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The Art of Living Black: An Interview with Raymond L. Haywood

Raymond L. Haywood. Photo by 2016 award winning artist Gene Dominique.

Raymond L. Haywood has been painting and drawing since middle school. His art praxis is derived from years as an accomplished carpenter, illustrator and textile designer. Mixed media art is his passion. Influenced in his formative years as an artist living and working at the Vulcan Foundry Studios in Oakland, the time there literally forged his unique studio practice and his community involvement. He continues a community-based approach to working in the arts. His current studio is located at the American Steel Studios in West Oakland. Raymond is a seminal member of The Art of Living Black, the only juried African American showing and open studios hosted by the Richmond Art Center. He recently created “N/Visible Atelier” which is having its inaugural showing at Warehouse 416 in 2016.

What do you find most inspiring about making art? Tell us about your current projects.

What inspires me as an artist are other forms of art in relation to my paintings and silkscreen prints. My praxis of painting and being creative heals my soul and makes me happy. My work is about beauty and reflection, capturing moments in time that are fleeting and ethereal.

Current bodies of work: I am working on two bodies of paintings currently, the first is entitled “Ethereal Travels” and with these I am exploring abstract expressionistic landscapes inspired by specific locales I have visited.

The second body of paintings is entitled “ The Sea of Tranquility”. These paintings are influenced by my graffiti and ink drawings that become hand cut stencils. The four bodies of work in this


series are named after the intersections of the tranquillitatis: Nectaris, Crisium, Fecunditatis and Serenitatis.

How did you become involved with the Art of Living Black? How does your work represent and uphold the tradition of this exhibition?

Rae Louise Hayward and Jan Heart Schuyers were friends and mentors of mine. I initially met Rae in an African American Art salon called “The Colors of Black,” hosted by Professor Marie Johnson Calloway in 1987 or so. Jan Schuyers was the first African American female director of the Pro Arts Organization in Oakland. I learned a lot from her and the Pro Arts folks.

Rae approached me in 1996 to show in the first TAOLB and I have been showing ever since. I think I am one of a handful of artists who have been in consecutive shows for the past 21 years. Rae convinced me that the more we share our crafts and the gift of creating art the more effect it has on society.

Representing all the tenets of TAOLB is actually my story. When I graduated from the University of California at San Diego with a Bachelor’s degree in painting, I moved back from San Diego to Richmond. I lived on 29th Street, a stone’s throw from the Richmond Art Center. I was working in my garage and discovered the Art Center when a reporter from the Contra Costa times interviewed me. I received my Master of arts with a painting emphasis in 2003 from San Francisco State University in part from the mentorship of past director Rachel Osajima and Rae Louise Hayward’s influences. I was a silkscreen teacher at the RAC from 2010 – 2013.

The Art of Living Black is a showcase of all levels of artists from the African Diaspora. From artists just starting out  who have never shown to professional artists like myself. We get to share the opportunity to show in a professional venue, peer review, community building and mentorship. I participate every year to continue to grow and honor the traditions and inspiration of artists Rae Louise Hayward and Jan Heart Schuyers. It’s my job to recruit new participants and mentor those who have never shown before.   


What was your path to becoming an artist? Please share some of your favorite work.

I initially planned to be an oceanographer and do my graduate studies at Scripps Institute in San Diego California. I discovered painting, drawing and sculpture as an undergrad elective. I had awesome professors like Eleanor Antin, Faith Ringgold and Italo Scanga.

Who are your inspirations?

Artistically my inspirations range from authors such as Walter Mosley and Zora Neal Hurston. Painters that have influenced me are Sargent Johnson and Faith Ringgold. I am also very affected by films like The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover by Peter Greenway and Moonlight by Barry Jenkins.

What do you like to do when you’re not making art?

I love swimming, biking and walking with my wife, Monica Haywood. I also like reading science fiction and biographies of famous artists and writers.

What’s on your bucket list?

I would love to visit Brazil and learn how to drive race cars.

If you could meet one artist, living or not, who would it be and why?

If it were a male artist it would be Kerry James Marshall an African American painter.   If it were a female artist/ author I would love to have a conversation with Octavia Butler, science fiction.

Why do you paint versus other mediums?

