question the show proposes. After an initial meeting with her we became quite interested in mounting a show exposing and exploring this issue. In a recent e-mail Christina invited other artists to participate:

This past year I've been part of Minneapolis Teachers Institute and completed my fellowship at the U of MN this spring. My presentation was about the constraints I face as an art educator under NCLB. So I created a three part installation piece including photographs, school desks, and a video. I've attached one part of my project so you have a better understanding of my project. As a result George from Homewood Studios is interested in my project and I have a reserved a few weeks in March to display my visual art work. I am really interested in opening this space up to other visual art teachers in the district and even expanding it to other district art teachers to give them a space, voice and to create a piece using the same theme I was given for my fellowship.

The show itself was amazing experience, the house was packed full of educators and artist and the connected ones. This exhibition was the sliding post for some other work that I have been working on as well dealing with community, and education.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Inside my..... FREELANCE WORLD- 2014-

With Several new projects that I am currently working on has a lot of valid perspectives added to the understanding of commissioned works and murals for organizations.  One such project was a commission done for a woman who hired me to do a large scale painting of an outlined image of a black woman's face.  I'm not sure where this image came from but it has a mesmerizing effect on viewers and pushes the viewer to become enveloped with the image and its soulical perspective of you as the audience.

I am currently working on another project with Family Focus in Robinsdale an amazing non-profit who works to restore families and individuals.  They have some incredible services for broken and damaged family units who look for assistance to renewed lives.  Over the summer I worked with the d irector to create a new logo for them. I recently completing the mural that will be used to cover the entrance to one of their meeting rooms.  This mural will cover a smaller space but will be power packed with color and life.
                                                 This is the Logo I designed
Mural reflects the community and familiy

Another project I recently completed was a commissioned piece by a family that would like a painting of a soldier and the text over it "...but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord".

Throughout the holiday break I worked with Arts Us in Saint Paul working with youth to paint a canvased mural with several panels this is a glimps of some of this project.

Theses are just a few updates of what I've been up to continually working of a show for late 2015, stay posted and as always appreciate you keeping up with me.

Sunday, December 07, 2014


"WeWorship" 64 x 24 oil, rice, gesso on wood $300 just for December 2014

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Holiday online sales- post for November 30th

Cosmic Praise
23 x 9
Oil, pastel, gesso on wood 

Perfect Christmas gift of this purtruding, concave oil painting on wood. This December reduced for only $75

Friday, November 07, 2014

POP up arts

This was so much fun doing the free portraits for people.  Here are a few examples.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

POP UP arts!!!!

I have an opportunity to paint portraits for FREE for community folks today, Friday and Saturday. October 30, 31 and November 1st. From 4-7pm I will be working with Christopher Williams, and Angela Davis (one of the SEED artist, I currently work with).  The West Broadway Business and Area Coalition hast graciously hosted these grants.  This event will take place at 
2200 W. Broadway, the Fire & Ice Lot

My end of this event will host large scale portraits of people my goal is to paint 10 people by the end of Saturdays event.  COME OUT AND ENJOY!!!

Friday Only!
The first 5 kids get free ride ticket to 
Nickolodeon Universe

 Join 3 local visual artists: 
Angela Davis- Live wind sock making 
Chris Williams- Free Art giveaway (Halloween themed masks and wearable art) 
Christopher-Aaron Deanes- Live portrait painting of participants and passersby

Friday, October 17, 2014

God Answers!

In these last three weeks I've been working with Minnehaha Lutheran Church in south Minneapolis.  I've been working with group of teenagers and young adults some of which were former students of mine.  And the newer students that I've met are very awesome young people that are motivated and trying to do some great things with their lives.  The pastors there are Pastor Dan and Pastor Sally also a dynamic couple, who has been leading the church in courageous conversations about social change.  Very encouraging to hear and see them work with the congregation. During this time I had an opportunity to minister, speak/fellowship and encourage these young people. The mural that we created was all about communicating with each other and communicating with God.  

