Some of the most memorable art work I have encountered has been by Kara Walker, Chuck Close, Faith Ringgold, Nathaniel Stern and Loren Munk. Musicians that have influenced me with their lyrics and their powerful voices are Maxwell, Ledisi, Leona Lewis, Sara Bareilles, and LeToya. All of the artists and musicians mentioned above embody the twenty first century because their works address a range of topics pertinent to audiences of all ages. Key issues since the beginning of the twenty first century in American culture have been the rapid advancement of technology and the “Digital Age”, race relations, politics, and of course timeless issues such as personal growth and development, as well as love.
Chuck Close, a renowned painter, is known for his wall sized portraits and photo realist style. He executes his portraits within a grid system, each square consisting of different shapes and colors. What is so fascinating about this particular artist’s portraits is that all of his work is done by hand, yet it so similarly imitates the way images on a computer screen appear. Nathaniel Stern is an artist that has fully embraced the digital age and interactive art. He is an interdisciplinary artist and in the collection of his work that he calls serial faces there is an apparent overlapping of the use of text, digital imagery, and collage. Stern’s work makes obvious political statements demonstrating the emphasis in American culture on freedom of expression and political ideas.
Another contemporary artist, Loren Munk, is known for his depictions of urban scenery. He uses bright colors, in a collage style reminiscent of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. He is best known for his paintings, drawings, and mosaics, and he integrates various materials such as wood and glass into his paintings, which is definitely unique. Another artist that does not use a conventional method for creating art is Kara Walker. The first time I saw Kara Walker’s art, I was struck by the amount of detail in her work although it consisted of solid colored paper cut outs. Her work addresses racism and gender issues and made a strong impression on me because it was the first time I had seen an exhibition that evoked powerful feelings, although at first glance the imagery appeared simple and innocent.
Faith Ringgold was one of my favorite artists growing up as a child. She is famous for her combination of painting, quilting, and storytelling. Her work addresses racism in America and tells stories in a way that is not only relevant to adults but also to children as well. Faith Ringgold’s work represents the first decade of the twenty first century because her art inspires others to dream and delivers a message of self empowerment and female independence. Like Faith Ringgold does with her paintings, Leona Lewis also uses her music to deliver a message of self empowerment .Leona Lewis, in my opinion, is currently one of the best female vocalists. Her voice reminds me of a combination of the sounds of Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey (during the early to mid ‘90s). Her range is incredible and her voice overwhelmingly powerful. Her latest song “Happy” is indicative of her talent as well as representative of a topic that most people can relate to, which is finding contentment in life and daring to live it to the fullest.
Lately, I’ve not only been listening to more songs by Leona Lewis, but also songs by Sara Bareilles. Bareilles is probably best known for her hit “Love Song”. Her sound is calming and hauntingly beautiful. Not only does she sing but she also plays piano, which requires a very high level of skill. Normally, I like more up tempo songs, but this artist captured my attention with the amount of feeling and emotion behind her lyrics.
LeToya Luckett’s newest songs are also very charged with emotion. When I first heard LeToya announced as the vocalist for her latest songs “Not Anymore “and “Regret” on the radio, I did not recognize who the artist was. Later I realized that she was LeToya Luckett of the former group, Destiny’s Child. Despite being replaced in the highly acclaimed Destiny’s Child, she has made a wonderful debut, proving that she is talented as a solo artist as well.
Maxwell is another favorite solo artist of mine. His sound transitions from breathy and light to strong and powerful quite easily. Maxwell left the spotlight about seven years ago and this year released one of three CDs to come called Black summer’s night. He is very well known for his lyrics, which are like poetry put to music, and for the way he addresses the timeless subject of love. His songs resonate with a wide audience because they reflect personal struggles and triumphs with deep insight. Ledisi, like Maxwell, has a lot of depth to her music because she is introspective and makes observations about life in her songs, which in a way are like lessons that others can benefit from. Her sound is a blend of r&b and jazz that is soulful and truly unique.
These ten artists have defined art and culture in the twenty first century because they demonstrate the emphasis in America on interdisciplinary studies, the belief in perseverance despite obstacles, individuality within a larger community or society, and self expression. Most of all the works of both the fine artists and the singers relay a sense of hope to their audiences. Hope that beauty can be found in strange places and new ways, whether in one’s personal life or surroundings.