I am fascinated with the variety of the painter’s palette, the magic of making images from liquids and the fun of painting.

Thank you, Raymond.

You can see Raymond’s work and that of the other artists participating in the 21st Annual Art of Living Black here at the Richmond Art Center through March 2. For more info on Raymond’s work, other upcoming shows and social media:

American Steel Studios
1965 Mandela Parkway, Oakland CA

TAOLB Satellite Show Venue
Feb 25th & 26th  11:00 – 5:00 pm
March 1  Artist/VIP Reception 6 – 8 pm
March 3rd Oakland Art Murmur First Fridays 6-9
March 4th & 5th Open Studios 11 – 5

Warehouse 416
TAOLB satellite show, curated by Damon Powell Ph.d 
416-26th Street, Oakland CA
Open Studio Dates
Feb 25th & 26th 11 – 5
Feb 3rd – Feb 26th


In Memoriam: Betty Hardison

Betty Hardison was a visionary of the Richmond Art Center. She recently passed away and we wanted to honor her memory and service. Everyone at the Richmond Art Center is deeply indebted to the work of Betty Hardison. We are grateful for the efforts she made to ensure that artmaking and art appreciation are an ingrained part of the Richmond community — enriching the lives of the thousands of people who enter our doors every year.

Get to Know Us: An Interview with Ed Lay

Many of you might know Ed Lay as one of our longtime metals instructors and as a dedicated and talented working artist. Ed was born in the Philippines, and raised (mostly) in New York. He has worked primarily in the academic tech world and has a lifelong interest in education.  For 30 years, he wrote programming languages for kids and teachers at UC Berkeley’s School of Education. Now he teaches metalsmithing, jewelry fabrication and enameling at the Richmond Art Center, and we are proud to have him as a core member of the teaching artist team. You can see Ed’s work currently on exhibit as part of our Teacher Is Artist: Studio/AIC Faculty Show, which features select pieces from our teaching artists who inspire so many through our Studio and Art in the Community programs.

What do you find most inspiring about working with metals? Tell us about your current projects.

I was initially attracted to the inherent contradiction in the properties of metal: seemingly rigid and unyielding in the finished product, yet malleable and

Hand of the Maker

plastic when engaged with the right tools and techniques.  What has kept me engaged in metals is the huge number of possible ways to work the metal.  It became clear that there would always be something else to learn.

I am currently working on a piece for the Halstead Design Challenge, a Project Runway like competition where we are all given the same kit of materials and a theme from which we will produce a brooch.  I am also playing with origami style transformations applied to sheet metal. Finally, an ongoing interest of mine is to produce specialized tools for the metals studio.

How did you become involved with the Richmond Art Center?

Lily Vase

I fell into it by accident.  After years of taking my daughter to art classes at RAC and dropping her off, I thought I might take a class myself.  The metal studio is next to the kids studio.  One class led to another to becoming a studio monitor to teaching.

What was your path to becoming an artist? Please share some of your favorite work. 

Princess PEZ. This is a working PEZ dispenser as well as being a whimsical work of art!

I’ve always made things and I’ve taken art classes whenever possible. It seems less a path to becoming an artist and more a matter of waiting for life circumstances to allow for the time to be one. Some of my favorite work includes the Gates to the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian, Art Nouveau jewelry and the 3D printed sculpture of Bathsheba Grossman.

Who are your inspirations?

Rene Lalique, one of the premier Art Nouveau jewelers. Hugh Power, my mentor.  He taught advanced jewelry fabrication at the Richmond Art Center for 43 years.   He didn’t just teach us how to make things, but how to think.  I try to practice that every day I’m at RAC.

What do you like to do when you’re not taking art?

I read. A lot.  Mostly fiction and graphic novels.  Non-fiction has become too surreal.

What’s on your bucket list?

Not much.  I try to be a live in the moment type of guy.

If you could meet one artist, living or not, who would it be and why?

Guff Cuff, inspired by the art of Dr. Seuss.

A few years ago, Metal Arts Guild of the Bay Area used this same question as the theme of a show.  We were asked to choose an artists and produce work inspired by that artist.  I chose Dr. Seuss.

Art of Living Black Special Events

This month we are proud to host two major events in conjunction with our current exhibition, The 21st Annual Art of Living Black.

