Artists share Southern art, culture with students

As part of the visual and performing arts department’s schedule of events, the Artist Talks included two celebrated southern artists.

This year, the Artist Talks took place in the Lee Nursing Building; FMU hosted painter Jonathan Green and sculptor Bob Trotman, two artists inspired by southern culture and heritage.

The first talk, given by Jonathan Green, covered his purposes and inspirations for creating his artwork. Green grew up in Garden Corners, S.C., in a Gullah neighborhood, and he studied at the School of Arts Institute in Chicago, IL. While living with his grandmother, he learned the Gullah language and watched her work to support him and his family.

He explained that he cares deeply about the Gullah heritage and that he gains inspiration from observing and living around those who still follow the Gullah traditions, mainly in Charleston, SC. Green said that he grew up witnessing Gullah traditions firsthand and that much of the culture already revolves around different types of art and creativity.

Green explained his artistic process, which includes strategic layering that creates depth in his paintings. He also talked about the emphasis he places on the bold shapes in his artwork. Green said he wants his viewers to grasp the feeling of spiritual belonging and community that is emphasized in the Gullah culture.

Freshman biology major Mili Patel attended Green’s talk and enjoyed learning about the inspiration and heritage behind his paintings.

“He was very interesting,” Patel said. “He was into expressing his beliefs and cultural nature in his art.”

Green also discussed the financial aspect of being an artist. Beyond the sale of his paintings and the revenue he gains through art shows and similar events, Green also has made money from his fashion line, which includes printed silk scarves depicting images of his paintings. His artwork has been included in national and international art shows, and many museums include his paintings as permanent exhibits. He now owns a self-named studio in Charleston, S.C., where he collaborates with several other artists.

The second speaker, Bob Trotman, discussed how he goes about creating his sculptures from wood. Each piece of art is carefully carved, and he said he prefers to place emphasis on the sharp lines of the pieces, which stand out with the shape of the wood and add character to the sculptures. Trotman grew up in Winston-Salem, N.C., and said he taught himself how to create his sculptures through practice. He got his start making furniture and eventually decided to begin sculpting and carving as a career. He also studied at the Penland School of Crafts in Penland, N.C. As a creative outlet, carving gave him an avenue to express his opinions on corporations and the politics of modern business.

Freshman business major Jarret Forrester enjoyed listening to Trotman explain his artwork and the strategies that went into making the sculptures.

“I really liked how he kept saying he was determined to stick with it,” Forrester said. “His whole view on corporate business was interesting to me as a business major, and I liked that he uses a traditional form of art to speak to his audience.”

Trotman said his work reflects how he sees corporate workers and the business and political worlds. He gets inspiration from watching his father, who worked as a banker and embodied the typical businessman. Through his work, Trotman attempts to show the negative side of the corporate world and how it has affected modern corporate businessmen.

Trotman’s work has been featured in multiple art galleries, including the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. His work is most commonly showcased in southern states, but he has also been featured in galleries in New York.