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, April 20, 2013

Ealy Mays Talks about Beauford


Ealy Mays created the painting Beauford, What is the Price of a Ticket? as a tribute to Beauford. I featured this work in the January 13, 2013 post on this blog and have reprinted the image below.

I recently interviewed Mays for a two-part article* in an on-going series of articles on contemporary Black life in Paris that I publish in the Entrée to Black Paris blog. One of the questions that I asked was about Beauford. Read my question and his reply below:


ETBP: One of the painters who is a part of the abovementioned legacy is Beauford Delaney. You recently painted a work that was inspired by Beauford and honors him. Tell us about your creation of this work – why did you choose to honor Beauford among all the other painters you could have selected?

Ealy Mays: As it turns out, I have one of Beauford’s original paint boxes, which he had given to Ed Clark and which Ed passed on to me. I was looking through the paint box one day and I thought about the many stories related to me by Ed Clark and Herbert Gentry about their days in Paris, including experiences of the main characters of black literature and art scene at the time such as Beauford, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Chester Himes, and many more, including incidents unveiled and played out at Haynes’ Restaurant.

Beauford's paint box
© Discover Paris!

While a certain level of neurosis often belies the genius within many artists, Beauford seemed to have been especially touched by both. He did not end up in a psychiatric institution to see the end of his life by accident. His entire life seemed to have condemned him to such an end. He was a man of great depth and sensitivity, and a man who suffered from a lack of acceptance due to his differences as well as from the exploitation of himself and of his work by those who were in positions to do so. Even in death, the failure to accept and recognize his talent and his legacy as an artist for so long, was yet another level of torture for his bereaved and already tortured soul.

Your association "Les Amis" and the work that you have done to secure Beauford some dignity in death, was to some degree necessitated by that continued neglect of Beauford’s legacy by society, by those who profited dearly off Beauford (some of whom are alive and well right here in Paris and are still very much in possession of his prized works), and by the African-American and overall American cultural establishment that forgot about Beauford’s contribution to our cultural heritage.

As an artist in Paris, there have been days when I saw and felt Beauford in me, days when I could understand some of the demons that plagued his genius, and days when I could empathize with the rejection and exploitation he must have experienced. I have had days in Paris when I simply sat back and thought to myself, "poor ole Beauford."

I had previously seen Jazz Quartet and liked the composition. I then wondered what the painting would look like outside of the church setting in which Beauford had painted it. I decided to pay him a tribute. I actually did several iterations of the compositions until I felt satisfied with the final one currently in my collection.

Beauford, What is the Price of a Ticket?
Ealy Mays
(2012) Acrylic on canvas
Image courtesy of the artist

Knowing the importance of the relationship between James Baldwin and Beauford (dating back to Baldwin’s encounter with Delaney as a teenager in New York’s Greenwich Village), and Baldwin’s tribute to Beauford in Price of a Ticket
The first living proof, for me, that a black man could be an artist. In a warmer time, a less blasphemous place, he would have been recognized as my teacher and I as his pupil. He became, for me, an example of courage and integrity, humility and passion. An absolute integrity: I saw him shaken many times and I lived to see him broken but I never saw him bow.

… I juxtaposed Baldwin’s title, Price of a Ticket, to pose Beauford a question: "Hey Beauford, What’s the Price of a Ticket?" The painting is a tribute to Beauford as well as to the art and literature from that era.

*Black Paris Profiles II: Ealy Mays - Part I
  Black Paris Profiles II: Ealy Mays - Part II

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