The Art of Living Black Artists Talks

February 4, noon – 2pm. Free.

We will present a panel of the The Art of Living Black 2016 award winners, Justice Renaissance,  Gene Dominique  and Nye’Lyn Tho.  The talk will be moderated by Kelvin Curry.

Please join us for this important conversation and learn more about what inspires these artists in their practices and their lives.


Special Talk with Richard Mayhew

February 11, noon – 2pm, Free.

Committed to the idea that art can play a role in racial equality, Richard Mayhew creates emotionally evocative landscapes that often feature a nondescript, solitary tree. Once a regular at the Cedar Bar, a bohemian hangout in New York City, he developed his improvisational approach from the Abstract Expressionists he met there, conceiving of painting as something akin to jazz.

Though he traversed the United States by car to study different environments, his gestural process of pouring paint onto a canvas and working it into lush fields of color drives his practice. “Landscape has no space, no identity,” Mayhew once said. “It allows the painting to be about emotion.”


The Art of Living Black: An Interview with Orlonda Uffre

Orlonda is an Oakland resident, originally from New York, of African Caribbean heritage, with a definite bi coastal state of mind. She has 4 siblings, and hundreds of first and second cousins, in the Caribbean. She was once called a Renaissance woman because of all the career and personal lifestyles she has experienced and occupied. Orlonda likes to start things, and is one of the original participants in the founding of The Women’s Interart Center in NY, and the first Art Director for Brava! For Women in the Arts, in San Francisco. Most recently, she has been functioning as Exhibition Coordinator, for The Art of Living Black at the Richmond Art Center.

Throughout all those transitions, she has always been a visual artist/painter, and photographer – and for the better part of the last decade, an educator as well.

What do you find most inspiring about making art? Tell us about your current projects.

I must confess, I have no choice when it comes to making art – I’ve done it all my life, with or without inspiration. I guess the euphoria that envelopes me when I get lost in the actual process, is most compelling. I am freed. Although I have to admit, much of what I create has purpose, and is addressing an idea or a reality, like the cultural narratives which define the African Diasporas. Some narratives can’t be contained by literal translation, and so I seek to explore them in abstraction – like the space that spirit inhabits in Nkisi or Ifa. The paradox of purpose within freedom.

My most recent projects have been driven by current events, and the recycling of history – like the resurgence of regressive isms, racism, sexism, classism, etc. Although I would prefer to be a free agent and artist, as opposed to reactive, I do feel compelled at times to include art that addresses ideas and realities that some of us face. “Along the Divide” is a painting which emerged as a reaction to police brutality and racial profiling. And to maintain a sense of sanity and dignity in the light of these demoralising times, I painted “Spirit”, which references the resilience and core dignity of African belief systems, and the idea of character as central to African ethics.

Gaslight, Orlonda Uffre, 2016

How did you become involved with The Art of Living Black? How does your work represent and uphold the tradition of this exhibition? 

I was told about The Art of Living Black by a former gallery owner, Corinne Innis, in 1999. She had the Chi Gallery in Oakland, and created a circle of artists, that are still inspired by her dedication to art making. Then I met Rae Louise Hayward, whose soft spoken beauty and spirit, welcomed me in.

The tradition of this yearly exhibit is to welcome new and seasoned artist, from the African Diaspora, to feel a sense of inclusion, and experience a community of creative exploration.

What was your path to becoming an artist? Please share some of your favorite work.

Having been born an artist, my sister and father negotiated with my mother, to allow me to go to the High School of Art & Design. I took several admissions tests, and was accepted.This was a definite shift in my life path from Brooklyn to Manhattan – from urban working class/barely making it, to witnessing wealth and privilege on display, every day as I went to school.

So many artworks have inspired me – the political statement of Winslow Homer’s “The Gulf Stream” depicting a black man in a rudderless fishing boat, struggling against the waves of the sea, encircled by sharks. Hale Woodruff, whose art spanned historic as well as abstract subject matter, and painted the Amistad Mutiny. Lois Mailou Jones, of the Harlem Renaissance, Wilfredo Lam, “The Jungle”, Marcel DuChamp, “Nude descending a Staircase, No.2”.

Who are your inspirations?

Gandhi, Malcolm X, Nina Simone, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin.

