This month’s featured artist in the ARTworks gallery is Amiri Gueka Farris, and the gallery feels lucky to have him. “All of a sudden, Amiri is everywhere! He’s the man of the hour”, says Laura Maxey, Managing Director of the Arts Council of Beaufort’s ARTworks space. She is referring to a spate of recent press involving the artist: exhibits at the Penn Center and the Gullah Museum of Hilton Head in January, the “Amiri’s Celebration of Food, Art, Music & Dance” in February to benefit Project Connect and help fund art supplies for local teachers, featured as one of the 19 most “Intriguing People” by Hilton Head Magazine, and the launch of the new Daufuskie Island Rum Company for which he designed eye catching labels. But this is no overnight success story. Amiri has been steadily at work in the Lowcountry and garnering praise and awards nationally since his years at SCAD, where he earned both a BA in Illustration and Graphic Design and an MFA in Painting. His work has been featured in more than 50 solo exhibits and juried museum exhibitions across the U.S., including at US Capitol in Washington, D.C. In 2008, he was named Artist of the Year at the Penn Center and in 2014 he was one of 3 artists featured in a show curated by Jonathan Green for the City of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs. Oh, and he’s a professor at USCB and SCAD and former professor at Georgia Southern University and Savannah State University.
Although most associated with producing modern work which references Gullah culture, Amiri’s work encompasses other themes such as famous musicians, self-portraits, birds, and more. The work has also gotten looser and less literal over time, to the point where drips of paint and large areas of negative space have become part of the compositions. The pieces appear equally about capturing the subjects in a visual form as capturing them in an emotional form that the artist can convey to others. In one painting, the brightly colored and dripping paint emanating from the mouth of a trumpet seems to capture the tones and energy of the music the subject is playing. This should come as no surprise, though, to those who are aware that Amiri is also a musician who has recorded several CDs of his original music. “There’s such a beauty that comes from music, it just feels natural to paint what I hear and how music comes at you. “Whether expressed in music or art, Amiri Geuka Farris’ talent reaches out across time and genres, to thoroughly captive audiences.