April Harrison and Stacey Brown are Still Here

April Harrison and Stacey Brown are Still Here:
September 3rd - October 7th
By Trelani Michelle

 With everything going on in the contemporary art market, we see so many new and younger artists gaining the attention of art buyers, but we have seasoned vets like April and Stacey who are collected in a lot of homes and have a track record of a sustained career over decades but haven’t necessarily gotten their due. But both are so very deserving of more private and corporate collections.” — BAIA founder, Najee Dorsey

April Harrison and Stacey Brown are artists who understand what it means to go with the flow. To relinquish the need to control the outcome and, instead, surrender to the process. 

April, a native of South Carolina who currently lives in Greenville, aligns the motto to the biblical scripture of 2 Corinthians 5:7 which declares that we walk by faith and not by sight. The scripture is most evident in her figurative images, which are often depicted with closed eyes. 

We are required to call upon a deeper sense than the sometimes unbelieving and bias observations of the eyes,” she says, “We are required to feel love.” Themes of love, faith, and hope are common threads throughout her artwork which features collage and mixed media. Found objects like torn paper and coins layer and entwine to “evoke a feeling a comfort, love, caring, and family”—similar to that of her grandmother’s handmade quilts.

April Harrison, Upon His Shoulders | 15 x 26 inches, mixed media on crescent Ill board — framed

Like April’s grandmother, Black folks have always been artists, even before we began identifying ourselves as so. That’s the truth. And the truth is something that we feel in April’s work. In her piece, Upon His Shoulders, we see a darker skinned man with long arms carrying a lighter skinned boy on his shoulders. We can guess that there’s a familial tie between the two subjects, perhaps father and son or uncle and nephew. It powerfully combats the narrative that our boys have no men in their lives to look up to, no masculine shoulders to be carried upon. It also beautifully reflects how colorful Black people are as hue-mans. 

April Harrison, Unbroken
| 15 x 26 inches, mixed media on crescent Ill board -- framed


Unbroken depicts a family of four—mother, father, daughter, and son—embracing one another with their eyes closed, suggesting familiarity, trust, and gratitude. The framed mixed media draws a bold red line through the belief that Black people come from broken, dysfunctional families. We are strong, loving, and unbroken people who are in a seemingly unending workshop of figuring out how to survive and succeed in this world. 

The concept of family for Black folk of the diaspora, as a result of the slave trade, is deep. It’s not always blood, for many reasons. So we define family for ourselves and build the villages of support that we need. That said, even if this ain’t a nuclear family in this image, it’s still family. We can feel that through the faces pressed against each other and the elongated arms that give off that feeling of “I got you.” 

On her website, April shares that, “When you enter my creative world, I want you to feel something. A tug at the old heart strings. Perhaps a distant memory you stored away. A love lost, or a love found. A touch of the spirit. Something.”

That something is exactly what Stacey Brown’s work brings out of you too. 

The North Carolina native who’s been an ATLien since ’86 captures feelings through photography or memory then paints them. He says, “I capture a snapshot on my phone or sometimes I memorize it the best I can and then put it into a creative format. Mostly Metro Atlanta, Campbellton Road, some of Lee Street, and I got a few images of the downtown area, urban areas. It's kind of my daily journey through the city. And I capture it and recreate how I felt about it at the moment.”

He goes on to explain that, “When the viewer sees it, I want them to connect with the people because we all remember certain situations that are similar. I capture it into a real creative form to show that the beauty, even though it's saying life can be mundane and painful. I capture the essence and the beauty of it at the same time with my use of color and techniques. Those moments are beautiful, but sometimes they seem mundane. But when you look back on it, it's a blessing to have those moments to reflect on.”

If you’ve ever been to an old church off of a dirt road, back home in the country, then Worship will likely stir up some memories in you. The 12x16 framed watercolor painting shows an elderly man helping an elderly woman with a cane up the steps to the white church which likely also served as a schoolhouse for the local Black community. Birch, pine, oak, cedar…the type of tree will usually tell you where you are geographically. The bleed from the watercolor in this painting opens up the possibilities. This church could be in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, the Carolinas, or Delaware. 

Stacey Brown, Worship | 12 x 16 inches, watercolor painting on paper - framed

“[Watercolor is] very fluid,” he points out. “That's why I found it very challenging because it helps me stay fluid. Each time I paint, I've had to kind of force myself to the follow the paint instead of me trying to control it. It keeps me in tune with the way that I should live my life. It's just kind of go with the flow, you know? I really don’t have too much control over it. To a certain degree, we do, based on the choices and the decisions we make, but, for the most part, I feel like our life is pretty much already orchestrated.”

The same fluidity exists in A Simple Drink, which depicts an older Black man sitting down and sipping from a beer can. He can easily be anyone, anywhere. In the city or in the country. A father, an uncle, or a next door neighbor who’s full of wisdom but is so unimpressed with the day-to-day routines and uninterested in rejoining the rat race to success. The reds, greens, yellows, and violets that Stacey adorns this “simple drink” in suggests that, even still, his life is so valuable and worth remembering. After all, he’s a staple in all of our communities.

Stacey Brown, A Simple Drink | 12 x 16 inches, watercolor painting on paper - framed

Stacey, like April, is a truthteller. His art demonstrates how complex of a people we are. As much as we’re churchgoers, we’re also addicts. We work hard and we fight hard, but we also enjoy our rest and indulge in our good times. And even in our ordinary, mundane moments, we’re still models of beauty and power and hope. Our lives and what we produce in it are valuable.

Still Here will exhibit new works by April Harrison and Stacey Brown at the Black Art In America Gallery and Gardens from September 3rd through October 7th. Be sure to join us for the opening on September 3rd from 3pm-5pm where you’ll have a chance to not only see the artwork but also hear from the artists themselves.

About the Artists:

April Harrison paints images primarily in acrylics, powders, watercolors, pencils and collage. She finds that working with this unique palette offers faster drying times, enabling her to overlay color in one painting session, giving the work its tapestry-like background. She often incorporates found objects into her paintings, such as coins from around the world, specialty papers, magazine print and interesting treasures she finds on the street. Even April's nearly discarded paintings are given new life and recycled into newer works of art, thus creating texture and dimension.

Stacey Brown offers an eclectic collection of paintings for the contemporary art lover. His passion for the arts has led him to a successful 22-year career as a full-time artist, expressing himself through watercolor on paper, and glass. He remains visually aware of his surroundings by incorporating colors that correspond with current contemporary trends. He also remains in tune with his roots with traditional landscapes, and urban neighborhood scenes that exude keen observations of everyday life.

Register for the free event here


Trelani MichelleTrelani Michelle is a New York Times bestselling author and ghostwriter who specializes in autobiographies, memoirs, and oral histories. Crowned Savannah’s Best Local Author and BAIA’s editor in 2021, Trelani graduated from Savannah State University with a Bachelor’s in Political Science then SCAD with an MFA in Writing. After an internship with the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center, she published a catalog of Black Savannah’s biographies called Krak Teet, centering the lives of 19 Gullah Geechee elders over the age of 80. Referring to her work as “Zora Neale Hurstoning,” Trelani has presented her work at The Highlander Research and Education Center, Georgia Council for the Arts, SCAD, UNC’s Black Communities Conference, and more. Learn more about her writing services at SoFundamental.com and her Black history lessons at KrakTeet.com. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @KrakTeet.

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