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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Beauford the Mentor

I'm happy to welcome E. L. Kornegay, Jr., Ph.D., M.Div. and founder of the Baldwin~Delaney Institute for Academic Enrichment and Faith Flourishing back to the pages of the Les Amis blog! Today, E. L. shares his thoughts about Beauford as mentor.

As violence becomes more of what connects us one to another across the world, what about Beauford might help us to quell the rage fueling the aggression and brutality? Everyday acts, stories, and sounds paint graphic pictures of violence that are completely antithetical to Beauford’s artistic eye.

Happily, this artistic eye – the cultivation and articulation captured in Beauford’s style – is something transferable. Through it, Beauford is able to mentor us to find a way to channel the rage that produces the violence.

Detail of Self-Portrait
(1944) Oil on canvas
Art Institute of Chicago
Photo courtesy of Tim Paulson
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

As mentor, Beauford showed a young James Baldwin how to create literary art out of his rage. Yes, Baldwin expressed anger through his writing. However, his vivid style and his message always lent themselves to creating a new world: a world in which love would reign supreme. Beauford gave Baldwin a way not to succumb to the fear of a world that wanted him dead or to drive him to insanity, a way to find instead a more peaceable and transformative path.

Photo portraits of James Baldwin (1955) and Beauford (1953)
Carl Van Vechten
Collage by Discover Paris!

The serenity in Beauford’s paintings has the capacity to mentor us into a peaceable existence. Just look at his work and see where it takes you. The peaceable feeling derived from the colors and figures mentor us into a new way of thinking about ourselves and the world around us.

Still Life with Pears
(1946) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Abstract in Orange and Red
(1963) Gouache on wove paper
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Untitled
(1961) Watercolor on paper
© Christie's Images
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

We need to lift up those who are the real mentors: the ones who are able to look into the darkness and see the light. Let us not merely admire the art or ponder over the man, but embrace the meaning of how the two come together to mentor us.

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