BEACON - Talk about crunch time.
Recently, Florence Northcutt, Director of the Howland Cultural Center, approached painter Richard Outlaw with the novel idea of staging a one-man show for African-American History Month. The invitation seemed only fitting, as Outlaw was entering his 12th year displaying his work at the annual February event. All would have been ideal, with the exception of one thing: the show was two months away and Outlaw had not completed any new paintings. A busy work schedule at his full-time gig had put a temporary halt on his artistic productivity. Presented with this obstacle, Northcutt had an answer: why not do a retrospective show, containing pieces from Outlaw’s prior breadth of work? Outlaw was immediately game, even managing to find time to complete five new pieces just three weeks prior to the show, which opened Saturday.
"I always wanted to do a one man show here at Howland because I love this space," said Outlaw, who was on hand to field questions and discuss his art Saturday. "This particular kind of show is different than the other group one I have done here; it allows me to see where I have been as well as where I am going as an artist." Outlaw continued by pointing to a recently done Booker T. Washington portrait, stressing how the piece took him out of his "comfort zone," applying faces to what were previously solely silhouettes.
The show, titled "Richard Outlaw Paintings: A Retrospective," contains 45 pieces in total, four which are his ten-year-old daughter Symantha’s. It is a culmination of creations whose passion was ignited in the 5th grade. Constructing a watercolor tree, complete with green and black bark, Outlaw received pivotal inspiration from his art teacher. Later on, as an adult, he was asked to be the Artist in Residence at Adelphi University. His subjects run the spectrum: historic events, jazz, family life, landscapes, reflecting events, African fabric design, and pieces of introspective autographical expressions. Deeply concerned with social justice, Outlaw holds a special place in his heart for African-American History Month.
"African-American History Month Shows are a chance to solidify the presence of our great contributions to building this nation," reflected Outlaw. "They are an example of what we gave this nation in portrait form."
His daughter too feels the potency of the annual event. Contributing her work since the age of seven, the young artist has four pieces on display on the the upper level of the Center.
"I like coming here and being with my family and friends and showing people around the artwork," said the budding artist Symantha. "Also, having the show with my dad is really fun to be able to share."
Throughout the latter part of the afternoon on Saturday art admirers streamed in and out of the Center. Many could be found intently drawn in as they reflected upon the colorful works.
"I think his work is very unique and deep; I like his colors especially, especially the blue I see in most of the pictures," pointed out Velma Outlaw. "I look at some of his pictures and say, ‘wow, what went into that!’"
Outlaw’s Retrospective will be on display at the Howland Cultural Center throughout the month of February. Stop by to view some of his insightful, moving works, and who knows, maybe be inspired along the way.