Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Positive Spin

“I’m very particular about what I participate in.
Najee Dorsey

It is a valid truism that an artist’s sales early in their career will be to friends and relatives. And so it was for African American artist Najee Dorsey. He claims his first sale, at the age of five, was to his mother and be blew all the proceeds on candy. Now with an annual income, according to the Black Enterprise Magazine, of $100,000, Dorsey is a little more circumspect about his expenditure. You have to be strategic and smart with money decisions,” he told the Magazine.

Over the past decade this mixed media artist has built a successful career through the depiction of his Southern heritage that includes not only those who went in search of a better life but those who stayed and resisted the oppression of the powers that be; the heroes of the civil rights movement through to the activists of today.

Many of which he presents dressed in their Sunday best. As he told Art Voices Shantrelle P. Lewis, “I’m typically searching for either dandies or vintage photographs from the 40s and 50s. The reason why I choose dandies is because I’m creating a body of work on how I want us to be seen and also how I want us to see ourselves. Like peacocks, dandies stand out in a crowd because they’re not with the status quo.

This positive depiction Dorsey extended online in 2010 with the creation of Black Art in America (B.A.I.A.). About which he says “B.A.I.A. exists because I’m a successful artist, first and foremost. But I would say B.A.I.A. is probably my largest obligation as it relates to my time and energy because, in order to move things forward, it needs to be more of a collective effort. If we’re talking Black artists in general, then we’re talking about me too. I take advantage of what we’re building with B.A.I.A. I think I’ve got a legacy that I’m building with my art, but I think Black Art in America and what we’re doing is more important because it affects more people.

With a reported quarter of a million visitors annually B.A.I.A. has seen the successful self taught figurative artist become a successful self made arts entrepreneur who seems to juggle both hats with ease. As he says ““I don’t have set hours necessarily. My day is like a quilt. I mix in art and business all day.”

Dorsey’s current exhibition Leaving Mississippi: Reflections on Heroes and Folklore is on show at the Houston Museum of African American Culture until the 12th of July.

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