Standing at the Fork in the Road at Temptation and Salvation, 1997, acrylic on canvas, 51 1/4 x 90 3/4 inches.
Michelangelo Lovelace Sr. used his struggles and obstacles as inspiration to create a new life as an artist. The Cleveland-based painter’s work explores a wide range of socio-political issues within the African American community, including poverty, violence, crime and drugs. Through painting, Lovelace expresses his fears and anxieties; as well as his hope and aspirations.
After decades of hard work, Lovelace has established himself as one of Cleveland’s most prolific African American artists. A number of his paintings are currently on view as part of How to Remain Human
at MOCA Cleveland. Last month, Lovelace was also presented one of this year’s Mid-Career Artist Awards by the Cleveland Arts Prize at a special ceremony at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Last year, he was awarded a Creative Workforce Fellowship by Cuyahoga Arts and Culture and Community Partnership for Arts and Culture.
Lovelace is a student of the late Rev. Albert Wagner, considered one of Cleveland’s most accomplished outsider artists. At 6 p.m., this Thursday, July 9, Lovelace will discuss his life and career during a special presentation at the Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern.
“As an African American, what people have to understand is when you go and see art or commercials or TV shows that don’t include you; you tend to view them at a distance,” explains Lovelace. “So my work is about the community. When people see my work, they see themselves. They see their streets. They see their environment. They can put themselves in (the painting) and relate to the message that you are expressing. So when I paint, I come from that viewpoint. I try to construct it so that I’m inviting my audience into the picture to have a conversation about whatever issue I’m addressing in the painting. I always put text in my work, because there is text everywhere. Because I’m looking at my environment, I also have to look at the signs and the words being used in my environment.”
He continues, “No matter what was going on, I always drew, because drawing just came naturally to me. I started painting when I was 19, and we grew up having some hardships. So art became a way for me to escape all the problems I was facing as a child. Poverty for a lot of people causes you to make choices you might not normally make, and many times in my life I found myself standing at that fork in the road, where I was being tempted by street life to make a choice. Either I was going to the left to temptation or I was going to the right towards salvation, and many people find themselves at that point.”
After painting for nearly 30 years, Lovelace has no plans of slowing down any time soon.
“I have so many more things that I need to say,” reveals Lovelace. “And painting feeds the need in me to feel alive and important and to see my ideas come to life.”
After the talk, visitors are invited to walk down Euclid Avenue and explore How to Remain Human
at MOCA Cleveland until the museum closes at 9 p.m. How to Remain Human
runs through Sept. 6.
(Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern) 11625, Euclid Ave., 216-231-5400, happydogcleveland.com
(MOCA Cleveland) 11400 Euclid Ave., 216-421-8671, mocacleveland.org