A Conversation with Artist Sedrick Huckaby
Recently, Chase Oaks Pastor Greg Holmes visited with acclaimed local artist Sedrick Huckaby in one of the artist’s “arts incubator” spaces. The two talked about some of the foundational themes and concepts in Huckaby’s work, including the beauty and value of everyday people. A transcript of their conversation follows below.
Greg Holmes: So, I'm excited. Today I get the opportunity to talk with Sedrick Huckaby, an artist that I have admired for quite some time. I've had the privilege of interacting with him a few times over the last several years and now I'm in one of Sedrick's spaces and have an opportunity to talk with him directly. And so Sedrick, thank you so much for allowing us to come sort of invade your space and get to know you a little bit. When we reached out to you to see if you'd do this interview, you gave us the address of a place that I've never been, and so where are we right now? Just tell us where we are right now.
Sedrick Huckaby: So, this is 1913 Wallace Street. It's a place in my family known as Big Mama's House. It used to be the house where my grandmother lived and now, I own it and it's becoming a type of arts incubator. So, it's in Fort Worth and yeah that's what it is!
GH: That's great, you know I have, as I just mentioned, I have been inspired by your work and followed your work for some time, and you wrestle with themes that are core to who we are as human beings, especially core to the Christian community as well. Issues like faith, and heritage, and what we pass down from one generation to the next, and issues of community, and you know and things like that. And you do it all through the lens of an African-American male, an African-American artist, in your experiences and it's just beautiful and it's wonderful work.
And as you know I'm a pastor, and I wanted to reach out to you in part to have this conversation. This is also part of a of a sermon that I’m doing on the ordinariness of Jesus. On His humanity and that how Jesus, you know, just being a regular person, a person just like you and me, kind of connects to our ordinariness and it also sort of elevates our ordinariness. And it made me think about a series of art, a series that you did, a few years ago called The 99% and I remember seeing that show and just being blown away by it. Tell us a little bit; what was that show all about?
SH: The work The 99% was about getting the perspectives of the people in my community. We had seen you know during that time, there was the whole protest on Wall Street right, and something about that whole issue of the with the protest and that was the whole ideal of the 99% versus the one percent. And I wanted to see what the 99% in my community, the people down the road around the corner in this area, what thoughts were on their mind because the media, in the media we could hear all kinds of things and there was all kinds of information being transmitted, but the concern to me was if...
...the thought that I had was what would happen if I'm walking down the street and I'm talking to people and a person gave me enough time to draw a small portrait? What kind of things would come up in our conversation?
And that's what the whole series was about.
GH: Yeah so, talk to me a little bit more like what was your, what was your approach as you're approaching individuals, or even as you're engaging in conversation, what's your mindset or what's your thinking as you're creating each of these individual pieces in The 99%?
SH: So there is, there's something I think in photography called the decisive moment, and it's where a photographer has to find just the right moment to you know pull the switch, and as I'm talking to individuals what I, and this came about like initially, it was about drawing people and listening to people but I start to notice in the process that there's you know, you can't write down everything that a person says in the conversation. It's possible if you were recording the conversation but I wasn't. So, I started looking for things looking for things. I didn't know what I was looking for but if it was interesting, if it caught my attention, I was looking for a type of decisive moment, or a type of something to that I could take from that conversation. And you know, and then I'm looking at the person trying to just see them a little bit.
GH: Yeah I was struck when I saw that series because you talk about finding like, not only capturing their image but also listening to them as you're talking, like you can you can tell as you were drawing them you guys were having a conversation and you're getting to know this person and that you would then incorporate some quotes from what that person was saying which is not a typical thing that a portrait artist would do, or figurative artist. It does, it did bring about for me that it just made it much more personal, you know that it's not just a face you know this is a person, and that they're...
And then sometimes the quotes are really funny or sometimes you know or whatever you know and you could tell that this was a real human interaction. And one thing too I think that this is something I've kind of always wanted to ask you, is that you are able to capture the individuality and the ordinariness of ordinary folk you know, that are that like you said, down the street or people in your family or that kind of stuff. But when I see them, there is a sense of kind of nobility about them and I'm not sure if that's intentional or if that's something that's in your mind you know. Talk to me about that, is that something that is um that you that you try to do intentionally...or does that, I'm not sure how to ask this question maybe you know kind of what I’m trying to get at?
SH: I do and from very early on it was my, it's been my endeavor, to try to show the importance, the beauty, the magnificence of everyday people, because for the most part you know what we see when if you're on the internet if you're watching television if you're watching a movie or whatever, it is you see the celebrities you see the people with the big names and they're put in front of us as you know this is what people is like. But everyday people, um a lot of...in a lot of my work
...you'll see people that you know, they're not celebrities and unless you know them personally you will never know them. But it's talking, I'm always trying to make the discussion that they're just as valuable as a celebrity or as anybody else that you would see in the media.
GH: Yeah, that's great. And I think it also brings to mind and anyone who's watching this who has followed your work also knows that that you're that you're known for portraits, like the ones in this room also like giant portraits like wall-sized portraits, and talk to me a little bit about those like specifically why so big? Because that's pretty, that's kind of rare, that you have a portrait that's maybe you know six, seven, eight feet tall you know.
SH: And again, that's the significance of the size, ordinary people are usually not celebrated in that way, you know a photograph you take a picture of somebody and we see that but how many times are they seen as larger than life? Right on a large scale.
GH: Yeah that's beautiful. Tell me what you're what you're working on now, what kind of what are you excited about, what are what are the what kind of themes are you wrestling with right now?
SH: I'm working on a number of things, like a spidery situation, but there's a group of works that there's a show coming up in LA, in Los Angeles, called Estuary and it's a part of a series that I did where people are wearing memorial t-shirts and I’m dealing with death in the black community but from various perspectives. I'm really using the whole, the t-shirt as a touch point to talk about death and using death as a touch point to talk about the issues of life and so you know through death, let's say we can talk about...There are discussions about health care, there's discussions about police brutality, there's discussion about infant mortality, there's discussions about life after death, or what a person believes about, you know, life or the continuation of life or not. But there's all of these discussions that center around that moment of death and that's what I'm trying to, those are the discussions that I’m trying to have with that with that group of work.
GH: That's great, if anyone's watching this and they would like to get to know your work better follow your work see more where would you tell them to go?
: You can go to my website, it's huckabystudios.com
. The show that we're about to have right now, there's two shows that's happening in Los Angeles, but the gallery that I show at in Los Angeles is Philip Martin Gallery
, and that show will probably be opening by the by the end of March, maybe the last week of March or early April. I should know. Bridge Projects in Los Angeles
is also going to be having an exhibition there next month and there will be work in there as well. Also, I think there's an exhibition coming up at the Amon Carter in Fort Worth
, and I'll have some work there as well.
GH: And you have a piece there in their permanent collection, right? One of your quilt pieces is there.
SH: They have enough um a few pieces in that collection, and they also have in their collection have one of the that series, the series The 99%.
GH: Oh okay all right yeah so close by people can go see your work firsthand. Well Sedrick, I just, I can't thank you enough. Thank you for letting us invade your space, thank you for the time, thank you for the work that you do. It's important, it's important work and it's really good so thank you, thank you.
If you missed Greg’s message about the ordinary humanity of Jesus and its profound significance to each of us, catch it here.