Our Friends of Island Academy students traveled from Harlem to Brooklyn on April 8 to visit the Brooklyn Museum and see the work of renowned artist Kehinde Wiley. Wiley’s latest exhibition A New Republic also travels from Harlem to Brooklyn through the characters in his paintings. Many of the subjects of Wiley’s work are young African Americans from Harlem. The idea that launched this current series of work stemmed from a wanted poster mug shot Wiley found while doing an artist residency at the Studio Museum in Harlem.
His process of finding young Black men and women on the streets of Harlem and inviting them to visit his studio to take part in envisioning painted portrait, in the tradition of European portraiture truly moved our students. They were able to see elements of themselves within the context of “classic” images of beauty and prominence.
This process of “street casting” added a collaborative aspect to the work that represents the agency that is so rarely given to young people of color in defining their own image in mass media. We were fortunate and very thankful to have a personalized tour of the exhibition with Brooklyn Museum staff Rujeko Hockley, Adjoa Jones de Almeida and Lindsey C. Harris.
Inspired by Wiley’s images and process in his paintings, the students then used these ideas to photograph their own photographs in Prospect Park and Prospect Heights.