“The styles I use range from tight representation to abstracted forms, depending upon my intent, but the bottom line is communication. Ideally, my work will act as a springboard for the viewer into their own imagination, their own experiences, memories, and aspirations.”
I am a visual communicator and believe that art is a language that connects with people on multiple levels. There are two main influences in my background that have helped shape and hone my outlook as an artist: the first is the years spent as an apprentice to muralist Jon Onye Lockard. He was a painter in the Black Arts Movement and one of its goals was to create “art for people’s sake.” Another aim of this genre was to reach people with positive and inspiring imagery as well as to reinforce a proud collective identity. While working on murals, there were ongoing discussions as to how the work would be “read” or interpreted by the viewing public. These discussions included not only the images but also color choices, composition, and guided emphasis. Under his direction, we produced murals that are installed in Detroit’s Wayne State University, Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, and at the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies at The University of Michigan. After that I went to The Rhode Island School of Design and graduated with a BFA from the Illustration Department. This field, by definition, relies on art’s power to communicate a narrative. As an illustrator, I show elements that are suggested by the text and enrich viewers’ understanding. These two disciplines—public art and illustration—inform my fine art.
In my forty years as a visual artist, I have participated in innumerable solo and group fine art exhibitions. As a commercial artist, I have created theater posters, CD covers as well as illustrations for magazines and book covers. Throughout my career, I have made a conscious effort to speak to the African American community by making direct references to its history, culture, and aspirations. I place my work squarely in the legacy of the Black Arts Movement. I consider myself a visual narrator. Much of my early work addressed the topics of racial identity and social critique. Although these are still reoccurring themes in my art recently, I have also created works that are less didactic and convey the wide range of human experiences in a vast range of subjective colors, hues and themes that can be both specific and universal. I feel that my work has grown more poetic.
I am a Black artist. This is a statement about my racial identity and my artistic alignment. The African American experience has been the decided focus of my artwork since adolescence. The themes and information on this topic are vast and I find them creatively inspiring. They range from the aesthesis of traditional African art to contemporary politics and ethos to the speculative musings of Afrofuturism. In hindsight my body of work is an exploration of the following questions I posed over 35 years ago; What is the image of our culture…our heritage… our history… our daily lives… our hopes and dreams…? What is the image of us, the way we got here, and the way we be?
Since his childhood in Xenia, Ohio, Jimmy James Greene has shown exceptional artistic ability. After apprenticing with acclaimed Afrocentric muralist Jon Onye Lockard in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Greene graduated from The Rhode Island School of Design. He has gone on to become an accomplished collagist, painter draftsman, and designer who also works with stained glass, printmaking, and mosaic tile. For the past thirty-five years his work has explored the communal expressions of the African diaspora in general, and those of the African American experience in particular. “I see myself as a visual storyteller,” says Greene. “The styles I use range from tight representation to abstracted forms, depending upon my intent, but the bottom line is communication. Ideally, my work will act as a springboard for the viewer into their own imagination, their own experiences, memories, and aspirations.”
As a fine artist, Greene has executed over thirty one-person exhibitions and innumerable group showings. As a commercial artist, he has theater posters, CD covers, and many newspaper, magazine, and book cover illustrations to his credit.
In addition, Greene has been commissioned to do public works of art by The New York Transit Authority, New York’s City Parks Foundation, Met Life, and St. Phillips Episcopal Church in Brooklyn. “Public commissions are like coming full circle,” says Greene. “I started out as a mural apprentice and now I’m doing similar large-scale works that have to be fabricated to last for centuries, to be seen by thousands of people yearly!”
“Art isn’t like sports – it’s not about the fastest run or the most points scored in a game. Art is about expressing a point of view, one’s self, and there are a whole lot of points of view,” Greene says. “There are many ways of seeing life’s experiences. There hasn’t been a culture on the face of the earth that didn’t express itself through art and, I believe there isn’t a person that doesn’t respond to art on one level or another. We’re just wired that way, thank God.”
One of Greene’s ongoing series, Ancestral Layers, is a hybrid of his colorful abstract collages layered under representational transparent paintings on plexiglass. “Miles Davis said the skies the limit when you’re creating a new thing, and with Ancestral Layers that’s what I feel. We all live in layers; our past informs our present. We live within multiple layers. It’s personal, it’s familiar, it’s racial and it’s about culture and class. It’s all that at once and it affects everyone. You can’t swim in the water and not get wet.”