Jazz swings at Foster-Tanner gallery

A photo of the artist, Everett Spruill. Photo courtesy: everett-spruill.pixels.com

Orlando-based artist Everett Spruill’s work is on display this fall in FAMU’s Foster-Tanner Fine Arts Gallery.

Called “The Art of Jazz,” the exhibition highlights major jazz musicians and features mixed media collages and paintings that showcase African cultures.

On display until Oct. 30, the gallery is free to enter but donations are accepted.

Many of the works shown in the exhibition highlight African-American jazz artists who left an imprint on the genre.

“I grew up in a musical household,” Spruill said. “We had piano lessons, I sang in the choir, so music helped shape my early years. We thought of jazz as our own classical music. We [Black people] created jazz so it’s special. It should be preserved in all ways possible and art is the perfect accompaniment. Yeah, I’m passionate about jazz. My goal, here again, is to celebrate what is America’s own art form created by us. At one point in history, jazz seemed to be dying. I felt it my duty to help preserve and revive the genre.”

A photo of “Still Life with African Violets, Stool, and Kalimba” by Spruill. Photo courtesy: Tashai Smalls

Although the exhibition is called “The Art of Jazz,” spectators can also view many pieces that pay homage to different African cultures.

“I loved how the artist included a multitude of many African-based paintings in this exhibition along with the jazz theme,” said Ernalyn Thony, a visitor at the gallery. “I feel like it allowed me to escape the Eurocentric society that I am forced to stomach day by day when I view art galleries in Railroad Square and around town. I truly appreciate his use of geometric shapes in his works. It makes a bold statement and catches my eye.”

Spruill shed light on the source of his inspirations for the artwork.

“African art inspires my use of geometrics and patterns,” he said. “Masks, sculptures, bright colors, and textiles play a significant role in my cubist style.  I also like to think of my art as ‘jewels’ so facets and angles help me create the effect of a shimmering jewel on canvas. Romare Bearden and Picasso, two of my favorite artists, knew the value of shape and dimension. Creating the illusion and effect of three dimensions on a one-dimensional surface. It’s a concept that allows for simple but complicated compositions. Since I use a multitude of mediums. Simplicity is important.”

“I found the accessibility of the artwork to be awesome,” said Linda Mares, a visitor at the gallery. “I feel like many places that provide a platform to artists are very whitewashed. They ask for expensive donations or purchases that people like me can’t afford. Also, when people of color go inside those galleries they often feel ostracized. However, FAMU is a predominantly Black university and I feel like having work like this shown at the university provides people of color with access. I also see my culture in the afro-themed work and I can view the work of an equally capable artist that is Black.”

A picture of the “Prince” painting by Spruill. Photo courtesy: Tashai Smalls

Spruill shared his thoughts on the contribution of his work to FAMU.

“Art is nothing unless it’s shared,” he said. “If I can inspire a young artist or collector, my work is done. I want, my people particularly, to evolve and progress to a point where we are self-sufficient. Using our natural talent is a great asset. I love promoting Black culture, preserving our culture, passing it on, and creating wealth through art. One of the main reasons I create is to educate through my work. Educational institutions are the perfect places to continue the discussion and move us forward as a people, as a planet.”

Visitors can follow Everett Spruill on Instagram @everettsart or visit everett-spruill.pixels.com to view and purchase prints or original works done by the artist.