Jammie Holmes ‘Church Folks’ paintings at Gordon Parks Foundation

The Gordon Parks Foundation (Pleasantville, NY) presents Church Folks, an exhibition of new paintings by Jammie Holmes, a 2023 Gordon Parks Foundation Fellow, opening Wednesday, February 7, 2024, and running through April 26 at the foundation’s gallery. The opening night program will feature Holmes in conversation with artist José Parlá and writer and Howard University art history professor Melanee C. Harvey, both of whom were also awarded 2023 Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowships.

The gallery is located at 48 Wheeler Ave in Pleasantville, NY and is open Wednesday – Friday. For more information and to register for the opening night event, visit: https://bit.ly/4976KmR.

Church Folks, which is the culmination of Holmes’s Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship, was inspired by the Black churches at the heart of numerous southern communities, places that unite through shared faith, joy, and grief. Among the references for this body of work is Gordon Parks’s 1956 series Segregation Story, which documented the everyday lives of Black Americans in the Jim Crow South. Holmes was particularly interested in Parks’s images of the events just before and after the church service, scenes that for Holmes captured “what felt like home.” 

Church Folks focuses on these everyday moments through tableaux and portraits that are imagined yet familiar, and memorialized through symbolic objects, gestures, and palette that speak to Holmes’s identity. Together, they represent what he terms “the universal language of the American South.”

Gordon Parks gave the world a look at aspects of America and American life that weren’t often explored,” Holmes said. “His life’s work and ethics have always been an inspiration. I’m honored to have the opportunity for my work to be in conversation with Gordon Parks’s legacy.”

Born and raised in Thibodaux, Louisiana, Holmes (b. 1984) draws on personal memories and experiences to depict narratives about Black life in the American South. His art reflects on the everyday moments—celebrations, rituals, traditions, and struggles—that bind a community surrounded by the social and economic scars of slavery and racism. A self-taught artist, Holmes transforms and gives new meaning to what he calls “familiar and familial” scenes, through paintings and installations whose visual vocabulary includes symbolic forms as well as techniques borrowed from Old Master paintings. In this way, he proposes novel modes of Black storytelling.

“We are honored to premiere an exhibition of new work by Jammie Holmes that is both deeply personal and gives insight to a subject that Gordon Parks also photographed throughout his career,” Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr., Executive Director of The Gordon Parks Foundation, said. “We look forward to uniting our three 2023 Gordon Parks Foundation Fellows as part of our opening program, and highlighting the common threads among their work.”

Since 2017, the Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship program has championed individuals who share the foundation’s commitment to advancing Parks’s vision for social change through the arts and humanities. Each recipient receives $25,000 to support new or ongoing projects that explore themes of representation and social justice. Fellows participate in a wide range of Foundation initiatives and programs throughout the year, culminating in a solo exhibition at the Gordon Parks Foundation Gallery.

ABOUT JAMMIE HOLMES

Jammie Holmes, Sam, 2023. Acrylic and glitter on canvas 60 x 60 inches; 152.4 x 152.4 cm. Photo: Chad Redmon Copyright: © Jammie Holmes. Courtesy of the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York and Aspen.
Jammie Holmes, Sam, 2023. Acrylic and glitter on canvas 60 x 60 inches; 152.4 x 152.4 cm. Photo: Chad Redmon Copyright: © Jammie Holmes. Courtesy of the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York and Aspen.

Jammie Holmes (b.1984) is a self-taught painter whose work is a contemporary display of Black families in America. He was awarded a Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship in Art in 2023.

Heavily influenced by Southern hospitality and the deep scars embedded in the DNA of his home state of Louisiana, the Dallas-based artist paints images of celebrations and everyday struggles.

His work has most recently been presented in exhibitions at Library Street Collective, Detroit; Deitch Projects, Los Angeles; Marianne Boesky, New York; Nassima-Landau Projects, Tel Aviv; Dallas Museum of Art; and Dallas Contemporary, among others.

ABOUT THE GORDON PARKS FOUNDATION

The Gordon Parks Foundation supports and produces artistic and educational initiatives that advance the legacy and vision of Gordon Parks—recognized as the most significant American photographer of the 20th century, as well as a writer, musician, and filmmaker, who used the arts to further “the common search for a better life and a better world.”

Through exhibitions, publications, and public programs organized in collaboration with national and international institutions as well as its exhibition space in Pleasantville, New York, the Foundation provides access to, and supports understanding of, the work and contributions of Gordon Parks for artists, scholars, students, and the public.

Drawing inspiration from the pivotal role of a fellowship Parks received early in his career, the Foundation’s educational and grant-making initiatives are core to its mission and year-round activities. Through fellowships, prizes, and scholarships, the Foundation provides vital support to artists, writers, and students—current and future generations of creatives whose work continues his legacy.

ABOUT GORDON PARKS

In a career that spanned more than 50 years, photographer, filmmaker, musician, and author Gordon Parks created a groundbreaking body of work that made him one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. Beginning in the 1940s, he documented American life and culture with a focus on social justice, race relations, the civil rights movement, and the Black American experience.

Born into poverty and segregation in Fort Scott, Kansas, Parks was drawn to photography as a young man. Despite his lack of professional training, he won a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship in 1942; this led to a position with the photography section of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) in Washington, D.C., and later, the Office of War Information (OWI). By the mid-1940s, he was working as a freelance photographer for publications such as VogueGlamour, and Ebony. Parks was hired in 1948 as a staff photographer for Life magazine, where he spent more than two decades creating some of his most notable work.

In 1969, he became the first Black American to write and direct a major feature film, The Learning Tree, based on his semi-autobiographical novel. His next directorial endeavor, Shaft (1971), helped define a genre known as Blaxploitation films. Parks continued photographing, publishing, and composing until his death in 2006.

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