What do you like to do when you’re not making art?

Hike, wander through natural environments, go to the ocean, eat Indian or Ethiopian food – sushi too.

What’s on your bucket list?

Travel  – anywhere that’s safe for women to travel, in warmer climes.

If you could meet one artist, living or not, who would it be and why?

Wow, I’ll have to get back to you on this one – I’m sure I could narrow it down to one artist.

Actually, I would prefer a round table and open conversation between the brilliant minds of the past, and the conscious doers of today. Maybe 30 or so, multigenerational, multicultural women.

I could try to moderate…LOL.

Thank you, Orlonda.

The 21st Annual Art of Living Black is currently on exhibition in our Main and West Galleries through March 2. Please join us for an informative Artists Talk on February 2 beginning at noon, followed by our Opening Reception at 3pm.

Free Winter Art Events at the Richmond Art Center

A variety of free art-related activities, talks and events slated for January – February 2017 bring adults, families, and children to the Richmond Art Center. We look forward to seeing you soon!

The Richmond Art Center will be hosting a variety of free events in January and February to coincide with the newly opened Winter Exhibitions and Studio Education Programs.

Artist Talk with Guy Diehl

SUNDAY, JANUARY 22 @ 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM

In this illustrated talk with acclaimed still life artist Guy Diehl, the artist will share his views on realism and his methods for rendering calm beauty while conjuring life into objects that seem to breathe on the canvas. Widely exhibited, Diehl’s work resides in museums including the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Oakland Museum of California, San Jose Museum of Art and many public collections. Diehl is an American artist best known for still life paintings and prints, many of which incorporate direct references to historically significant artists and artworks. 

See & Make Art

SATURDAY, JANUARY 28 @ 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM

The free, family friendly event takes place on the last Saturday afternoon of each month. Meet the Art Center team in the Madeline F. Whittlesey Community Room at the Richmond Public Library, Main Branch (325 Civic Center Plaza) for a story, make some art, then head over to the Art Center galleries to view the latest exhibitions. Open to all ages. Families welcome.



Glass Round Table: Clifford Rainey, Mary B. White & Nate Watson

SUNDAY, JANUARY 29 @ 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM

In conjunction with the exhibition Marvin Lipofsky: Molten Matter/Fantastic Form, the Richmond Art Center is pleased to present a round table discussion about current practices and trends in the glass movement. With renowned glass artists and instructors Clifford Rainey, Mary Bayard White, and Nate Watson.

The Art of Living Black Artists Talks

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 4 @ 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM

The Art of Living Black was founded by the sculptor Jan Hart-Schuyers and painter Rae Louise Hayward after their realization that black artists were not being represented by galleries in any significant way. This year’s exhibition will showcase a broad range of works by artists throughout the Bay Area, combining the exploration of art in a variety of mediums, while many pieces offer spiritual or political messages. Continuing the dedication to community engagement, the Richmond Art Center is hosting an enlightening talk with artists exhibiting in the 21st Annual Art of Living Black.

Image: Balance, Lorraine Bonner




Opening Reception for Winter Exhibitions

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 4 @ 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Please join us for the Opening Reception for our Winter Exhibitions: The 21st Annual Art of Living Black, Marvin Lipofsky: Molten Matter/Fantastic Form, and Teacher Is Artist: Studio/AIC Faculty Show. Images: Nyé Lyn Tho, Marvin Lipofksy, Joyce Shon

Special Talk with Richard Mayhew

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 11 @ 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM

In conjunction with the 21st Annual Art of Living Black, the Richmond Art Center is pleased to present a talk with acclaimed painter Richard Mayhew. Committed to the idea that art can play a role in racial equality, Richard Mayhew creates emotionally evocative landscapes that often feature a nondescript, solitary tree. He developed his improvisational approach from the Abstract Expressionists he met at the Cedar Bar, a bohemian hangout in New York City, conceiving of painting as something akin to jazz. “Landscape has no space, no identity,” Mayhew once said. “It allows the painting to be about emotion.”

