Interview: Marlo Broughton on “LONG DAYS, NO DREAMS” Solo Exhibition Fights for POC Freedom and Equal Rights, Opening February 19th
LONG DAYS NO DREAMS is Marlo Broughton’s upcoming exhibition featuring striking, graphic portraits of black community leaders, historical events and anonymous figures illustrate the continuous fight for freedom and equal rights for people of color (POC). Martin Luther King Jr. once said that he had a Dream- yet to this day black Americans are still fighting for that.
In his series of portraits, the eyes of his figures stare intensely and confront the viewer, connecting their history with the present. Often compositions include re-designed and re-contextualized imagery referencing historical events during the Civil Rights Movement alluding that history remains present within.
The mainstream media and culture often paints a picture of news and politics as being black and white, but they fail to see the nuisances. He hopes that viewers may instead see that within the context of each painting, they can find the details to instead see middle ground.
From the artist:
“My latest series explores the concept of waking up from ‘The Dream.’ My focus is to bring the plight of being a person of color in the US to the forefront delivered from a unique perspective. I paint the imagery in black and white, layered with historical references utilizing pops of color to grab the attention of the viewer. We tend to look into the future and not back in time, often without realizing that it may cause us to unintentionally repeat the past due to the systems and power that be. By carrying on without recognizing our power to change the future we could get stuck in the marathon of life.
Refreshing the memories of our past to bring what we have been fighting for into the now. It is the time to rethink, reimagine and reclaim our narrative within this story of America. We have always been taught to dream, but it is only so long before it needs to align with reality to make change.
This is a call to wake up on all fronts! Wake up from ‘The Dream!’ It is time to make things better within our own community and tell our own narrative. It is precisely within the time spent dreaming, playing politics and having to carry on within the oppressive systems that most have been cornered into typecast POC roles. In order to make the dream a reality, we must reshape narratives that have been placed upon us not by choice, but by being of color.”
When did you know you were/wanted to be an artist?
I’ve always knew I was different because of how I received the world around me, even since I was a kid. Two things that really made me realize that I enjoyed creating so much include 1. watching my mother paint and draw things for me. She always encouraged my weird interests and creative abilities once she saw how interested I was from an extremely young age.
Later on in my early teens, I first saw Pharrell on TV and I remember that made a huge impact on me to see a black male that was into skateboarding, fashion and producing music. It was very impactful especially since he wasn’t like any artist around at that time. If you were 50 Cent or wore Rocawear back then people would be like, ‘who’s this weird kid?’ which I really wasn’t ‘weird,’ I was just being myself. I wore a lot of brands people around me weren’t into, along with my extensive ear for music and art, so my Mum and Pharrell made me feel okay being me. I knew I had to do what’s in my own nature.
Why is art a part of your life?
My Mum sacrificed a lot for us. She was and is an artist herself, but she took a different career path, which she is also passionate about- but she had to make the switch in order to take care of myself and siblings. My parents divorced when I was pretty young and I’m the baby of the family. I stayed with my Mum so seeing her deal with so much- and still create paintings and design Anime or Dungeon and Dragons shirts for me was amazing. I ultimately do it as a by-part of her so she can live her dream as I live mine. Even though my parents divorced, I have a healthy and strong relationship with my Father as well; he is pretty creative musically and that is something I get from him also.
How long have you lived in Detroit?
Born and raised here.
How does the city have any influence on your work or subject matter/style/approach?
From what I know from my family history and historic city events and landmarks, it’s my understanding this city was once creative gold. Artists all over the world used to travel here. I want to make work that. embodies the real soul of Detroit, not just the show-tunes of Downtown.
What concept or theme and medium are you most interested in currently?
Currently my focus is to bring the plight of being of color in the US to the forefront, as it often is- but I want to deliver the message from a different angle, which is why I paint and design my imagery in the way that I do. In my process, I mix imagined figures with redesigned images of historical events during the Civil Rights Movement. We often look ahead and not back in time, but while looking ahead, we often do not realize we may repeat the past- and that in part is designed by intention from the powers that be, or unintentionally by carrying on in this marathon life we lead.
What is it about graphic design or painting that is of most interest to you?
They are both equally important to me. I personally think in a design way- I like logos, certain color palettes and functionality of an idea or designing something. I also think design can be a statement if it is on a shirt, or billboard, or contour fashion. For me, painting is understanding everything about design, but making it more fluid.
What is the biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge is turning the key. There is plenty of things in business that I need to figure out or just don’t have at the moment, but will in due time. Also, getting into the places I know I should be displayed in because i have strong work and a voice which can often don’t land me where I know I should. Too many platforms will choose POC artwork that looks more European or easily digestible due to it looking like another artist, but with a POC twist.
How do your canvases go from idea and concept to execution?
I’m consistently creating images in my head in which I translate onto paper. Once the concept or idea is drawn digitally or on paper, I move onto the next thought. Depending on how I feel or what I am working on, I’m conceptually developing a thread so all images work together or make a series of singular images which basically works like a b-side track for an album.
Once I have the image done, I translate it onto canvas, and then my next step is layering in color which is more intuitive-based than a planned out process.
What is the main difference between your murals and paintings?
My paintings are more conceptual than my mural work. Generally I try to make something thats more eye catching when it comes to working on a mural.
What inspires you?
My biggest inspiration outside of my Mum, is my own history and the present times that we are living in. What is inspiring me as of right now, is the responsibility of telling my own narrative.
The fact that the things that have “changed” are things we are still fighting for today. As a black male, I feel like its my duty to use my talent to express/tell what is going on through my eyes and not give into the false identity of being famous or small gratifications that comes with making work that is easily digestible or taking someones else’s idea just to water it down so it can be easier to swallow. I think its important to tell your truth and speak for those whose voices arent being heard. I am a black male who has a platform thats growing. I need to use it to tell our narrative along so many other can do the same. we cannot keep doing cheap tricks to get paid when we need to tell our narrative ourselves.
Has the concept or theme that your work revolves around evolved over time?
Yes, it does. For me, it just refines and matures.
What about your creative process have you found to be the most successful for you?
I’m a very clean and orderly person, so I keep my home and space clean and work somewhat in the manner that I did as a young kid painting for fun. I paint on the floor and I use one color or two colors at a time because I don’t like to make a mess.
Outside of that, I spend my time just processing, planning and tweaking my ideas before I lay the brush down. I want to make sure that I convey my thoughts and not just rush work in fear of not being relevant. I rather make timeless pieces that tell a story, and have people tell me that they feel my work for what it represents.
What else are you working on or looking forward to in the near future?
I want to make giant prayer rug sculptures, and I want to continue to work with PLAYGROUND DETROIT, Library Street Collective and gain more commission work from galleries along with corporations.
Anything you would like to add?
I want to thank everyone who has supported me and gave me an opportunity to speak my Truth. I appreciate you all.