Final Artist Proposal: Painting

Michelle Yarborough

Artist’s Proposal & Statement

We have all heard over and over that home is where the heart is, not to be cliché but that’s more than true. Unfortunately, all I see when I go back home is how corrupt and harsh people can be to the beautiful things around them. The images in my mind of what I remember from home are in reality disturbing. My hometown, the city of Detroit, Michigan is my main focus in the images I have painted to show the viewers through my eyes. The world, all of its beauty and cruelty is what inspires my artwork. The poverty, despair, and all the aspects of the fallen city are things I want my artwork to present to its viewers. The city is ruined and there hasn’t been much of a change in years, it seems we still want from the city but cannot give back. When looking at the nature and scenery in Detroit, I can’t help but see its destruction caused by humans. So rather than re- creating a landscape on a canvas, I aim to highlight this ruined city and things that personally touch my heart.  

My paintings are in some ways going in a sequence but one could see them in a different way and hopefully still get the message. For the medium of my paintings and to give the viewers a look of how I viewed the city, I use grungy imagery, dark shades of paint, shadows, little light, a few vibrant colors where needed and molding paste for an effect and texture. I pulled some of my inspiration from a few artists who get their inspiration from the city around them. Marcus Antonius Jansen is an urban painter, spent some of his years in New York City and the rest in Germany. His art like mine is a reflection of the city life and home; his graffiti style was a sense of bringing both of his worlds together and his way of expression. I found that his artwork has very expressive markings; a grungy feel to them and that is what I have been shooting for. I was first inspired by Jansen’s paintings that are displayed at the Charles H. Wright Museum in Detroit. His paintings were commissioned by the Ford Motor Company in Detroit to reflect how far the company has come and to celebrate their 100th birthday.

Gregg Kreutz is an oil painter who focuses on cityscapes, portraits, still lifes and interiors. When looking for other painters who complimented my style of painting his words drew me into his work. He stated, “Even though the paintings I’ve produced for this show are of different sizes, depict different subject matter, and are each exploring different color worlds, there is an underlying theme to them all that I hope gives the show a certain unity.” Just as my paintings do not quite fit all together, there is an underlying theme that fits them perfectly. Kreutz’s paintings such as mine, have a special emphasis on light, shadow and place. His work inspired me to create imagery that people may question but see through my eyes.

Julia Watkins is a contemporary artist with bright; jewel-like colors and each of her paintings make me want to jump for joy. Julia is considered to be the founder of the Energism movement. Although she works with vibrant colors, oil paint and the connection between humans and animals, I love the energy in her work. I tried to incorporate the energy, loose brushstrokes, and bright colors into my cityscape painting and really enjoyed the way it turned out.  Each of these painters bring life to their art and to myself, I find their paintings to be so exhilarating. They are each a breath of fresh air and I’m excited to see if I succeeded in captivating some of their energy in my paintings.

I find my concept bringing a spotlight on the negativity going on in Detroit, and I am showing how a city that once was very beautiful has gone downhill. The more I focus on Detroit as a whole I find that my pieces no longer complement each other and sometimes can make the viewer confused. The way I incorporated subject matter into my piece is not only relying on my paintings to scream “This Is Detroit!” but give off a sense of place as in my home that has been torn down, the corner store I would often walk to as a kid that was burnt to ashes and the city lights on the lake that still bring beauty and peace to the city. Although it may be hard to tell, my pieces do go in a sequence and are based on real life experiences. Looking through a window where all you see is trash, ashes, and what’s left of a home. Then looking through the other side of a window and there is nothing, what is worse than coming back to the place you grew up and finding that there’s nothing there? The feeling I have inside is what I hope to give my audience, not that sadness is something I would like to share but the hope I get to know I could one day make a difference in my old community.

In conclusion, I believe art is a way of expression, something like a personal diary that you share with the world. Hoping that something from my paintings will catch someone’s eye and translate my words to their mind is the reason I haven’t given up on painting. Detroit, Michigan is my home; the good, bad and the ugly about it are things that make up any city. It’s really what one does to help or shine light on the issues of a place that makes a difference. I can easily compare the deteriorating city of Detroit to parts of the world that are in ruin and seem to have people living there who have just given up on trying making it better. Well I haven’t given up and hold this dear to my heart, I will continue to shine light on this issue and make a difference to myself, the community and the world around me.   




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