Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to connect with the incredibly talented, young Maryland based, visual artist Glenn Hardy. His work is about everyday life, and everyday people who happen to be African-American. He translates his positive lived experiences and personal observations with acrylics and collage. Glenn is ‘self-taught’ which allows him to express himself with a freedom and honesty that can at times be diminished in academic institutions. His work is refreshing, poignant and reflective. Throughout our exchanges across the Atlantic divide, Glenn's responses were candid, thoughtful and honest.
Chantal: How long have you been painting?
Glenn Hardy, Jr.: Firstly, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me about my work! It's truly a pleasure. I have been painting for about 5 years now. I've been drawing for as long as I can remember, but never gave painting a try until after college. I wanted to go to school for art, but it was fairly difficult to convince my parents that going to school for an art major would be as lucrative as they'd like. You know, parents just looking out for their kid(s). But I didn't want to give up on what I loved, so I stuck with it, and haven't stopped since.
C: Have you used any other mediums? Pastels? Watercolours? Oils? Collage? etc
GHJr.: Yes of course! I actually started my artistic journey working with oil paints. At the time though, I didn't really know what I wanted to paint, or what story I wanted to tell so I was using anything and everything I could get my hands on; I went from oil to acrylic, then clay to oil sticks. Oil sticks are still a medium I use today, and I want to get back into clay, and eventually graduate into something else a little more hands-on. Collage is also something I was working on not to long ago, that is also prevalent in my works today. However, the collages I was working on before were a lot more abstract. More like a Nathanial Mary Quinn type of style, but using cardboard, paper, and a lot of mediums in one, they were really fun to make.
C: Do you work from life, photographs or imagination or a combination?
GHJr.: I typically work from photos. I would take photos myself, or use photos my friends have taken from different experiences and use ourselves as the main characters in my works. I will typically change the setting that the picture is taken in as well when I try to pull memories from my childhood.
C: As a fellow artist, I'm always curious about people's motivation behind their work. What motivates you to paint?
GHJr.: Making a difference! Inspiring that one person that may have needed to see something that I did! Showing people that it's possible! Being able to connect and tell relatable stories. All of these things motivate me to paint. I hate public speaking, so painting really helps me to be able to get my story out there. The reason I paint what I paint is to show a positive light on people that look like me as well. Watching the news can get intimidating and put a standard image on black people because it only shows the negative side of things, so I want to make works that show we're humans like everyone else, and that we have good times too.
C: Do you know your subjects personally? Or know their stories?
GHJr.: Yes, 9 times out of 10 I know my subjects personally. I know their stories as well, because they are typically my friends; friends that I have known since middle school, high school or college. I look to use personal subjects because it not only means a lot to me, but I love the reaction they make when they see a work and say, "wait is that me!!"... Priceless!
C: Is your work focussed on your personal experiences? Meaning, are they moments from your personal life?
GHJr.: My works are typically experiences that I have gone through before in my life, even if I use other people as the main character in the work. There are some works of mine that may have me in them as well, it just all depends. Most of the time I have experienced the action taking place in the work, because again, I want it to be relatable, and I can't make something relatable that I can't even relate to.
C: The title of your exhibition "who am I if I don't represent" can you tell me more about the origin of the title.
GHJr.: Yes, of course. I somewhat mentioned it earlier, but the title stems from what my purpose is, and why I paint. I chose this title because I want to show what life is like being a black from a perspective that isn't often displayed to the masses. I want to show the smiles, the fun, the dancing with family, the connection between friends that haven't seen each other in a long time. I feel like it's important for me to represent us in a productive, helpful manner that isn't already being portrayed.
C: If you didn't represent your community in your paintings, how would that affect you as an artist? What do you think you'd paint?
GHJr.: If I didn't represent my community I honestly don't know what I'd paint.. I don't think the work would have the same feeling in it if I couldn't relate to it the same as I do now. It wouldn't feel good trying to paint something that I have no connection to.
C: Do you feel a responsibility or duty to paint black people/your community? If so, can you explain why?
GHJr.: I don't necessarily feel like it is my duty to paint black people, because there are plenty of artists of all mediums that don't paint black people, and still get their message across. I do however feel like it is my duty for black people to feel seen, and be heard as more people see my work. I want to change the notion of how people feel when they see us in my paintings. I want children to see someone that looks like them when they go to galleries, and hopefully museums one day. I want adults to see my work and say, "I remember when ___".
C: How do you see your art developing in the near future?
GHJr.: I definitely see my work develop more and more with every piece. If you were to look at my paintings from 2018 to now, there's a major difference! From 2018 to about 2020 was a period of identifying who I was as an artist, and what stories I wanted to tell so my figures were faceless. Then as I discovered myself more, I started painting people, which gradually progressed to people close to me. In the coming years I really want to get into sculpting, and maybe more mediums within my works.
Painting: Combs, Fros and Flowers 8
Glenn's Instagram: @glennhardyjr
Glenn Hardy at Charlie James film borrowed from YouTube by Eric Minh Swenson Artfilms (Eric's amazing website is here⇒)