Columbus collage artist Bobby T Luck made one piece a day during Black History Month.
Bobby T Luck made one piece of art a day during February's Black History Month. It was not only an exercise in Luck's personal art practice, but also one of purposeful research into culture, history and identity on a macro and micro level. The resultant work, on exhibit at Corrugate Studio Collective & Gallery through March 26, revealed to the artist an important truth.
“I'd say, ‘That shit's pretty messy,' would be my conclusion,” Luck said in an interview at Corrugate during the installation of “Afro-Dysphoria.”
Luck entered the month with no preconceptions and no agenda, other than to make art and to examine his own cultural heritage.
“It ended up being both both emotional and academic,” Luck said. “I had been feeling pretty sensitive over the last two years with everything that's been going on, especially with everything being so in your face on social media.
“I'm not really all-knowing about black history. I didn't like history class when I was younger. The only time I liked history was when you're looking at it from the view of people, of artists. I could relate to it because they were seeing political things and reacting to [them] the way I would.”
Each day's work was self-contained, Luck said, each piece simply “following whatever I was feeling on that day.”
“I was successful in doing one work a day,” Luck said. “I may not always have been happy with it, but I normally do a lot of planning, taking months to plan and gather information and images. Sometimes [in trying to make a piece a day] I would ask, ‘Oh, what did I do?'”
Completing the works electronically was also a change in practice for Luck, who has worked in the medium before but primarily with physical collage. Creating an entire body of work electronically made it easier to set aside a piece that wasn't working, but it also meant hours and hours in front of a computer.
“There are so many collages I started, then stopped and didn't finish and restarted from scratch,” Luck said. “I could be a little more forgiving, but I really like working with tactile stuff. This gave me a few migraines.”
The heart of each piece ended up being a person or people, in more cases than not. Images feature personalities from popular culture (Michael and Janet Jackson, Grace Jones, Aaliyah), politics and social activism (the Obamas, Condoleezza Rice, Angela Davis) and groups of “everyday” people, from denizens of a '70s-era discotheque to traditional African dancers.
“It's an exploration of wanting to use imagery that I see inside and outside of African-American culture and other cultures and things that have become popularized — visuals that we get when we think of what it means to be black. They are portraits of people. I wanted to get the diversity of what it means to be someone considered Afro-centric,” Luck said. “I definitely wanted to make sure the people aspect was there, to make it seem like you're surrounded by family.”
Imagery inspired by the subject's story (researched through biography, filmography and/or discography), combined with complementary visuals, was used to complete each piece.
“For me, my art has to mean at least a little something to be worth doing, but I also like doing stuff just to see what it looks like,” Luck said. “A lot of times I want to put something in there because it looks good, but it doesn't have any meaning, so I make sure I don't do that too much in any one piece.”
Taken as a whole, the works that comprise “Afro-Dysphoria” make up one artist's examination of culture and history — an examination that has something to say even if the artist himself is reluctant to say it in his own words.
“I'm trying not to make any really large statements, because these are complicated issues that I don't feel like I'd be able to fully give productive answers or any kind of clarity,” Luck said. “There is a lot I wanted to learn about my culture in general. I think it was definitely worth it just to do it, and it did help me a lot with what I learned. I didn't have specific questions other than, ‘Who are we as a group?' I don't think we'll ever be able to figure that out, but I at least got to see something and make something out of what it means to me.”