I encountered Terry Artis and his paintings a few weeks ago as I was leaving Northwest Regional Library one afternoon. I was going to walk to the H/XH bus stop at Chelten and Greene to catch the bus to my dear friends’ home, but I kinda got distracted by the scene out of the corner of my right eye.
There were paintings… nine of them in all…. all of them mystical, colorful, spiritual paintings… taped to the side of the cinderblock wall.
What?? Who does that? (I had to remind myself that I was in Philadelphia)
There was a man, leaning against against the wall, with a cane and a bicycle. We made eye contact and I walked over.
I introduced myself and we began a conversation about his work. He told me that he had been creating art (drawing, primarily; painting a little later on) since he was a young boy.
He was Philly-born and raised…but get this!!! When I told him I was from Chicago, he laughed and said that he had spent many summers as a boy in Maywood, Illinois!! Had I heard of Maywood, he asked?? Yes!! Of course, I’ve heard of Maywood!
So there was a connection!
Well, I asked him if I could take his photo, that I was a photographer working on a street portraiture project, he was a bit reluctant.
His fear? That someone would perhaps use the photos to copy his artistic style. I mulled that over and told him that he had nothing to worry about because it takes a very spiritually grounded individual to create the type of work that he does.
I have no idea what I told him to convince him to let me take his photo, but he said it had something to do with my smile and me smelling good. Okay. I’ll take what I can get. I’m a blogger with a camera on a mission.
Once he agreed to be photographed, I wanted to make sure to capture him standing alongside his paintings. Terry paints these mystical, Afrocentric scenes in acrylic on FELT!!! So they have this comforting, earthy texture and mood to them.
I could tell he was a bit uncomfortable with me photographing him…. but by the end of the session, he loosened up a bit (okay, maybe not that much).
The overall sense I got from Terry is that he is a strong and passionate black man, very talented, ingenius (I mean, who tapes their work to a cinder block wall?? It’s all about promotion and exposure, right! We artists have to do what we have to do to get our creations seen by as many people as possible) opinionated, and very much in tune with the pulse of the streets and the essential nature of humanity. After we laughed and talked for a while, we exchanged information and I big him farewell.
I’m sure I’ll be seeing a lot of Terry as the days grow warmer and longer. Chelten and Greene tends to attract all kinds of regular extraordinary folks.
NOTE: If you’re interested in contacting Terry regarding his work, send me a message and I’ll pass along his contact info to you.
Peace and blessings!