Image: Scarlet Solitude, 2011



Jazz Art

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 18 @ 2:30 PM – 4:00 PM

Listen to acclaimed musicians and let their music inspire you to make art. This hands-on art-making event is perfect for everyone in your family to get in the groove and express themselves by drawing, painting and collaging. Materials are provided by the Art Center, but feel free to bring your own. All ages. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. RSVP appreciated for groups larger than six by calling 510.620.6772 or sending an email to

Sip & Make

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 24 @ 6:30 PM – 9:30 PM

Join the Art Center staff and community for after hours in the courtyard and galleries for an evening of music, art-making, and warm tasty drinks!


We’re Hiring: Human Resources & Operations Director (HR/OD)

Position:  Human Resources & Operations Director (HR/OD)
Full Time, exempt position
Supervisor:   Executive Director

Key Responsibilities:

  • Human Resources management
  • Front Desk Administrative Staff supervision
  • IT oversight
  • Event support
  • Facilities and Grounds oversight

Overview/ Essential Duties:

We’re looking for a talented, hands on administrator to join our creative and passionate team at the Richmond Art Center, where we’re proud to have provided over 80 years of excellence in arts education and exhibitions in the East Bay. As a dynamic arts organization that empowers and transforms individuals and the community through creative exploration, experience and education, we are looking to add an enthusiastic and resourceful person with the right blend of HR and operations management experience to our team.

The Human Resources & Operations Director (HR/OD) is responsible for the day-to-day management of the Human Resource function and Front Desk Administrative Support. In addition, this position has oversight responsibility for Facilities, IT, and coordination of support for Art Center events. The HR/OD Director reports directly to the Executive Director and is a member of the Art Center executive team. The HR/OD position supervises three FTE.

With responsibility for personnel matters, the HR/OD Director takes the lead in fostering a work environment that supports all staff individually and as members of the Art Center team. The HR/OD Director helps promote high employee morale through fostering an environment of respect, teamwork, and professionalism.  In addition, the HR/OD provides oversight of various aspects of customer service, operations, and event planning.   Finally, the HR/OD Director is responsible for ensuring that the IT, facilities are safe, maintained, and serviced in a prompt manner.  The HR/OD Director is also a key team member in developing and implementing the Administrative departmental budget, strategic plan, and as they relate to internal operations


Personnel/Human Resources Management

  • Promote an organizational culture that fosters cooperation, communication, teamwork and trust
  • Lead regular review of Art Center’s human resources policies, procedures and practices in collaboration with other members of the executive team; oversee implementation and communication of new or updated workplace policies, procedures, and practices
  • Oversee annual performance evaluation process and support professional development planning for all employees
  • Develop and foster an environment to maximize employee growth and retention
  • Manage the employee recruitment process to interview stage in coordination with the supervisor for the posted position; ensure that all hiring procedures are in keeping with the law
  • Conduct background checks of chosen prospects
  • Plan and conduct new employee orientations to ensure that new employees understand established policies and procedures; Issue keys, email addresses and alarm codes
  • Oversee sexual harassment prevention training and IT training
  • Manage IIPP (Injury & Illness Prevention Program), including occupational safety and health standards and practices in keeping with the law
  • Ensure all HR postings and notifications are in accordance with the law
  • Provide mediation and conflict resolution for Art Center employees; Partner with supervisors to resolve employee conflicts and situations in a timely and thorough manner

Administrative and Operations

  • Recruit, evaluate, and train operations staff
  • Supervise the Visitor Services Coordinator who manages the front desk operations including class registration and customer service
  • Oversees all aspects of Customer Service ensuring a welcoming, safe, and informative environment.
  • Supervise the Visitor Services/ Volunteer Coordinator to manage the volunteer program including the recruiting, training and scheduling of volunteers, interns and Community Service workers
  • Ensure that there are standard operating procedures for all positions
  • Oversee management of database system and completeness of reports.
  • Assist in developing and monitoring administrative budget
  • Oversee the acquisition of office supplies and arrange maintenance of office equipment
  • Maintain necessary operating licenses  

IT Oversight

  • Manage set-up of appropriate work spaces including computers, email access, telephone
  • Be the point person for all IT software and hardware, telephone, alarm systems and other equipment needs, ensuring repair and maintenance takes place in a timely manner
  • Manage internal information system including Google docs, calendars


  • Work with key staff and a board committee to assure that necessary resources are available
  • Manage all logistical aspects of events working with staff and external partners, from event setup to takedown
  • Supervise the arrangement of audio/visual systems and appropriate furnishings for events
  • Help evaluate and improve the Art Center’s events

