By Denise Barnes
The Washington Times
Artist Michael Brown draws you into his paintings,
creating serene and tranquil scenes -- crystal-clear waterfalls
cascading over massive rock formations, lush greenery and azure
But look closer. Beneath the vibrantly colored
compositions lie myriad cultural, historical and spiritual images.
"My work is dedicated to the preservation
of a rich legacy of African-American culture." The
artist says. "Images come through us, not necessarily from
"My images flow from clear pools of pride
and self-knowledge in hopes of waking the greatness sleeping in
The D.C. native's work is the epitome of what
he describes as "Afro-Surreal" -- a combination of realism,
abstractions, and historical and cultural images.
Recently there's been a renaissance in black
literature, dance, film and the visual arts, including drawing,
printmaking, sculpture and painting. Increasingly more attention,
as in recent "Time magazine story, is zeroing in on the contributions
of black artists. And Mr. Brown welcomes more to join the parade.
"Do not let anyone tell you that as an artist
you can't make a livelihood creating artwork -- that artists are
starving," Mr. Brown says with emphasis. "That may have
held true at one point in history, but that's no longer the case.
One's path is seldom smooth, straight and downhill. It usually
twists and turns and rocks. But it's worth the trip."
Mr. Brown who grew up in the Trinidad neighborhood
of Northeast, knew from an early age that art was his life. In
elementary school he drew colorful dramatic comic-book heroes
such as Thor and Superman. (It gave him and his friends something
interesting to do with their time, he says.)
He went on to graduate in the first class of
the School for the Arts at Western in Northwest (now the Duke
Ellington School of the Arts).
"It was the greatest experience of my life,"
Mr. Brown says of his high school years. "We not only loved
what we were doing, it was as fertile an environment for an aspiring
artist as one could imagine.
'There is an old African proverb that says, "If
you don't know where you are going, any road will do' I was fortunate
-- I knew early exactly what I wanted to do."
He studied at the Maryland Institute College
of Art and then did graduate work at Howard University only to
cut those studies short to go professional.
To make extra money while pursuing his painting,
he started several businesses -- including Cultural Circles, an
artsy enterprise in which Mr. Brown make pin-on buttons and badges.
Finally, after an "arduous" three year
period, he completed a painting , "A
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