Sankofa, 2021, Acrylic and pastel on canvas, 20×34 inches
The title of this work is a term from the Akan people in Ghana. Sankofa literally translates as “it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind”. This concept means that past wisdom should be a guide for planning the future, which is depicted in this painting. Here a beautiful young woman (a portrait of actress Lupita Nyong’o) looks forward, behind her are patterns representing her African traditions which are imbedded in her skin and light the future. Her resilience comes from a knowledge of her heritage that aides in navigating through life’s future trials.
Since his childhood in Xenia, Ohio, Jimmy James Greene has shown exceptional artistic ability. After apprenticing with acclaimed afro-centric muralist Jon Onye Lockard in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Greene graduated from The Rhode Island School of Design. Since then he has gone on to become an accomplished collagist, painter draftsman and designer who also works with stained glass, print making and mosaic tile. For the past twenty five years his work has explored the communal expressions of the African diaspora in general, and those of the African-American experience in particular. “I see myself as a visual story teller,” says Greene. “The styles I use range from tight representation to abstracted forms, depending upon my intent, but the bottom line is communication. Ideally my work will act as a springboard for the viewer into their own imagination, their own experiences, memories and aspirations.” As a fine artist Greene has executed over thirty one-person exhibitions and innumerable group showings. As a commercial artist he has theater posters, CD covers and many newspaper, magazine and book cover illustrations to his credit. Greene has been commissioned to do public works of art by The New York Transit Authority, New York’s City Parks Foundation, Met Life and St. Phillips Episcopal Church in Brooklyn. “Public commissions are like coming full circle,” says Greene. “I started out as a mural apprentice and now I’m doing similar large-scale works that have to be fabricated to last for centuries, to be seen by thousands of people yearly!” “Art isn’t like sports – it’s not about the fastest run or the most points scored in a game. Art is about expressing a point of view, one’s self, and there are a whole lot of points of view,” Greene says. “There are many ways of seeing life’s experiences. There hasn’t been a culture on the face of the earth that didn’t express itself through art and, I believe there isn’t a person that doesn’t respond to art on one level or another. We’re just wired that way, thank God.” My recent series of artworks are title “People of Color.” This term is often applied to people of non-European ancestry (i.e. African American, Latino, etc.) and I have taken this description literally. In creating these portraits I have rendered the figures with colors that are not realistic skin tones but abstracted and imaginary hues. Like the Expressions, this use of color is an emotional interpretation and gives the work an expressive impact. It also challenges the view to see the familiar human form in different and unique ways. Another reason for this series is to raise the often degraded people of color to a high level of adoration and respect, as people worthy of being shown in art as beautiful and inspirational.