Name: Damon Powell – Artist and Theologian
Piece in the Show: God of the Oppressed
Primary Medium: Scratchboard
Where are you from?
I was raised in Washington D.C. but have resided in Oakland, CA for the past 19 years. I am a resident artist in the popular Warehouse 416 art space, and regularly participate in the First Friday art Murmur activities.
What background do you have in art?
I obtained my Bachelor of Fine Arts form the Kansas City Art Institute in Kansas City Missouri. I've also worked as a professional Illustrator, and completed various freelance projects since that time. During the 1990’s I felt called into the ministry and received my Master of Divinity from Payne Theological Seminary in Wilberforce, Ohio. I then went on to complete my Ph.D. at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley California (2008). My emphasis was upon Black American theology art and aesthetics dissertation was entitled, “Black is Beautiful: An exploration in Art, Aesthetics & Theology”.
What role, if any, do artists have in social justice?
Art has and will continue to play a significant role in the achievement of social justice. Part of the artist role is to reflect upon and depict the issues that are encountered within contemporary culture. Sometimes, as a mirror and other times as catalyst for change through the visualization of new futures and possibilities. No social movement has ever succeeded without the enlistment of some form(s) of artistic creation to help support the activists and/or convey its message(s), and this is as it should be.
What inspires your creative work the most?
The inspiration for my creations is derived from my spiritual practice and ongoing research into the spiritual teachings and sacred texts found within various religious traditions. my primary goal is to give is express these insights into form through the use of color, line, and symbol.
What themes do you most pursue?
Most of my themes are derived from spiritual and theological concepts which I seeks to reinterpret through the use of a visual language that incorporates both ancient and contemporary symbols. Most of these creations incorporate themes like: justice, enlightenment, spiritual insight…etc.
How have other artists influenced your work?
As a young man, I was captivated by the works of the European Master’s like Davinci and Carravagio. Most of my teenage years were spent examining the works of Durer, and comic book artist like John Byrne. During Art school I became enamored with Expressionism and the works of Harlem Renaissance artist Aaron Douglas.
What is your dream project?
From a very young age my dream has been to create my own books by combining my artistic creations with research and writing. My first project is currently underway and will be completed by the end of this year. This project is a book entitled, “When We Pray: 7 Monographs on the Aesthetics of Prayer and the Spiritual Life” a coffee table book that will feature a works from my recent series “When We Pray” and insights pertaining to the nature of prayer, visual aesthetics, and the spiritual path.
Do you have any upcoming or current shows you are in other than this one?
I am currently curating and participating a show entitled, “NVA Contemporary Fine Art Show” (NVA = Nvisible Atelier) that runs throughout the month of February. NVA features seven artists in total and is a satellite location for an annual show called, “The Art of Living Black”