By Michael C. Butz
Lives & Creates Cleveland’s Cudell neighborhood
Michelangelo Lovelace knows some viewers of his art might not be familiar with the world he exposes them to in his paintings: his world.
So, he introduces them from a bird’s-eye view and allows them to lower themselves in for a closer, more thoughtful look at his colorful, expressive pieces at their own pace. There’s plenty to take in.
“The Daily Grind,” for example, shows a Cleveland street littered with distractions, from police cars and passersby to merchant signs and signs from God. The piece is about Lovelace’s own daily grind trying to make a living as an artist, but many may recognize the potential pitfalls. Through relating to viewers that way, Lovelace hopes to bridge longstanding disconnects related to race, culture and socioeconomics.
“Hopefully, they’ll have a conversation with themselves and the painting about how they feel about being in that environment,” he says. “Hopefully, they’ll get to understanding what it’s like for people that grow up in the inner city and have to live in this kind of environment, where you’re dealing with poverty, dealing with drugs, dealing with alcohol and dealing with crime when you’re trying to make your way and just have a happy life.”
Once Lovelace’s viewers become comfortable with where he’s led them, he hopes they then begin looking deeper into individuals – a courtesy he hasn’t always been afforded.
“I remember, coming up, I would go to art shows that I would have my work in and people would not associate me with the work. They see me as a black guy, and they’ve built their walls once they see you,” says Lovelace, who in May had a solo show at Fort Gansevoort in New York City. “Then, when they find out I’m the artist who painted the paintings, they would be like, ‘Oh man!’ You know? It’s a different world. So, I’m hoping that from my work, my viewer can take himself to another level in seeing people, judging people and allowing people to have opportunities.”
A similar hope is inherent in “The Deportation Wall,” a powerful painting Lovelace completed for “The First 100+ Days: Artists Respond to Trump’s Immigration Policy” group show at SPACES Gallery in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood.
The 58-year-old grew up in Cleveland but his parents are from the South, so he was raised on stories regarding divisiveness in Mississippi and Georgia.
“I interpret that wall as being another form of racism – like the signs they used to have in the South, ‘Whites only’ or ‘Negro over here,’” he says. “For every brick they put into this wall, no matter how big they build it, there’s another person who’s just looking for what most people wanted when they came to America: a better opportunity.” CV
Lead image: Michelangelo Lovelace. Photo by Michael C. Butz.