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Input needed

I've come to a place on this painting I'm working on, where I could you done advise.  This piece I've been working on for quite some time has come to a halt.  This image is titled "mother of the earth". The image is a pregnant woman with the The 12 tribes of Juda in her belly.  The image depicts the original tribes that made up the nations of the world.  Here in lies the problem I always try to deal with my audience from an intelligent perspective, but how do I show that this is the tribes if I don't label them?  Please inquire!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Lowry Cafe: Through November 2014

This summer I have had an opportunity to show art work at the Lowry Cafe in the North-side community of Minneapolis here a large number of urban families live including mine.  I'm honored to show work near my home and support the ideas of expanding the communities of color through arts and visual challenges.  These two pieces are currently hung there.  The first piece is "Praying Hands" it is Oil and rice on wood.  The second is "Cosmic Praise" Oil, Rice, Pastels on Wood.  I have two other pieces there as well. The Lowry Cafe is a nice cafe positioned next to a black owned book store, Ancestry Books, and a hardware store. There is a Family dolor stare nearby an Aldi's and Subway as well. This area is key because it is situated in a prime area for business and neighborhoods, shopping and eating.  I'm excited to continually show work in our neighborhoods to assist with the exploration of the arts and art making in Minneapolis, if you have the time please stop by and eat and view the art work.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Arts US summer classes

This summers so chill with arts galore.  Working with 5th-8th graders.  In Saint Paul Public Schools Arts US program.  I'm so excited to work with this team of 16 young people who are by far one of the most talented/creative group of students I've worked with.  They have already dubbed themselves as the "swaggy spunk".  Here you see the students designing and painting a name plate for their class.  They have worked diligently to express themselves and their creative ability to think outside of the box is incredible.  One of the classes they have is a drama/dance class where the students did synchronizing movements without sound these young creatives moved for thirty five minutes nonstop afterwards the reflection was positive and inflective.

Student working with the gardener to make spring rolls.
More student portraits--
It's been great to see the growth of these youth here is Saint Paul's Arts US program . There were several parents who came to me saying how they enjoyed this program. My artist friend, Mica Anders-Turner (the interim Director in the spring) put together a great staff of teachers and their Board of Directors hired Kirsten Fisher as the Director; who did a dynamic job managing our program this summer as well.  This camp was six weeks where kids learned about dancing, drumming, stepping, painting, gardening, science and was saturated with ideas and opportunities.  
One of their step classes.
The portraits students painted in my painting class.  While working with a program at the science museum of Minnesota the youth had a "Youth Day"
Where the museum hosted several summer programs, of course we were one.  Below you'll see our kids performing and dancing and enjoying themselves thee with a DJ/friend DJ Mixwell.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Art Camp-camp Bovey 2014

This art camp I'm at this week is quite unique it's for youth 8-14 involving visual arts: painting, collage, photography and sculpture this week and dance, drumming, and performance arts next weeks.  Were ( other Minnesota artist and I ) are here at Camp Bovey, and so far this experience is stellar,  I can't imaging what a young person would think of this opportunity but it's rare to have these type of chances to work with professional artist and have a blast all in one at camp.  This experience is great working with four other artist who are fabulous in their own right. Monday my students walked around the woods discovering sticks and rocks that we painted and did collage over.  These objects will be placed back in the woods creating creative spaces and cool objects for viewers to discover stripped sticks and or polka dotted rocks, etc.  this is exciting in itself.
Xavier Davis
Xavier or he goes by Xa (Xa) did some wonderful paintings at camp, the last image is a collective effort by he and David, his best friend, who's portrait is show above in yellow.

 By Thursday evening my class and the  developed a glery showing of all the creating project too on in their classes that were offered.  
Jasmine Jackson
Jasmine dis these wonderful abstract paintings at camp that were layered with texture and sweet complementary dept.  

Portraits, discoverable objects, mini trading cards, with characters that students created.  Young art is so refreshing to see and inspiring it unfiltered until your teaching principles of art and art making, what a delight.
Daria Jackson

Little Daria was impressive for a second grader.  This is her portrait she drew and painted.  She also did an amazing abstract painting as well as her sister.
As I spoke with these boys in their class and taught them about jean michel basquiat, and the work he did they gave me rendition of what they had been taught.  The image portrays the two of them with one arm around the other, they title it " a good day".

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pro global week 12: DONE

It's been a long run but we have arrived at a completed project .  Parent, student, teacher and staff feedback has added critically needed feedback that delivered great perspectives.
I had a Somalian boy staring at the mural asking me when I was going to put a Somalian boy in the painting and he was clear that the boy had to be playing soccer.  Another student thanked me for adding words that affirmed their successes.  While a third student was excited to see kids that look like him.  
As an artist I am continually interested in developing strategies for people to have critical conversations about learning and religion.  While this piece has nothing to do with religion it does offer a great platform for critical thinkers/ classrooms/ staff and parents.  
One of the most exciting parts of this project is working with the youth that were 11-15 year olds and nearly 35 students.  This project developed a lot of sketches and ideas for new paintings.  
I will post a preview of my newer painting next week. Our artist team has an artist critique session at my home on Friday whoa very excited!

