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Four Black Men, Lost in Thought

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The Artists

With this new painting, Jammie Holmes challenges the viewer to speculate about the unspoken worries weighing on his subjects.

Jammie Holmes’s “Four Brown Chairs,” 2020. Jammie Holmes’s “Four Brown Chairs,” 2020.Credit…Courtesy of the Dallas Museum of Art Published Oct. 2, 2020Updated Oct. 5, 2020

In each installment of The Artists, T highlights a recent or little-shown work by a Black artist, along with a few words from that artist putting the work in context. This week, we’re looking at a piece — a recent commission for the Dallas Museum of Art included in the exhibition “To Be Determined” — by Jammie Holmes, whose paintings, often featuring scenes and people from his own life, mine the Black American experience.

Name: Jammie Holmes

Age: 36

Based in: Dallas

Originally from: Thibodaux, La.

When and where did you make this work? In 2020, created in my new studio in the Dallas Arts District.

Can you describe what’s going on in it? The piece depicts four men playing cards in a mobile home that is similar to the mobile homes my family owned in Thibodaux. What I wanted the audience to see was a scene of emotional introspection for four different men, and from that have the audience wonder what it is these men are thinking about. One man is holding a playing card and could be thinking about his future, and one figure has a T-shirt that depicts a lost loved one. I wanted to bring the audience into a quiet space, and have them question what these men are thinking about in this moment of silence. The men are all together, but each is thinking and reflecting, lost in his own thoughts.

What inspired you to make this work? I was inspired by what my everyday life was like when I was a young man in Thibodaux. I wanted to show that this same way of life is still taking place today — people worrying about their future, their lost loved ones and what’s next for them.

What’s the work of art in any medium that changed your life? I am very inspired by the work of Gordon Parks because of his ability to capture moments that could be dark for some and happy for others. One image in particular, Drinking Fountains, Mobile, Alabama” (1956), features a Black woman drinking at a water fountain labeled ‘Colored Only.’ Something about this image really sparked an interest in me to start exploring figurative work, and my first figurative painting was an interpretation of this photograph. I still love this early work because it was so driven by Parks.

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