Les Amis de Beauford Delaney is partnering with the Wells International Foundation (WIF) to take the Beauford Delaney: Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color exhibition to the U.S.!

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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Beauford in Blue: Story of a Portrait

Shawn Olszewski is a self-taught artist who has painted professionally for the past ten years.  He created this beautiful portrait of Beauford:

Beauford Delaney 
(2010)  Oil bar and oil pastel on canvas 
Shawn Olszewski

I contacted him to ask him why.  He granted me this interview.

Les Amis:  How did you come to learn about Beauford Delaney?

S.O.:  I came to expressionism on my own but when I started getting noticed I started researching
other expressionists more. When I first saw Delaney's portrait of James Baldwin I was hooked.

Les Amis:  Which portrait of Baldwin did you first see:

S.O.:  The one that Delaney painted in 1945*.

Les Amis:  How familiar are you with Beauford's work?
S.O.:  I've never had the opportunity to see a work in person, I'm not quite sure how I will handle it
when I do. So all of my exposure to him has been through books and the Internet.

Les Amis:  What do you like about it?
S.O.:  I'm most intrigued by push/pull of the browns and ochers with the vividly intense colors. I appreciate
that they switch roles from one painting to the next. The portraiture is just stunning.

Les Amis:  What inspired you to paint Beauford's portrait?
S.O.:  I realized that I had been evangelizing Beauford for years to anyone that would listen but that I'd
never attempted to paint him. I felt I was doing myself a disservice by not attempting it.

Les Amis:  Tell us more about "evangelizing Beauford."
S.O.: I definitely talk about Beauford to other artists.  As you know, his story is one about race, mental health, and sexuality also.  So in our ongoing fight for equality in the U.S., I have many opportunities to talk with people of all disciplines about Mr. Delaney, whom I believe to be very much underrated due to these "isms" and stigmas.


Les Amis:  Were you inspired by Beauford's painting style when you did his portrait?
S.O.:  I've been inspired by his style from first seeing his work. I try not to step on his style but
I think a little bit of him should be obvious in all my portraiture.

Les Amis:  Why did you select the colors that you used for the painting?
S.O.:  I felt they are the colors that we have in common. Yellow ocher especially is very important in my portraits. The blue is more hopeful. We've both had very turbulent lives; the blue is choosing to ignore some of that.


To view Olszewski's art, visit http://www.etsy.com/shop/OlszewskiArt.

* Beauford's 1945 portrait of James Baldwin is owned by the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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