ArtsATL – In our Own Words: Khalilah Birdsong, painter and visual artist
I lived in the rain forest of Maui for the past two years, then had a monthlong residency at Hambidge starting in February and planned to come back to Atlanta after that and set up a studio. I was isolated and not checking on the world, and when I emerged in mid-March, everything was changing. I wound up getting a cottage in North Georgia and that’s where I’ve been sheltering in place.
I usually paint in vivid colors. But at Hambidge, I started doing a lot in black and white, sometimes over an underlay of color that peeks through onto the surface. It’s been moving me, and it’s formed a theme with the pandemic. These monochrome paintings have allowed me to explore the issues of darkness and light. I think the resonance of the absence of color symbolizes the colors that babies see after they are born. We all are at a new point of existence, a new reality that is being birthed during this time of pandemic. Yet the glimpses of color underneath vibrate with new life — an awakening.
I’ve never painted from a political or racial point of view. That’s not what I do. But in light of the riots surrounding George Floyd’s murder (and countless others), this black-and-white theme has taken on more depth and resonance. At least charges have been rendered against one of the officers, but there’s no word right now on the other three. I think that would put everyone at ease. It’s blown up and I don’t know where this is leading. I want peace and more racial understanding.
(Photo by Amanda Greene)