Facilities and Grounds:

  • Supervise facilities and grounds maintenance and cleaning schedule
  • Support the Facility Coordinator; Order supplies, maintaining necessary inventory
  • Serve as the primary contact with the City of Richmond for facility, telephone and equipment repairs
  • Manage facilities rentals program including calendar management and provision of needed equipment.
  • Implement and update the Injury and Illness Prevention Plan and oversee prescribed training sessions for staff and Volunteers.
  • Oversee Safety Committee


  • Other duties as assigned by the Executive Director


  • BA/BS degree with a minimum of 5 years of experience in progressively more responsible HR, administrative, office, and operations management positions in nonprofit organizations or equivalent education and experience
  • Strong background, and training in Human Resources management, including current knowledge labor law and HR protocol
  • Experience in coordinating and overseeing public events
  • Strong experience in supervision of administrative and operations staff
  • Outstanding interpersonal communication and mediation skills within a cross-cultural and intergenerational environment
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills
  • Strong organizational skills, ability to coordinate and prioritize a number of activities with attention to detail and independent follow through.
  • Experience with IT management/oversight, including both MAC and PC operating systems
  • Intermediate to advanced Excel and Word skills and knowledge of data base systems
  • Facilities safety and IIPP (Injury & Illness Prevention Program) experience

About the Richmond Art Center: 

A non-profit organization, the Richmond Art Center has provided 80 years of excellence in arts education and exhibitions for the East Bay region. The Art Center’s mission is to be a dynamic arts organization that empowers and transforms individuals and the community through creative exploration, experience and education. The largest Art Center in the East Bay, the 1951 vintage modern facility is part of Richmond’s Civic Center Plaza and receives partial funding from the City of Richmond. The Art Center offers one of the most extensive schedules of exhibitions and art instruction programs in the East Bay, presenting 14 to 16 exhibitions in four galleries and providing 50-60 art classes and workshops in six studios four times a year to 450-500 students each quarter, ages 5 and up of all skill levels. In addition, the Art Center reestablished its Art in the Community program in 2012, providing after school art experiences to 21 schools and various community centers, engaging nearly 2000 underserved student age children. The Art Center has over 600 members, 100 volunteers, 12 full-time and four part-time staff. The Center has an operating budget of just over $1.4 million.  

To apply, please submit the following materials via email:
Resume and a cover letter introducing yourself, stating how your work experience qualifies you for this position, how this opportunity supports your career goals, and specifying experience you have had in a role that cultivates a positive and collaborative workplace culture. Also include the names and contact information for three professional references. Open until filled.

Send all materials to
Compensation & Benefits: $54,000-$58,000.

DOE, includes vacation, sick, holidays and contribution to group health plan.
The Richmond Art Center is an equal opportunity employer, values diversity and respects differences.
Principals only. Recruiters please don’t contact this job poster.
Do NOT contact us with unsolicited services or offers
OK to highlight this job opening for persons with disabilities

The Art of Living Black: An Interview with Nyé Lyn Tho

Photo by Andrew Rodriguez

Nye’ Lyn Tho is a West Oakland resident of 9 years, hailing from Philadelphia, PA. She was born and raised in New York with her 10 siblings and currently resides with her partner, Ahmunet Jessica Jordon. She currently runs a Photography & Graphic Design studio operating out of American Steel Studios with a focus on portraits, commercial/ad work and branding.

What do you find most inspiring about photography? Tell us about your current projects.

I’m in love with the psychological and soulful vulnerabilities of Photography. The moments that one can’t usually pick up on because they happen so fast. I can shoot a room of people and literally read the room when I review the shot. For instance, I can tell this one individual is in love with the woman he is talking to by how lost he is in her eyes. How his body is leaning toward her with his chest, his heart, reaching for her. While on the completely opposite side of the room some lady is dying to get out of a conversation. In one photo I discovered that a groom in a wedding I shot had a deep dislike for his father. Something he confirmed months later. So many things can be read in body language, facial expressions, and general energy that aren’t readily available in real-time observations because they can happen in an instant.

