Sarah Bennett: Hello, everyone, and welcome to The Scoop. I'm Sarah Bennett, and today we have the privilege of talking to the acclaimed international visual artist, Oronde Kairi. Oronde, thank you for joining us.
Oronde Kairi: Thank you, Sarah. It's a pleasure to be here.
Sarah Bennett: Oronde, I understand that "Two by The Hips" is considered one of your classic paintings, created around 2009. Could you share with us the inspiration behind this iconic piece and what it means to you?
Oronde Kairi: Absolutely, "Two by The Hips" holds a special place in my heart as one of my classic works. The inspiration for this painting goes back to that time when I stumbled upon a captivating photograph from the early 1940s. This photo depicted two women in era-appropriate bathing suits and a carefree man with his shirt off, wearing speedo swimming trunks, all three wearing sunglasses and sharing infectious smiles. That image resonated with me deeply.
Sarah Bennett: It sounds like a remarkable source of inspiration. How did this photograph from the 1940s evolve into the timeless masterpiece, "Two by The Hips"?
Oronde Kairi: When I found my grandmother's old photo album, it was like discovering a treasure trove of memories. The idea for "Two by The Hips" started taking shape as I kept returning to this particular photograph. By 2009, I was fully immersed in my artistic journey, and the emotions stirred by that image were too powerful to ignore. I decided to bring it to life on canvas by creating multiple copies of the photo at different values, experimenting to achieve the right impact. Eventually, the painting emerged, portraying three friends joyously enjoying a moment on the beach. The title, "Two by The Hips," captures the essence of the scene – the man's carefree embrace of the women, embodying a spirit of camaraderie and enjoyment.
Sarah Bennett: "Two by The Hips" is indeed a fitting title. Can you explain the choice of a monochromatic palette and your distinctive artistic style in this piece?
Oronde Kairi: I opted for a monochromatic palette consisting of raw umber, titanium white, and black to elevate the emotions and historical essence of the image. This choice imparts a timeless quality to the artwork, while the greenish tint adds a touch of nostalgia. My artistic style in "Two by The Hips" strikes a balance between realism and stylization, creating a unique visual perspective.
Sarah Bennett: Your intention to present a different perspective on the black experience is commendable. Can you expand on this aspect of "Two by The Hips"?
Oronde Kairi: Historically, commercial depictions of early black Americans often centered around struggle and adversity. "Two by The Hips" was my way of countering this narrative. In this artwork, I wanted to showcase a moment of pure joy and camaraderie, challenging the conventional portrayal of African American life. The three friends on the beach represent a lighthearted celebration of life, friendship, and the ordinary moments that shape our shared human experience.
Sarah Bennett: The connection to Chicken Bone Beach in Atlantic City adds an intriguing layer of history. Could you tell us more about that?
Oronde Kairi: As I delved into the history of African American leisure during the era of segregation, I discovered Chicken Bone Beach in Atlantic City, New Jersey. This beach became a vital gathering place for African Americans to escape the constraints of racial segregation and savor life. The coincidence that my artwork's scene aligned with the spirit of Chicken Bone Beach added another layer of historical resonance to "Two by The Hips."
Sarah Bennett: Thank you for sharing your insights, Oronde. "Two by The Hips" is not just a classic painting but a testament to your unique artistic vision and your commitment to presenting a more diverse and authentic narrative of the black experience.
Oronde Kairi: Thank you, Sarah. It's been a pleasure discussing this iconic work with you.
Sarah Bennett: We look forward to seeing more of your timeless creations in the future. Thank you for joining us today.
Oronde Kairi: My pleasure, thank you for having me on The Scoop.