Michelangelo Lovelace is an artist of the people. For about 25 years, Lovelace has been capturing Cleveland on the streetscape level, from the violence-torn East Side to racial divides to joyful citywide landscapes. So it makes sense that the 2015 Cleveland Arts Prize Mid-Career Artist award winner is using the Republican National Convention to depict the people who the election affects. So he created the We the People exhibit, which is on display at Waterloo’s Maria Neil Art Project through Aug. 14, as a response to fears concerning the RNC and our political climate. We chat with the painter about his style, the exhibit and what he thinks about the state of our country.
Q: Your paintings play with color and light and depict subjects in an almost childlike manner. Can you describe your approach?
A: Well, my mentor, Rev. Albert Wagner, always told me, ‘Always stay in touch with your inner child.’ He asked me a question, ‘Do you remember that young boy who loved to draw, that loved to work with crayons?’ And yeah, I paint from that vantage point, keep it simple and straightforward but from an innocent perspective.
Q: How did We The People come about?
A: When I get home, I wind down with CNN, to catch up on the daily news. And I noticed Paul Ryan standing in front of the American flag, or Donald Trump, and thought, We got all these American flags around him, like he’s the only one that cares about America. So, I say, ‘Why not use the American flag as my backdrop?’ Then I start thinking about, not just the candidate but the people that are backing this candidate. So, I said, from my vantage point, I’ve always been taught that I have to fight against what I believe in, for what I believe in, and to protest. So, I wanted to make it from the vantage point of the protesters. ‘We the people.’ Because it’s we the people who are going to make a difference in this election, whether it’s Trump’s or Hillary’s.
Q: Thinking about Cleveland, the RNC and recent national events, are you concerned about where we’re heading?
A: Part of me — I’m proud of the city. We need this national, international spotlight. It’s gonna help everybody, whether you’re an artist, a writer, a singer. Just like the Cavs. That helped everybody’s spirit. As a Clevelander, you don’t feel like a loser anymore, you feel like a winner. But we can’t pretend that we don’t have police brutality, we don’t have poverty, we don’t have those things happening constantly. I know [the RNC] is a tourist thing but, at the same time, I hope that someone from the RNC comes to my show, they see my work, they get a vision that, ‘Oh, we got issues to deal with.’
A: Yes, art is a form of protest. Whether you’re writing songs, poetry, movies — art is always been a way to express true thoughts.
More Info: marianeilartproject.com