Even with studio portraits there is a certain psychological playful manipulation. I love digging for the genuine moments. For instance if a woman’s face lights up when she starts talking about her son, I may dig for her to tell me something funny he did. One of my favorite shots of this guy came from me poking fun at his adoration of his girlfriend as he had mentioned her 3 times in the span of 5 minutes. He did a sheepish shift in stance with a huge grin on his face while briefly looking away from the camera. I love the dance between myself, the camera, and the subject. The moments where I capture someone’s true self, the un-guarded self, their soul. It really makes me understand why people of certain cultures do not want their photo taken. It truly is the capturing of one’s soul. Having someone be spiritually nude for me is an honor and I take the way I handle it very seriously.

How did you become involved with The Art of Living Black? How does your work represent and uphold the tradition of this exhibition?

One of my mentors, Stephen Bruce, introduced me to The Art of Living Black. Before this my art was limited to the Graphic Design/Commercial Photography world so it was a very new and intimidating world that I harassed him with way too many questions about. He basically told me to quit bugging out and make something…anything…and just put it on the wall. Haha!

I Tried to Smudge It Away, 2016

Natural Heir is very much the art of living black, as it is a visual pun of the state of having natural hair within the black community. It relates to natural hair and the political ties that the black community has in regards to embracing it. There is a lot of controversy in regards to embracing our coils, “kinks,” and rough texture. When we do, it is often considered unprofessional in the workplace, people think reaching in to touch it is okay, it is considered unkempt. We are expected to straighten it to fit European standards of beauty. I named one piece Melba Tolliver, for a woman who worked for ABC and refused to cover up her afro in order to look more “professional” to cover the White House wedding of President Richard Nixon’s daughter.

So far, I have photographed 12 subjects, studied their personality, observed their crowns, and matched them to relating plant life that historically represent African and African American culture. For instance, I replaced one subject’s hair with cotton, another with collard greens, one figure has a head of sage while another, a calla lilly.

What was your path to becoming an artist? Please share some of your favorite work.

Salassie, 2016

My mother used to draw these portraits in pencil and it always looked like magic the way she took a blank sheet of paper and sketched family members faces onto it. She may as well have pulled a quarter out of thin air. Anyway, I tried to draw like her and became really obsessive about nailing it. Then I got into construction because I wanted to be a “builder” and then someone convinced me to combine the two so I went to college for Architecture and after interning at an Architectural firm and realizing that’s not what I wanted to do at all, I discovered Graphic Design. I moved to California, went to the Academy of Art for as long as I could afford it, and then obtained my first Graphic Design job where I stayed for 7 years living in Photoshop and Illustrator while teaching myself Photography. I wanted to do it all. I still do. Except now I do it all at once. Natural Heir is a combination of all of the artistic skill sets that I’ve been obsessing with for the past 7 years.

Who are your inspirations?

I’m inspired by doers. Folks who do whatever drives them all day everyday. Folks who do it so often that they have mastered whatever it is that their doing. Folks who bare their entire soul within their creation. I’m also intrigued by folks who have discovered a non-conventional way of creating. Artists who create otherworldly art, fantasies, magic, the surreal. I love artists who can tell a million stories with one single image, song, scene. Gordon Parks, Ava Duvernay, Annie Liebovitz, Kara Walker, Solange, Frida, Shepard Fairey, Whitney Houston, Tim Burton, Shonda Rhimes, Michael Jackson, Justin Bua, Basquiat, Rodrigo Coral, Rog Walker, Bryant Terry, Stephen Bruce, Syd the Kid.

They Call It Kinky, 2016

What do you like to do when you’re not taking pictures?

I like eating. Haha! Really, just sitting with my partner, off and on staring at her, while watching an epic move with great cinematography and stuffing my face. I’m a Taurus. I also like getting to know people…not what people are telling my about themselves but by observing them, reading their body, listening to not what they say but how they say it…what my subconscious tells me about them. Usually this happens one on one and not very often as I really like spending time alone. I’m a Scorpio Moon.

What’s on your bucket list?

  • Live in the woods near water.
  • Own a home/property.
  • Raise a family.
  • Marry my partner.
  • Capturing (or maybe just witness) the Northern Lights.
  • To eat at a restaurant that has a top chef (like in the worlds top 10).
  • To capture Barack and Michelle Obama.
  • Movie Cinematography.
  • Grow my own food.
  • Master an instrument (drums, violin, or bass).

