Producer: Kelsey Wallace Videographer: Todd Sonflieth Editor: Greg Bond Audio: William Ward
“The message that I’m trying to put out is in terms of how I view my experience as an African American male, and how that’s impacted my family and the people around me,” says Portland artist Arvie Smith. Through his colorful, powerful paintings like “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” and “Leapfrog,” Smith does just that, exploring themes of racial and social inequality with his unique blend of outrage and humor.
Arvie Smith worked with over 100 juveniles in Donald E. Long Detention to design and paint murals.
Though his bold works depict a wide range of settings from courthouses and nightclubs to beaches and crime scenes, Smith uses familiar imagery throughout his paintings to draw the viewer in. A close look at “Mr. Bojangles” reveals a smiling Shirley Temple, and both Popeye and Dagwood peer out of the background in “Honky Tonk.”
“Some of the iconography I want to separate and isolate and some it I want to incorporate into a puzzle, to let the viewer come to their own conclusion as to what’s going on in the piece. Because you bring your own frame of reference to it,” Smith says. “And so I would be selling the viewers short and selling myself short. And I can’t do that.”
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