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 Gilbert Fletcher  (20/21st century)

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: portrait painting of African-American writers

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following information, "Painted Voices" by Gilbert Fletcher is from the online source-Great Black Literary Figure Series.

For several years I explored the possibility of creating a series of paintings of my favorite writers.  Developing this visual reference of literary figures would also serve as a great starting point for educating people wanting an introduction to African-American literature.  I also wanted the works to be, not mere portraits, but images incorporating symbols that would identify the writer.  In some instances, incorporating circumstances and challenges that writers sometimes are faced with in their personal lives -- their fears, struggles and ultimately, their courage and success.

My research became more extensive than I first imagined.  I attended live readings, collected and read books and filled eight large notebooks with newspaper articles and other materials. I listened to many of  their interviews on radio and TV.  After going through all the materials I had amassed, it became clear to me what some of their personal challenges were.  In addition to their passion for writing, their desires and fears, they sometimes risked their reputations as writers for causes in which they believed.  It became clear to me just how often they struggled and fought to gain a respectable voice in the world of literature as writers, scholars, poets, critics, historians and playwrights.

It is my desire, through "Painted Voices", to present an extended view of writing and literature, in addition to the changes that occur during the rise of a prominent literary figure.  "Painted Voices" explores all sides of Black writers, and is intended to give the viewer a complete understanding of each writer, their writing and how much they are connected to life's struggles and the struggles endured by Black people in America. Their story is our story; their history is our history. Their works reflect a very minute piece of the puzzle of race, integration, segregation, class and justice.

The series begins appropriately with Langston Hughes, the Harlem Renaissance poet, novelist, playwright and essayist whose poem, The Negro Speaks of Rivers, reflects a theme that runs through the works of many African-American writers and takes on many different forms.
Hughes' "River" is a metaphor for the pain, despair, sorrow and struggle endured by the black race.  It flows into a river of fire, freedom and revolution. As it turns and flows into a river of Black consciousness, it becomes joy, hope and spirit. This is a river of song, of culture, of community. This river flows with words that fight against oppression and destructive stereotypes. Hughes' river incorporates folklore, jazz, the blues as it tracks our culture. This river is Mother Africa, Harlem, Watts, Birmingham, Mississippi and Detroit. From our ancestors it courses through our veins into our consciousness and emerges as  truth - this river is our "Painted Voices."
About the artist:  Gilbert Fletcher is an artist currently living in New York City. He has exhibited  widely throughout the country, in among other places: The Brooklyn Museum, The Museum of Science and Technology in Chicago, IL, The Museum of African American Art, Wilberforce, OH, Hampton University Museum, Museum of Afro-American Art Boston, the Silvermine School of the Arts in New Canaan, CT and the New Orleans Museum of Art. Mr. Fletcher has also exhibited widely in galleries such as the Cinque Gallery in New York, Delgado Community College, Dillard University, Gallery 500 Washington, DC, Chi-Wara Gallery Atlanta and the Darian Public Library.

Mr. Fletcher's paintings have been published in: African American Artists: The Long Struggle, by Crystal Britton; the Leah Chase CookbookChesapeake Song, by Brenda Lane Richardson; 1991 Elle Magazine;  Tom Dent's Magnolia Street and several Prentice Hall Literature publications.

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