"Ode to Sandra Bland"

Janathel Shaw

Grief for Philando Castille

ceramic stoneware, terracotta, bullet caslng, glaze, goldleaf 

26″x 14″x 15″




Ode to Sandra Bland

ceramic stoneware, underglaze and overglaze

30″ x 11″ x 13″




Artist Statement

I see my work as a vehicle in conveying a narrative or idea. The work in this exhibit, although intimate in scope, hopefully touches on national and/or universal themes. They include equality, self actualization, anti-bigotry, spiritual examination, and feminist distress.  

My ceramic sculptures also reveal my true love for the medium. I love the malleable quality and “messiness” of clay, which lends itself to the height of expressionism. It’s an art form that is never given its’ rightful due as a “fine art medium”; too often relegated to craft”. They are bold, weighty and reflective of what is occurring in our society; especially from an African-American scope. I’ve often been told to “not preach” through my art. Hell, I see myself as a “Griot” of sorts. It is my aim, on occasion, to emote and provide “food for thought”. I envision education as one of the roles that visual art can fulfill. Many of my heroessuch as: Elizabeth Catlett, Robert Arneson, Frida Kahlo, and Augusta Savage embodied this exemplar.  

My approach to my drawings usually centers on capturing the emotional, political experience or aspirations of the individual representing an aspect of the Black community. My work focuses on the culture of Blacks in America, and how we experience the polar realities of being American and being other. In this journey many of us seek to discover and hold on to our ancestral roots. The latest series of drawings are clear eyed scenes of drawn individuals, some historical, assessing you, the viewer. I’ve tried to instill a quiet defiance and strength. My vision of HOPE is that it can’t exist without a history of conflict and a catalytic reason to propel us forward. Hope requires that you have faith and a connection to something valuable. That requires a belief system and a fire to not only survive but elevate yourself and those around you.  

At this moment we find ourselves in a xenophobic fight. Blacks and other people of color are having our identities and rights challenged to the levels that herald to historic days of open hatred, culling and limitation. The figures in my drawings are unafraid. They are not threatening. They are secure in their identity and knowledge that they have a right to exist AND aren’t going anywhere. I invite you to enjoy my work for its content and visual honesty. 

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