Charlotte artists on visibility, community, and the art of belonging

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“The arts are not just a nice thing to have or to do if there is free time or if one can afford it,” First Lady Michelle Obama said in her 2009 opening remarks at the American Ballet Theater in New York City. “Rather, paintings and poetry, music and fashion, design and dialogue — they all define who we are as a people and provide an account of our history for the next generation.”

Perhaps the same acknowledgement is to be said of Charlotte — a city quickly defining itself among a robust art community, a bevy of museums and galleries dedicated to all five senses, and the growing sense of wanderlust from coffee shop galleries to art crawls.

Along with the deeply developing rich diversity of our communities, our art evokes visceral discussions on narratives local artists challenge us to consider as we examine our growth, our politics, and our future.

We conversed with several artists documenting Charlotte’s history as it is being made. From protests against police brutality to immigration to fostering Charlotte’s cool factor, digest the work of local artists holding us accountable for the many narratives emerging from the Queen City.

Artist: Alvin C. Jacobs, Jr.

alvin-c-jacobs

Image courtesy of Alvin C. Jacobs

Medium: Photography

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois

Find his work: EBONY Magazine; www.acjphoto.com

To book: im.acjphoto@gmail.com

In his words:

“When a community doesn’t see the value in the art of its people, it doesn’t see the value in its people.”

Alvin-Jacobs-CLT-HB2-protest

Image courtesy of Alvin C. Jacobs

This image was from the Confederate Flag Protest Rally in Columbia, South Carolina. There was intense opposition for the open support and police protection of the flag bearers. The groups in favor were chased from the State Capitol grounds and forced to hide in an adjacent parking garage awaiting police escort.

Alvin-Jacobs-CLT-police-precinct-protest

Image courtesy of Alvin C. Jacobs

This action was in Uptown Charlotte at the police precinct. The protest was in solidarity with the family and friends of Janisha Fonville for anti police brutality and the need for increased officer training and accountability.  Many people don’t know that Janisha struggled with mental health issues.

Alvin-Jacons-CLT-Laquan McDonald protests

Image courtesy of Alvin C. Jacobs

This is from the Laquan McDonald protests and really sums up the actions in the street to remove Defense Attorney Anita Alvarez from office. I was walking out of a store preparing to catch the protest a few blocks away and they walked right past my block. This series of events documented how important the people are in terms of political power. Former Defense Attorney Alvarez was defeated in the upcoming election.

Artist: Rosalia Torres-Weiner

rosalia-torres

Image courtesy of Rosalia Torres-Weiner

Medium: Painting – Acrylic on Canvas

Hometown: Mexico

Find her work: 

  • Levine Museum of the New South
  • Public murals can bee seen at 36th and Davidson, Central and Kilborne, Central and Rosewood, the UNCC Center City Campus, and the 7th Street Public Market.

To purchase:

  • Canvas work is available for sale from Rosalia’s studio at Latin American Center for Arts Project (LACA) at 1429 Bryant Street.
  • Additional work is available at the Red Calaca Studio in Rock Hill (by appointment only info@redcalacastudio.com)

In her words:

“I am actively engaged in revealing Charlotte’s Latino culture, and I consider my work to be a bridge between the Latino community and other cultures—including native Charlotteans and Southerners.

Rosalia-little-girl-covering-her-mouth

Image courtesy of Rosalia Torres-Weiner

“I was inspired by an NPR story I heard about a 6-year-old girl (Virginia) who stopped talking after her father went through deportation proceedings. In a magical turn of events, I was connected with her when Johnson & Wales University published this in their annual Arts Review and put me in touch with Dr. Zayas, the head of the Sociology Department at the University of Texas at Austin, who worked with her.

rosalia-I-wish-I-was-dreaming

Image courtesy of Rosalia Torres-Weiner

A depiction of the massive fence that separates families at the U.S. Mexico border (including mine).

rosalia-hispanic-the-new-italians

Image courtesy of Rosalia Torres-Weiner

This painting depicts a young Hispanic as the Statue of Liberty—long a symbol of hope and freedom for immigrants to America. I feel strongly that a change is coming in the national debate on immigration reform, and that it will be championed by the next generation of Hispanics, the children and grandchildren of today’s immigrants. This painting will be part of a 2017 exhibit in Washington D.C. titled “Gateways” that centers on Latino migration and experiences in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, MD, Charlotte and the Triangle region of North Carolina.

rosalia-the-new-american-gothic

Image courtesy of Rosalia Torres-Weiner

A reinterpretation of the original, with a modern demographic twist. This painting is part of the traveling exhibit “¡NUEVOlution! Latinos and the New South” currently at Levine Museum of the New South until 2017.

Artist: Nico Amortegui

nico-amortegui

Image courtesy of Nico Amortegui

Medium: Painting

Hometown: Bogota, Colombia

Find his work: 

  • The Last Supper exterior mural at Three Amigos Grill Cantina, 2917 Central Ave.
  • Con Sabor exterior mural at Sabor Latin Street Grill, 415 Hawthorne Ln.
  • Pachamama (7×10) on panel at Luna’s Living Kitchen, 2000 South Blvd, Ste 3000
  • Exterior mural, SALUD Beer Shop, corner of N.Davidson St & 36th St. in NoDa. Mural is located on NE side of building.
  • Exterior Bar murals, Solstice Tavern, 3221 N. Davidson St.
  • Chalk mural interior, SilverFly clothing store, 1426 S. Tryon St. (South End)
  • Nico also has has artwork featured in the “¡NUEVOlution! Latinos and the New South” exhibit.

To purchase: www.nicoarte.com

In his words: 

“Charlotte is a fast growing city and as it builds her own identity, I feel as an artist that I need to create / illustrate a timeline of all that’s happening (socially, and politically, mostly). The best example is Latinos were mostly landscapers and construction workers when I arrived in CLT. Now we are business owners and entrepreneurs.”

Nico-Amortegui-CLT

Image courtesy of Nico Amortegui

Nico-Amortegui-CLT

Image courtesy of Nico Amortegui

Nico-Amortegui-pray

Image courtesy of Nico Amortegui

Artist: Saloan Rochelle

saloan-rochelle

Image courtesy of Saloan Rochelle

Medium: Photographer

Hometown: Charlotte

Find her work: www.queenagenda.com

To book: queenagenda@gmail.com

In her words: 

“I want to be able to convince those younger than me that we don’t have to move to a popular oversaturated city to create. We have to show that we have talent right here and make people come to us. We have to put in work, come together and build the creative community that we want.”

Saloan-Rochelle-photographer

Image courtesy of Saloan Rochelle

Saloan-Rochelle-CLT

Image courtesy of Saloan Rochelle

Saloan-Rochelle-CLT-photographer

Image courtesy of Saloan Rochelle

Cover image courtesy of Rosalia Torres-Weiner.

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Sherrell Dorsey
| @Sherrell_Dorsey
Sherrell lives in NoDa with her impressive shoe collection. She is a social-impact storyteller who speaks and writes frequently on the intersections of sustainability, technology and digital inclusion.