Western Mass visual artist Andrae Green has had his work shown internationally, and his paintings are included in many private collections around the world.
Green was awarded a full scholarship funded by the government of his home country of Jamaica to continue his studies at the New York Academy of Art. Since then, he has continued creating vibrant pieces that reference history while also exploring the concepts of time, mythology, and memory.
Zydalis Bauer spoke with Green to learn more about his creative process and how he incorporates his own personal memories and heritage into his artwork.
This segment originally aired on February 17, 2022.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Locally based visual artist Andrae Green has had his work shown internationally and his paintings are included in many private collections around the world.
Originally from Jamaica, Green was awarded a full scholarship grant sponsored by the Jamaican government to further his art studies at the New York Academy of Art. Since then, he has continued creating vibrant pieces that reference history and explore time, mythology, and memory.
I spoke with Green to learn more about his creative process and how he incorporates his own personal memories and heritage into his artwork.
Andrae Green, Visual Artist: As early as I could remember, drawing has always been something that I was doing.
Where it turned into a passion is when I went to college and I did my first painting, in college at the College of the Visual and Performing Arts, which is the only art school in the Caribbean. So, everyone goes there. It’s kind of like, a mecca.
It’s really cool to finally not feel like a weirdo, you know, because all your life, you’ve been thinking a certain way, acting in a certain way and being told that you’re weird.
But going to that school, I realized I was the most normal one there, you know? And I started to feel like home, and I was like, “Wow, this is a lifestyle. This is how a group of people actually think and live.”
So, it kind of cued me into that and I kinda of refined the ideas more what I wanted to do.
Zydalis Bauer: Now you describe your Jamaican identity as a hybridization of European and West African cultures.
How does your heritage influence your artwork and how do we see this hybrid identity play out in your pieces?
Andrae Green: First and foremost, I always tell people, like, to be Jamaican is not a race, you know? I mean, we’re majority Black, but at the same time, these other races are part and parcel of what it means. The motto of Jamaica is “out of many, one people.”
So that in a sense is where I pull from my — my whole…how I treat people. You know, just growing up in Kingston, which is very diverse.
Then living here in western mass, moving to western Mass with my wife, it kinda…I started to reflect because I wasn’t around the culture anymore. And you start to get homesick and start to long and say your thoughts, long for home, and it starts to bleed in the work, you know, a lot more than it used to when I was right there.
And, uh, even the stuff behind me, it’s about one memory. Me and my dad — my dad with my family — would go to Kingston Harbor and just, we’d watch the kids jump off the pier, you know?
And it’s just remembering that one thing, you know, the sunset or how the sun was. How the bodies were flying in the air and kind of seemed like they were arms flying, it’s something that I cherish, and I miss.
Zydalis Bauer: Speaking of the paintings behind you, I noticed that, you know, there’s a lot of vibrancy which reflects the Caribbean culture, but there’s —
Andrae Green: Yeah! And the African culture, too. Yeah, yeah.
Zydalis Bauer: And there’s a lot of movement as well. Is there a particular technique that is yours, that when someone sees it, they know this is an Andrae Green painting?
Andrae Green: I hope so! Because I’m in the middle of it, it’s kind of hard for me to say. But I feel like most of my work deals with memory and time. So, a lot you’ll see figures like shifting or being blurred into, or you’ll see like a glitch effect.
It’s a metaphor I use for, like, memory or something that looks real but isn’t, which is like a hallmark for maybe it’s not being remembered right. Or maybe I’m not understanding right, you know?
So little cues like that, I think carry on with the work. And also, too, people have told me, like, the color sensibility, the vibrance is something that they see from body of work to work.
Zydalis Bauer: One thing that stood out to me was that, in an interview with The Art Salon, you mentioned that you don’t necessarily see the images in your head, but it’s more of a feeling that comes to you.
What is your creative process like? How are you able to kind of trust your own intuition and follow it to create one of your artwork?
Andrae Green: So, for me, it’s looking at a lot of artwork, familiar — familiarizing myself. I’m always, like, looking at new art, going to museums, driving even for like a couple of hours down to New York to see a show that I want to see. And it’s just being inspired and constantly looking out for stuff.
Drawing, also too, I draw as much as I can. And then just filling that reservoir. So over time and then with practice, of course, you have to be in here every day or as much as you can, for it to feel like…for it to stop, like, thinking about it and just doing it, and then it becomes an extension.
So, I think after all of that is being done, then you have a kind of gut sense as well.
Zydalis Bauer: I hear you! And to that point, you also spoke about the risk of being an artist. And when you present your painting, you don’t know if it’s going to resonate with people or fail.
Andrae Green: Yeah!
Zydalis Bauer: So, how do you deal with those challenges that come with being an artist and what keeps you doing this type of work?
Andrae Green: So, the thing is, is like…you just go to the next one, because you’re always are as good or as bad as the last one you did, you know?
So, the thing is it’s like a pop star, if — if they make a song that doesn’t get like a number one, they’ll still do a next one. And that’s where your passion and drive comes in. It has to be the fuel. You can’t just be doing it just to do it.
Zydalis Bauer: I want to touch on some of the themes that your paintings are about. So, you like to show time, mythology, memory, history.
Why are those the themes that really resonate with you? And what do you see as the purpose of your art?
Andrae Green: For me, like part of the duty of an artist, if you consider the artist has a duty, is to kind of mark where we are visually, as a people, as a race, as a culture. And that’s why I feel like it’s important. I pick stuff that’s important to me, things that I want to understand.
I want to understand why do we believe the things we do? Why do we see the way we see? And of course, I do it through my own subjective lens of I’m a Black male, grew up in a certain time and a certain place, so I see the world a certain way.
So, when the phenomenological experiences of this time happens to us, I interpret it as a way. And it kind of gives the world and our posterity a snapshot of where we were. Doing, especially these works, you see people outside the jumping, twisting, all of that stuff. For me, it’s a direct…I’m trying to find — and I never actually said this to anyone before — but I’m actually trying to give an antidote to what I felt was the lot of what people felt.
So, you’re inside all the time. You can’t go anywhere, you feel depressed, and it’s said suicide rates went up, you know, since Covid, since the two years. So, for me, I want to give people images that release them that let — help them know, whether they are Black or white, I’m using a Black male body because, you know, I am. But to help feel release, to help know or remind them that you know, you are free if you can be in a state, a good mental state, you know?
And then so, that’s what I’m thinking about. That’s why I was thinking about the memory of my dad, because that’s when…that’s one of the things that hit me, you know? Those kids jumping, it’s just that exhilaration of freedom.