RVA artist Justice Dwight explores strong Black women and real Black gay men
“After high school, I went to university and did social work for a year. It was a horrific experience,” said Justice Dwight, a 20 year old artist from Richmond’s East End. “When it was over, I went to fashion design school. It was ok, but…it closed, abruptly. After I thought, ‘this is the only thing that I know how to do, and I am actually good at it and I enjoy it. I am going to stick with it.’”
Dwight considers himself a pop artist and his work’s bright colors and sharp lines fit the bill. But beyond the recognizable style, the strong sexuality and sexual themes, and use of various modern pop-culture muses, like FKA Twigs, Rihanna, Erykah Badu, and Lauryn Hill, Dwight’s work stands out for its content as well as quality.
The artist said he is inspired by artists who are doing something different. “Their words mean something,” said Dwight. “Their work is more than a phase or a gimmick. They stand for something.”
Dwight’s work focuses on people of color. In a style reminiscent of 1960’s pop artists, Dwight’s work manages to be clean and current, without trying too hard to impress his intended audience, people of color. “It’s mostly for my people,” said Dwight. “I’m happy that other people can appreciate it, and understand it. It can be for them, if they make it for them.”
Keen on issues within black culture, Dwight uses his art as a way to get a message out about what he values within the movement. Much of his work features portraits of black women artists who could fit the idea of the which Refinery29 explains as someone who “celebrates all things joyous and eclectic among brown ladies.”
“I think it’s fun to have this carefree attitude,” said Dwight. “[I like] this black power girl who [says] what she wants. She doesn’t give a fuck what they think about her.”
Dwight’s work focuses primarily on black women which, as a gay man, sometimes leaves his audience with questions. “Being in a relationship with a man… confuses my audience at times. People wonder why I mainly paint black women? He doesn’t even date women?” said Dwight. “It’s confusing to some people. I think that some people should realize that I was raised by a strong black women…because of her I will always love black women.”
A photo posted by Dagodpoparah (@justicedwight) on
His sexuality plays a role in some of the artist’s work. He is inspired to bring forth more representation of Black men within LGBTQ artwork.
“With my homosexual paintings, I think that it is cool because when I see homosexual art work, I never see Black men,” said Dwight who considered most artistic depictions of Black gay men fetishized. “I’ve seen every race but Black men. If I do see Black men, they have really huge lips or really huge backsides.” Attempting to break that stereotype, Dwight features Black men of various shades with natural hair and tattoos. He does not highlight their physical features, but intimacy between the two men.
Dwight said he is committed to his respective communities, and uses his art to portray them positively. He shows that same commitment to the RVA art scene. “I believe that there is a lot of support for local artists in Richmond. It keeps me motivated to keep working because many people want to take their art and leave Richmond for good,” said Dwight. “I do not want to leave Richmond for good, but I do want my art to help the scene to grow even more. I think that there are a lot of talented people here, and together we can create something bigger.”
Having been raised here in Richmond, the home-grown artist is committed to the place that raised him. Looking back, Dwight is in awe of the support that he has received. Speaking of his recent work that has been featured in Rumors Boutique, and shown at galleries like Artworks, the artist feels nothing but amazement. “I’d been shopping there [Rumors] for years, before they were even on Broad St,” said Dwight. “It was just unreal to have art hanging up in there. Ever since I was a kid, I’d been driving past [Artworks] looking at it. Now, it’s ‘Oh you have a painting in there.’ It’s crazy.”
There’s no doubt that the support that Justice Dwight has received here in Richmond feeds the artist’s growing passion for what he does. He is a part of an artists’ collective called Crenius, that will be featured at the upcoming Remix of Virginia Art Expo on June 20th.
A photo posted by Dagodpoparah (@justicedwight) on
His advice for aspiring artists is simple. “Keep working and stop paying attention to what other people are doing,” said Dwight. “If it’s your passion, follow it.”
Local fashion designer and fiber artist Michael-Birch Pierce will be giving a talk at the gallery he curated named “Manufactured Faces, Performative Spaces” on Jan. 21 at Diversity Richmond. The name of the gallery is “about the queer experience of having to carefully manufacture and create your own identity and your own spaces is in [...]January 19, 2016
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