One of the questions that has come up over the years is why the figures in my jazz series are painted in black. I want use this forum to address that question.
When I decided to produce this series more 20 years ago now, I wanted to create one in which the figures were more representational of musician rather than realistic. For me, it wasn’t a matter of portraying skin tones and ethnicity, but more about the way the colors play off of each, in much the ways musicians interact with each other. I knew I wanted to do a lot with color and design in backgrounds and I need a good foreground color for the players that allow make them stand out consistently against everything. Black is the color that does that as strongly and dramatically as I wanted for this series.
The choice for me was completely aesthetic and not social. I wanted to do what I’ve done, which is to approach each work as art first and foremost. I like and appreciate musicians of every origin. The last thing I would be interested in would be deciding what skin tone to make each player in piece. At the very least, the fact that they’re all represented in one color in my work is, in a way, symbolic of the way in which musicians meld and place creating great music above whatever difference there may be in their outer layers.