Quadre Curry | AADL Black Lives Matter Muralist
Following the Ann Arbor District Library's Call for Artists in 2020, AADL installed a Black Lives Matter mural on the south side of Library Lane on Friday, May 21 featuring the works of eight artists.
Below is our interview with muralist Quadre Curry.
Q: Tell us about yourself.
A: I was born in Detroit and did most of my schooling in the metro Atlanta area. After graduating college I moved back to Detroit to be closer to family during quarantine and further pursue my creative career. I received my Bachelors of Visual and Performing Arts from Albany State University in south Georgia. I also had the pleasure of serving as the Student Government Association president my senior year. Currently, I'm interning with Generate Comics and doing freelance graphic design work as well as painting projects like this one.
Q: What's your earliest memory of making art and your earliest memory of being affected by art?
A: I grew up in my mother's hair salon. I spent my days sitting in the waiting area observing the women who came in and left and reading magazines to occupy myself. Magazine covers are their own genre of portraiture in the modern era. This inspired me to draw people and I started bringing sheets of paper with me to practice drawing the celebrities that graced these covers. Magazines like Jet, Essence, and Hype Hair showcased beautiful black women and soon became a focal point and a muse for much of the work in the following years. Fast forward to my sophomore year in high school. We visited the High Museum in Atlanta while the Girl With a Pearl Earring was showing there and that was the first time I had seen such an iconic piece in real life. I was surprised by how small it was. I didn't realize one painting that small made so long ago could still have such a profound effect on me yet I was experiencing it anyway. The only thing missing—and this was always missing in my art education—was the ability to see myself and the women I looked up to in these kinds of works. Thus the purpose was created in me to make paintings like Girl With a Pearl Earring that reflected the women and men in my life who I felt deserved the same recognition. Work that will one day tour the world and reflect the beauty I see with my eyes.
Q: Tell us about your mural and your art.
A: Three artists I would like to bring attention to and who have been recently inspiring my work are Kara Walker, Kehinde Wiley, and Titus Kaphar. All of these artists in one way or another use their skills in various styles/mediums to reconstruct the conversation we are having about race in this country. From Walker, I pulled a sense of urgency and boldness and tried to include it in the design of my painting. I used overt yet familiar symbols to make it clear to my viewer my piece was adding to the ongoing conversation of race in America. From Wiley and Kaphar, I have learned how to use the literal design of my work as a reconstruction. Both of their painting styles are realism but still differ in many ways. What truly makes them similar is their ability to create such juxtaposition with the traditional and the progressive. They create huge waves of impact by connecting new and old structures of power and visual perceptions. For a person of color, works like this are extremely cathartic. For once, the conversation can begin from a place of reckoning and understanding. Usually, all of our energy would be spent just trying to get there. I hope this mural accomplished the same thing.
Here are what the symbols in my piece mean. Everything in the composition is meant to further narrow/focus my message to the viewer:
- Sky - The sky goes from a dark black night to an almost blinding white toward the middle of the composition. This symbolizes how we have to continually go through uprisings and chaos in order to get the attention of those we need to bring about change.
- Survivors - Images of those that have passed away or fallen soldiers if you will. Sandra Bland, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin.
- Golden Bowls - Usually, I put fruit in bowls when I paint them but this one has not because we still have no justice for Breonna Taylor and countless black women.
- Energy - The green energy orb to the left symbolizes the growth this is to still take place in this movement.
- Globe - To reference Africa while also reminding America that my people were trafficked all over the world.
- Clouds - Storm clouds because the storm just still is not over.
- The List - Names—nowhere near all—of those passed away from police brutality.
- Tug of War - the flag is caught up in a game of tug of war to show the tension and the fighting that is still being done on the ground to bring about change.
- White House - As a symbol for government and the system that was invented to marginalize black and brown people.
AADL Black Lives Matter muralist interviews:
- T'onna Clemons
- Quadre Curry
- Demario Dotson
- John Rodriguez
- Jaleesa Rosario
- Rachel Elise Thomas
- Curtis Wallace
- Avery Williamson