“[The painting] just gives the viewer a young black couple. They’re free….They’re free to be who they want to be and free from the stereotypes of what a Black couple is supposed to be like. Not full of drama and trouble and problems and everything. Just a black couple being together.”
That is how artist Jerry Jordan describes his new piece A New Song, set to make its formal debut in the 2021 Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, Illinois.
Jordan, who is also academic advisor for UW University School of Education, submitted A New Song along with another piece, Ray of Light, for evaluation back in January. By mid-February, A New Song was chosen out of the two to be presented at the exhibition.
“I just wanted to kind of put us, put African Americans in a painting that is not about a struggle because not everything in life is a struggle and [that] sometimes we can be presented in a non-struggle,” Jordan continued.
The 30 by 40 oil painting features two Black people, a couple, in military-style clothing with Black Lives Matter patches and bearing guitars. Although Jordan does not exclusively paint Black people, he added that he feels an “obligation” to paint those that look like him.
“To me, it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense not to, because we’re not represented in art,” Jordan said. “I mean, you can go to any museum right now and if you look at some of the representational paintings, modern what we call contemporary realism, in some cases, you look at it, we’re missing. All the other great painters over time, in the past, they painted the people around them. And so that’s who I am and so that’s why.”
For as long as he can remember, Jordan “wanted to be a painter, an artist.”
“I couldn’t find role models, Black role models. I was actually told by a professor at [UW] Whitewater that there simply wasn’t any black artists of note,” Jordan said. “And then I was writing a paper and in the library, I stumbled across the Harlem Renaissance and I discovered all these Black painters and stuff so there I had my role models. So I said, ‘I can do this.’ And so I just started pursuing it.”
Although artistry did take a back seat for a brief period, Jordan has spent the last 12 years working, as he put it, to “hone the craft.”
“Honestly I consider what I do to be kind of like protesting because just me being an African American man, most people see me, they would never expect that that’s what I do. That I can do that,” he said.
Jordan’s work is also displayed at a variety of other galleries including Gallery Marzen in Madison, the Portrait Society Gallery in Milwaukee, and Gallery Guichard in Chicago. Jordan also painted a mural of important Black figures in Madison’s history at the Madison College Goodman South Campus.
“For me, it’s a real honor to be part of [the 2021 Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition] and have my work exposed to a much larger audience” Jordan said. “I think every artist wants to have their work in a museum.”
A New Song will be displayed at the Museum of Science and Industry at 5700 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60637. The exhibition will be open from April 7th to July 4th, 2021.