EXHIBITION RECEPTION will include words from TJ Reddy, Attorney James Ferguson and more. The Exhibit is now open for viewing daily from 9am -9pm, admission is free!
Although a short intro to art is usually appropriate, the long story about an artists life and focus is sometimes too good to refrain.
Here it is, the long narrative:
TJ Reddy was born the day the bomb dropped on Hiroshima: August 6, 1945. He began putting things onto paper at the early age of seven, a time when he was surrounded by a village of women who cared: his mom, his cousins, his grandma, his great grandma, his church mamas, teachers, and many other loving extensions from the neighborhood. He grew up healthy, with a strong knowledge of connection to nature and humans: As he likes to say “everything was everything and everyone was everyone.”
TJ Reddy was born in Savannah, Georgia, and moved with his family to New York City when he was 14. As a young African American boy in the midcentury, he had no indoor plumbing until age 11 but was reading by age three. During his childhood in Savannah, black children were barred from public libraries, so, his school principal turned her house into a library which he visited often as a passionate reader.
TJ came to Charlotte in 1964 to attend Johnson C. Smith University but ultimately graduated from UNC Charlotte, receiving undergraduate degrees in history and sociology and a masters degree in education. While at UNC Charlotte, he helped to form the Black Student Union and the Africana Studies Department. In the 1980s, he studied art at Winthrop University.
A civil rights activist, he was convicted in 1972 in a civil rights case known as The Charlotte Three. He received a 20-year sentence, but was released from prison in 1979 after his sentence was commuted by Governor Jim Hunt.
His time in prison was a pivotal moment. TJ refers to this time of compression as “you think you have my body but I own my mind.” All the rhetoric about freedom he embodied as an activist was challenged with the loss of his own physical freedom. He suddenly had the time to understand and investigate what true freedom is, and like a phoenix rising from the ashes, his heart and mind could not be stopped. He became a member of the NC Prisons Labor Union and never underestimated his abilities to freely express himself through his art and poetry. He wrote and drew on anything he could find – paper towels and charcoal from match sticks were frequent mediums. Like an alchemist, he turned this time of oppression into doors that opened his own creativity, a force that has flowed rapidly into his many accomplishments for the next 40 years of life.
Hence, there are four magic ingredients in every TJ painting: color, symbolism, narrative, and transformation. Multiple characters are continually woven into intricate archetypes. There is also an omnipresent sense of the divine feminine, whether in the foreground as a teacher or receding into background as a wise woman watching. The feminine is the benevolent constant. Many people categorize his work as a kind of social realism; a better description may be a social surrealist with a propensity towards nature and narrative. The figure is always transparent, in the process of budding into someone else – a vine twisting itself into another figure, another story, another lesson, and everything does become everything.
The face of a teacher is the sun shining through the water, reaching deep down to nourish the fish as a smaller woman comes up for air, always connected, never alone.
«Children at an early age, even as infants, become teachers, and adults and elders become more learned because of this exchange of embrace, nourishing and nurturing in a mutually inclusive manner.» -TJ
In TJ’s world, a person is never just a person; they are the sum of their experiences, a vessel, a basket of fruit. The male figures bring in the extremes; the antagonism and aggression of the warrior, the victim of the castrated prisoner, the ruling force of a king who can use or abuse. But, the creative force still reigns supreme, and the King Warrior Magician and Lover panels are all interconnected as one painterly tapestry of time, weaving allegory and paradox. TJ has made himself free to create his own visual narratives, much like the lyrical shifts in his poetry.
«The KING is crowned with the leaves of many attendants in a variety of transitioning scenes moving from the figurative, to the flora and fauna, all becoming a panorama of reflective and inclusive embodiment.
The WARRIOR can become poisoned with seething masculinity and this brings in the extremes, one of the protector and the other — the despot, a tyrant, antagonistic and aggressive, a victim of psychological castration, psychotic, neurotic, deadly.
The panel of the MAGICIAN is portrayed as a musician, like a Magi, a kind of alchemist who acknowledges and celebrates, and is largely supported with a creative feminine periphery birthing rhythm. I learned to become what is to an extent a ‘good man,’ self-respecting, gracious and compassionate.
Last but in no means least is the LOVER, the male archetype of the sensual, a libido shaped with the purpose of pleasure and progeny, embraced with fruitful and fetal prospects for human survival.»
What you will see in this exhibit is a retrospective of TJ Reddy’s life of creativity and sense of culture. It includes Scenes for the Teachers, Blues Men and Women, Family Portraits, Savannah Scenes, Havoc in Haiti, editioned prints, books of poetry and writings – all made during a life triumphant with affirmation. Today at age 70, TJ is still in process, creating a series addressing abuse and domestic violence, jazz, and some new sculpture.
«Where it goes from here is not a foregone conclusion. It is all from beginning to end still and yet a vision within the scope of the all, the concept of Everything is Everything, uniquely and irrevocably intertwined and combined into creative resolve and life living sustenance.» — TJ
UNC Charlotte is proud to herald the works of TJ Reddy, a weaver of emotive history. We are woven in with you!