Art and Life with Charmaine Minniefield
Smiling Coast Foundation donates 200 bags of rice to needy Gambians
Charmaine, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I have been an artist since I could hold a writing utensil. I literally have artwork from Kindergarten and continue to stay in touch with my art teaches from then and through college. I moved to Atlanta when I was 12 years old from Indiana. We moved to East Point to be exact. I was a Minority to Majority (bussed) student and went to the only college I applied to – thank GOD they accepted me – Agnes Scott College. I was always a student leader and active in my community. I continued this work in my career by committed to providing cultural programming to underserved communities.
I worked after college at the High Museum of Art and when the contract ended, they referred me to the position I am most known for in the field as a producer with the National Black Arts Festival. There I was able to count some of the world’s most renowned artists of African descent as mentors and friends. My work was influenced by their guidance and creative genius. From the most noted celebrity to the underground and grassroots, I was able to work with artists from all disciplines and backgrounds.
I have since continued to present cultural content in communities as an independent producer and finally a visual artist in my own right. For the last many years, I’ve been able to work in communities, collecting and being inspired by the complex histories and African-American narratives in the South. I have found my purpose in art and activism. I have pushed against erasure with my work by placing images of African-Americans in places that are affected by gentrification. I consider my work as the counter against the intention of Confederate monuments by instead celebrating Freedom.
I currently serve as faculty at Spelman College and also for Freedom University where I am able to work with undocumented students to use their creative tool for social justice.
Can you give our readers some background on your art?
My work draws from indigenous traditions as seen throughout Africa and the Diaspora. I explore African and African American ritual from a womanist perspective by pulling the past to the present through ancestral veneration through acrylic on canvas, charcoal and digital and mixed media works. My work celebrates the role of women in society to effect change where onced silenced or dominated. My work visually celebrates the power of women. Firmly rooted in womanist social theory and ancestral veneration, the work proclaims the celestial nature of Black women, in order to evoke the indigenous African roots of matriarchal centered spiritual traditions found throughout the Diaspora. By remembering women before me, my work reclaims my own agency and narrative.
Additionally, my public art intentionally pushes back against erasure displacement, misrepresentation and marginalization by reclaiming cultural histories through murals of African-American ancestors in the path of gentrification.
It is from this place that my current body of work remembers and celebrates the Ring Shout, an almost forgotten African American worship practice dating out of enslavement with origins from West African ritual and ceremony. The work leverages technology through projection mapping and site-specific installation to recreate these sacred prayer circles within contemporary landscapes. I consider the act of recreating the Ring Shout a radical act of resistance, just as those ancestors who once gathered in secret places before.
Artists rarely, if ever pursue art for the money. Nonetheless, we all have bills and responsibilities and many aspiring artists are discouraged from pursuing art due to financial reasons. Any advice or thoughts you’d like to share with prospective artists?
Stay true to your creative process. Do not allow money to drive your work. Push on other resources for income until you are able to build your work enough to sustain you and finally focus. Create a small network of patrons. You family, friends, church, schoolmates and mentors – no gift is too small. Continue to engage them at each critical moment in your career. Ask for help as you need it. They are waiting and consider you their important cause, worthy of their investment. TRUST ME! Regard them as patrons and collectors, just like any major arts institution. They will always be with you.
What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
To learn more about my work, visit my website at CharmaineMinniefield.com. My murals can be seen throughout the city of Atlanta. Two of my murals are on the Westside Trail of the Atlanta BeltLine, another on Edgewood Avenue and Jackson, at another on Whitehall and Ralph David Abernathy.
My work Ring Shout project will be presented by Flux Projects in 2019. It will honor the 800+ unmarked graves recently discover in the African-American section of historic Oakland Cemetery. It will include a site-specific installation and a performance series.
I also have a number of murals slated for the coming months.