Friday, February 12, 2010
THE POLITICS OF ART: WHO IS FRANK J. BROWN?
I met Frank J. Brown a couple of months ago when I was wandering the skyway on my lunch hour. I saw a nifty little art gallery so I went in to see if I could convince anyone to vote for Mark Dayton for governor. I also like art galleries for the sake of the art.
The artist who owns the gallery is Frank J. Brown. He's very friendly and knowledgeable about a variety of subjects, particularly political topics that have to do with diversity, culture and discrimination. He even spoke before the legislature back in 2008 to give his views on the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. If you want to know anything at all about job discrimination in St. Paul, go talk to Frank.
Frank knows alot about what's going on in the world, particularly in the Twin Cities. I asked him which gubernatorial candidate he's going to vote for. He told me he's trying to decide between Dayton and Rybak. He's worked with Rybak and likes him very much. He also likes Dayton and was always impressed by him for standing up for the Black Panthers in their hour of need. (I did not previously know that, but it's another example of Dayton doing what's morally and ethically right no matter what popular opinion is.)
Frank told me that he would be glad to talk to any of the candidates. I told two DFL gubernatorial candidates about him and where to find him, but neither candidate called Frank or went to see him. Wouldn't you think they would care about the votes of all the people who live in downtown St. Paul? And all the artists who both live and work there? Frank knows an incredible number of people. I really wish the candidates would take me seriously when I tell them something. I wouldn't waste their time with garbage. I know why I'm not taken seriously, but that's best left to another blog on another day.
Another thing that Frank previously did was work on a bill with Paul Wellstone. Frank was always very impressed with Wellstone. I daresay that Wellstone was quite taken with Frank Brown, as well.
Frank J. Brown received his B.F.A. from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and his M.F.A. from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. As a sculptor and ceramist, he has taught in Wisconsin at the Madison Area Technical College and in Minnesota at the University of Saint Thomas and Macalester College. Regarded as one of the Midwest’s leading social realists working in sculpture, Brown has pieces in the permanent collections of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, the St. Paul Foundation and the University of Utah Museum of Fine Arts in Salt Lake City. His work often depicts the struggles of those that have not been given the opportunity to secure their dreams of equality. His studio, Colors of Art, is located at 180 Fifth Street East, Suite 220, in St. Paul, Minnesota. Frank is the founder of the Lowertown Artist Association.
Frank also hand-carved many of the stone ornaments for such buildings as the John Hancock Center in Chicago, the Fourth Street Presbyterian Church in Chicago and the exterior balusters on Minnesota's State Capitol in St. Paul. There is an excerp about Frank and his work in the 2010 Saint Paul Almanac.
Brown creates images from clay, bronze, and stone. His sculptures speak to the social concerns of the African American community. He wants his art to influence future generations not to repeat the negative biases of the past. He wants to see America as a nation no longer divided by race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or physical disability.
Born with multiple birth challenges, I began to work with clay to ease the pain of not being able to interact/keep up with other children. At the age of two I began creating images from modeling clay and have continued to enjoy working with this medium for the last thirty-one years. I have created images from television shows, newspapers, or books that would hold my attention or motivate my curiosity about the human conditions that some people may live in. At a very young age I began to create social statement art by creating busts of civil rights activist of all racial backgrounds.
I continue today creating three-dimensional and mural relief images of clients alive and deceased in modeling clay. Many of the images are cast into rubber molds and reproduced in limited editions. I have continued to create whatever I might see or images from conversations that I would have with other people. Most of my artwork depicts the struggles of those that have not been given the opportunity to secure their dreams of equality. But I also create work that displays unity among all ethnic groups working together.
I attempt to create a direction for individuals to have conversations about some of the struggles that we all might have to endure. I hope that the images that I create will help others to express their ambitions to strive toward changing the things that are occurring around us, to where we come to realize that we are one. I have always considered my artwork to be social statement art. The work can help create conversations between some observers and viewers by connecting to the sense of basic human emotions of a large group of people. I have come to believe that a powerful image can help us speak about the negative human condition in which a large group of people are forced to live. I hope that my artwork will help people understand that we all suffer if one person is left alone to suffer. Through my artwork I hope to help others create change and dialogue about the human conditions both good and bad.
My hope is that my sculpture will create more dialog among African Americans to help dispel the myths and stereotypes that we attribute to ourselves and that others attribute to African Americans. I hope these discussions will lead us to take personal responsibility to eliminate negative actions such as fatherless children, prostitution, physical assaults, and drug abuse."
For more information about Frank J. Brown, read this article.
If any of the candidates would like to meet Frank J. Brown and talk with him, let me know. I would be happy to introduce you. It'll be interesting to see who will step forward to embrace diversity rather than just give it lip service.
Here's one of Frank's works of art. It's called Children Releasing the Dove.
Here's another of his sculptures. This one is called Love Your Neighbor.