Monday, January 06, 2014

Dr. John Biggars SEED Project: 2014

John Biggers Seed Project has begun with several local artist including one from Detroit Bing Davis and Jon Onye Lockard, who also leads the team with Ta–coumba T. Aiken and  Seitu Jones

This artist group was selected by the City of Minneapolis to develop, build, create, and paint a new public arts project that will replace the former mural that was designed by the late great Dr. John Biggars.  Though I was not of of hoses artist painting that mural I did have the honor of meeting 
Dr. Biggars,  had dinner with he and his wife a few nights and he spoke with me about painting frogs???  Interesting guy I was honored and blown away as a young artist looking for feed back 
and inspiration.  I ended my meet with the Biggars by painting a few fogs for him personally.  Not sure what he ever did with this but it was a great experience.  Needless to say, four years later 
he passed away in 2001 and his mural that was designed as a corridor to North Minneapolis community was destroyed due to a new housing development being built.  The city felt like the wall would create a space liken to projects, and as I say all the time perception is everything.  This won over protest and pleas by local artist and community leaders.  Since then Obsidian Arts Gallery, The City Of Minneapolis, and The University of Minnesota's Urban Research Department gathered to collect funds from several supporters to attain over 1/2 of a million dollars to redo a project that will reestablish the original thoughts of this project and honor Dr. Biggars.  Stay posted and I will keep you updated on this project and the exciting new mural that will arrive in North Minneapolis in the next 10 months.

this is an example of a sketch box i painted in response to Jon Onye Lockard, paintings it will act asa a sketch in the process of development for this project.

Check us out and send feedback.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Pro Global week 7-8

As I continue to work on this incredible process for the mural at Sanford middle school I realize that all expectations that I had has shifted. My artistic eye has come into play I'm thinking more about composition I'm thinking more about color I'm thinking more about positioning.   The integrity of the entire piece is still intact however, there are things about this mural that come out better than I had expected. And are some other things that are more challenging the deals with composition and placement.  Overall this process is really enjoyable and putting together the team of students and staff to help me complete some of the larger pieces have an exciting as well.  
It might not look like it as of yet however I believe there's about 10 to 12 hours left to complete this mural project.  The ultimate goal is for students to you at home and comfortable. For students to know that this is there space and it's all inclusive.  The mural shows students as successful leaders and professional students.  I must say the process for writing the grant to do this mural was even an experience for me.  
I've done few before but it's been years the Balence is quite different than before and I appreciate what it takes to go through with this process.  After all as a professional artist this is what I expect more of.  Today I worked4 more hours on this project painting and quite naturally enjoyed it .  There were 9 students yesterday and today that came out to assist along with Marlene Maloney an art teacher/ friend who also assisted me on this project.  It's interesting how painting youth changes as the process also changes, smaller necks , bigger eyes, bigger ears ( because they don't grow much in the process of becoming an adult).  The cheeks are generally puffy or rounded more so tha adults.  This reminder allowed me to examine youth more so than before, gestures and mannerisms. Youth are interesting and painting this mural and teaching middle school kids gives me that perspective.  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sneaky Racism in the arts in Minnesota

Ok so a friend and local artist told me about this mural that was painted here. In a park about five years ago. She had this concern about the ethnicities and posturing in the work, I've gotta say that on first looks there seemed to be racial undertone but it wasn't a definitive approach to the piece. While I only see white civilians surrounding a pool area,I also   recognize the looking upward in the piece this was her concern.  All this to say that I've experience several layers of prejudice and racism in my short lived life however this might not have been one of those moments, I tend to lean towards trying to offer the benefit if the doubt before I judge, so I jumped in the car and had her showme this mural.
Now at the first look I noticed that it was painted by a community and it is in the Dr. King park, where just two years it's senior there was heated debate about turning it into a dog park. How insulting to the legacy of Dr.King jr.? Never the less the community in favor of canceling the dog park won, soon afterwards this mural was erected.  So as I saw it it was focused immediately on the mid left corner where all the figures were looking upward much like the Duluth lynching in 192? Where five men where accused of raping and killing a white woman.  Two were lynched the next day national security took the others for trial and it was later realized that all the accusations were false.  Ok so all this is perception with regards to one thing that was blindingly obvious to me........ The monkey hanging in the tree above the crowd. No other animals in the entire mural, subtlety painted. We'll you tell me what I should think, see for yourself.