Clarence Heyward: About A Dream and Gabrielle Torres: The Paradox
August 31st through November 3rd
Clarence Heyward was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. His work investigates
cultural truths, challenges stereotypes, and questions identity. Heyward believes it’s
important to “paint his truth” and uses persons of color as subjects in his work as
homage to his culture. Heyward is best known for his dynamic and fresh take on
figurative art. His subjects often include his wife and his two daughters. His paintings
and collages explore notions of the Black American experience, primarily focusing on
how the use of media and historical documentation is used to shape perceptions of
Black American culture. In this vein Heyward was asked a few years ago why he and
his subjects are painted green: That’s a reference to chrome technology in the media, a
green screen. Whatever you project on it, it can be whatever you want. For me, it was
shedding light on how Black people are portrayed in the media. Because of our skin, we
basically walk around with a green screen, how we’re viewed depends on their
perception of Black people.
Beginning his journey as a full-time artist in 2019, Heyward relocated to North Carolina
to study Art Education at North Carolina Central University. Clarence Heyward has
shown his work nationally and has been featured in venues including the Harvey B.
Gantt Center for Cultural Arts, the Block Gallery Raleigh, the Nasher Museum of Art at
Duke University, (CAM) the Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh and Art Miami.
Heyward was the recipient of The Brightwork Fellowship residency at Anchorlight
Raleigh in 2019-2020, the Emerging Artist in Residence at Artspace, Raleigh in 2021,
the Ragdale, IL artist fellowship in 2022 and was the 2022 Artist in Residence at NC
State University. His work is in the collections of several notable private and public
institutions including the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Nasher Museum of Art, the
Ackland Art Museum, the Cameron Museum of Art and the Rubell Family Collection. He
is represented by Turner Carroll Gallery in Santa Fe, NM and has had several shows
ARTIST STATEMENT: Like many artists, my practice has evolved through my life
experience. My early years were spent referencing the imagery of my “art idols” with no
real connection to concepts or “why”.
Those years were key in that they influenced the way I viewed myself, Black Americans,
and our identities. This has led me to critically engage image making and ultimately be
constantly conscious of narratives regarding the contemporary Black American
experience. My art practice challenges stereotypes and myths, takes on social
commentary, critiques perceptions, and creates dialogues all through the lens of the
Black American male experience.
As a Black man, husband, and father living in America, my paintings draw from life
experiences. It contains personal and collective narratives that position black bodies in
the forefront and examines the reinterpretation of black existence in imagery addressing
the notion of belonging, inclusion, our perceived presence, and absence in America.
Gabrielle Torres’ is a hometown artist from Sumter. Gabrielle Torres (nee Fitzgerald)
grew up in the Gallery’s Summer Art Camp and when she aged out, she worked as a
volunteer and then an employee. We are so happy to welcome her “home”. Torres’ work
seeks to expose the balance between materiality and meaning. Her art aims to blur the
lines of what we, humanity, presume to know. Torres was born in Philadelphia, PA, and
currently resides in Savannah, GA. She recently completed the MFA program in
painting at Savannah College of Art and Design. Although Philadelphia, PA is her
birthplace, Sumter, SC, is where she was raised, attending Lander University for Visual
Arts. Torres now teaches at Savannah College of Art and Design while pursuing her
career as an artist. She shows regularly with September Gray Gallery in Atlanta,
Georgia, where she recently partnered for gallery representation.
Torres has recently been featured in Savannah Morning News and Savannah
now magazine as artist of the month April Edition; the following month, she was the 912
Featured Artist. She has two solo shows on the horizon, one at Lander University,
opening on August 22nd, and the other at The Sumter County Gallery of Art also at the
end of August 2023. Her work has been in several solo shows – one at Savannah State,
and in Hampton, SC. Currently, her focus is to continue to use her platform in the arts to
create a conversation and use site-specific relational art to form a bond with specific
audiences she would like to reach.
ARTIST STATEMENT: There is a particular magnetic pull towards materiality. I tend
to hold on to things that others might throw away, creating works from my kids’
outgrown clothes to non-decomposing plastic bags. When seeing the fabric, the
psychedelic swirls juxtaposed with a furry beige toilet seat cover I threw away last
year, the mediums sing, complementing one another. Piles of wine bottles wait to be
smashed and transformed. Transparent champagne tulle leftover from my handmade
wedding dress is intertwined with plastic bags in waves of associative impulse. When
constructing paintings, I overlay fabric swatches and paint in lucid brushstrokes,
giving the material a chance to breathe…
Thrusting through the dirt, a glimpse of green peeks out from the darkness; the
English Ivy is born. This beautiful yet invasive plant breathes life into my work, only
eventually to smother it. I seek to convey the effects of colonialism through one of the
many things Europeans uprooted and transferred to another destination, the Ivy. The
English Ivy is woven through the warps and wefts of my loom, intricately camouflaging
the fabrics of my family and ancestries. Burnt umber fringe, seersucker blues, wrangle
ripped jeans, and blush Hennessey rompers are shredded into strips then rotated
above and below the wefts. The materials attempt to make a language that addresses
the ideologies surrounding class, race, gender roles, maternity, and art.
I am an explorer of parts, junk, and yesterday’s treasures. Ideas come to me
methodically, like labor and instinctually, as combinations of material forge a path
through the possibility-stuffed clutter of my domestic life. The subconscious mind is
intriguing to me; my work relates to social constructs, and superstructures that affect
the mind. In a world bent on categorization, I teeter on the edge of everything yet
commit to nothing, surfing my subconscious. I am an artist before everything, race,
class and gender. This world is a sea, and my instincts are my compass.
Gabrielle Torres will give her artist talk on August 31st, the night of the opening
reception. Clarence Heyward will be in conversation with North Carolina-based artist
Juan Logan Saturday, October 14th, 1pm.
We would not be able to bring these two stellar artists to Sumter without the generous
support of our sponsors: GRAYCO LLC, SAFE Federal Credit Union, Chip and
Tammy Finney, The Deas Law Firm and Zaxby’s, Sumter County Government,
Williams Brice Edwards Charitable Trust and the SC Arts Commission which receives
the National Endowment for the Arts. Flowers courtesy of Poinsett Garden Club and
the Council of Garden Clubs of Sumter.