If you could meet one artist, living or not, who would it be and why?

Man! I had an older cousin, Dee Dee, who died in a car accident when I was a kid. She was magical and whenever she would visit she would show me all of these things she created….clothing, jewelry, things that lit up, sketches. I was a shy kid so I would just become dumbfounded sit back and observe her, thinking “she feels just like me!”. I never felt so close to someone but her spirit felt so similar to mine. I never really talked to her. I would love to talk to her and look at all of the things that came out of her mind and ask her questions about them. She was brilliant.

Thank you for your time, Nyé Lyn.

To see Nyé Lyn’s work, and the work of the other artists on exhibition for The Art of Living Black, please visit our galleries starting Tuesday, January 10. The exhibition, along with our other Winter shows, continues through March 4, Tuesdays through Saturdays. Our galleries are always free to the public. Please visit our Exhibition Events for links to events associated with our galleries, including receptions and artists talks.

For more information about Nyé Lyn’s work:

Press Release: Art of Living Black Exhibition Returns for the 21st Year at the Richmond Art Center

Art of Living Black Exhibition Returns for the 21st Year at the Richmond Art Center

The only annual exhibition in the Bay Area that exclusively features regional artists of African descent opens on January 10, 2017.

RICHMOND, CA — December 23, 2016 — The Richmond Art Center is proud to host the only annual exhibition in the Bay Area to exclusively feature regional artists of African descent. This year’s exhibition will feature over 40 local artists, including work by this year’s featured artists: Gene Dominique, Justice Renaissance, and Nyé Lyn Tho.
The Art of Living Black was founded by the sculptor Jan Hart-Schuyers and painter Rae Louise Hayward after their realization that black artists were not being represented by galleries in any significant way. This year’s exhibition will showcase a broad range of works by artists throughout the Bay Area, combining the exploration of art in a variety of mediums, while many pieces offer spiritual or political messages.

“The Art of Living Black continues to provide a key opportunity for local artists to show their work,” says Orlonda Uffre, Exhibition Coordinator. “The exhibition is always a vibrant mixture of works, yet representing the myriad facets of life for artists of the African Diaspora.”

“This exhibition is always relevant and always changing,” says Ric Ambrose, Executive Director of the Richmond Art Center. “The Art of Living Black creates a supportive forum for the artists to display their creative talents and to share their stories with their colleagues, art enthusiasts and the community at large.”

The Art of Living Black opens in the Main and West Galleries on January 10, 2017, at the Richmond Art Center, 2540 Barrett Avenue, Richmond, CA. Continuing the dedication to community engagement, the Richmond Art Center is hosting an artists talk for the Art of Living Black on Saturday, February 4, from noon to 2 pm, with the opening reception for all three Winter Exhibitions to follow, from 2 – 5pm. For more information about the Art of Living Black and the concurrent Winter exhibitions programming and events, please visit the Richmond Art Center’s website:

Image: Natural Heir Series: Queen, Nyé Lyn Tho, 2016

About the Richmond Art Center:
The Richmond Art Center is the largest visual arts center in the East Bay, delivering exciting arts experiences to young and old alike who reflect the diverse richness of our community. The Art Center features hands-on learning, well-equipped studios, Art in the Community programs and contemporary exhibitions in its galleries.

Every year, the Richmond Art Center serves thousands of students through classes and programs taught by professional artists, both onsite at the Art Center and at sites throughout Richmond. The Art Center’s four galleries mount rotating exhibitions that display the works of emerging and established Bay Area artists. Artists such as Richard Diebenkorn, Jay DeFeo, Wanxin Zhang, Mildred Howard, Bella Feldman, Hung Liu, William Wiley and Peter Voulkos have been showcased here.

Now celebrating its 80th anniversary, the Richmond Art Center originated in 1936, when local artist Hazel Salmi, who worked for the WPA, traversed the streets of Richmond with a suitcase packed with art supplies, eager to teach art to anyone interested. Today, everything at the Art Center continues to breathe life into Salmi’s original vision: That within every person lives an artist.

Visit the Richmond Art Center’s website for more information:

Julie Sparenberg
Communications Manager

Download a PDF of the press release here.

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