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Steve Carter | Photo: “The 99%-Highland Hills-Ruthie” image Courtesy of Valley House Gallery & Sculpture Garden; “Midst the Blues” Image by Kevin Todora, Courtesy of Valley House Gallery & Sculpture Garden; Huckaby portrait by Letitia Huckaby; “The Day My Son Was Born” image Courtesy of Valley House Gallery & Sculpture Garden | December 2, 2013
Family, community and the African-American experience inspire Sedrick Huckaby’s current exhibition at Valley House Gallery.
It is unusual for painters to wear their lives on their artistic sleeves as transparently and comfortably as does Fort Worth’s Sedrick Huckaby, but the 38-year-old’s oeuvre celebrates family, community and faith with a mastery and honesty that’s both autobiographical and universal. Now, with Sedrick Huckaby: Everyday Glory at Valley House Gallery, his talent is quite literally on display.
The exhibition takes its cues from Huckaby’s acclaimed Big Momma’s House show in 2008. (Big Momma, Hallie Beatrice Carpenter, was the artist’s grandmother, who passed away in 2008.) “You make a body of work and it has the seed in it for the next body of work,” explains Huckaby. “These eight large portraits here are Big Momma’s children. In this exhibition, the original intention was to paint about the family. Of course everybody’s family wasn’t like mine, but I wanted to talk about this figure of Big Momma and her place within the family, starting with her as the center and then branching out to all her children.” And beyond.
The scale of Everyday Glory approaches epic, with more than 100 portraits and as many drawings. Oils, pastels and lithographs are all involved, with a large portrait of Big Momma as the keystone. In addition to family, Huckaby’s models included neighbors and acquaintances, part of his larger community. His painterly touch often introduces a sculptural aspect to his works, evincing his love of paint, and an early influence: sculptor Auguste Rodin. The artist also acknowledges the inspirations of Henry Ossawa Tanner, the first internationally acclaimed African-American painter, along with the aesthetics of jazz. “Through rhyme, rhythm and repetition that I’m seeing in painting, I’m able to appreciate the rhyme, rhythm and repetition in music,” he shares. “I see these cross-references, from painting into music or into dance.”
Although Huckaby earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts from Boston University and his Master of Fine Arts from Yale, he was drawn back to his hometown. He gained renown for his paintings of quilts, and concurrent with the Valley House exhibition, his “Hidden in Plain Site” remains on view at the Amon Carter through Feb. 2. The painting reflects his fascination with the history of some quilts as conduits for encoded messages to aid escaping slaves find their freedom. “Hidden in Plain Site” is his take on the concept. “The idea is to use visual metaphor to bring the viewer to a place of searching,” he offers. “Then you’ll hear me visually and artistically being a preacher.”
And family? Huckaby’s wife, Letitia, is a photo-based artist, his 5-year-old daughter dances, and his 8-year-old son is passionately creative. “He’s the most productive artist in the house,” Huckaby adds with a laugh. Call it everyday glory. Dec. 4, Valley House Gallery, 6616 Spring Valley Road, 972.239.2441, valleyhouse.com