I’ve been an artist since the age of 6. This year I will be 79. I’ve had the honor of depicting African American people in their glory—for history, for our legacy, for our children—so that we remember who we are when we are at our best. I want my work to be inspirational depictions of us as a great people, but I also work to capture our trials and tribulations. To me, that’s what art should be, a visual documentation of our existence. Perhaps, Nina Simone said it best, “An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.” As an artist, I hope I’ve done that in my lifetime.
My piece “Liberty” ©2019 is part of a series I’m calling “As I See It: A Re-envisioning of Masterworks.” It’s a tribute to Michelangelo’s “Pieta”. The piece speaks to the loss of our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness in this country. For those who don’t know, the original model for the Statue of Liberty was a black woman holding a lantern and broken chains, commissioned by abolitionists. My “Jesus” has a Black Lives Matter tattoo on his arm.
– Gilbert Young – Conservator, Curator/University of Cincinnati Fine Art Collection, Retired Artist in Residence, Interdenominational Theological Center, Atlanta Artist in Residence, Bill Traylor Family, Inc., Atlanta
Gilbert Young is a nationally renowned artist, muralist, and art conservator. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, he served 27 years as director and conservator of the multi-million dollar University of Cincinnati Fine Art Collection. A few of his monumental mural projects can still be viewed in the greater Cincinnati area.
In 1994 Young was named Artist-in-Residence to the University of Cincinnati. He relocated to Atlanta, Georgia in 1995 and became Artistic Director for the International Paint Pals Art Competition in conjunction with the 1996 Olympics. He was commissioned by Procter & Gamble to design the Salute to Greatness Award presented by the Martin Luther King Center for Non-Violent Social Change, and was featured in Ebony Man magazine as a “Talented & Impressive Black Artist.” Young is the first artist to perform live on stage accompanied by an entire symphony orchestra while creating a commemorative work. The painting of Maestro Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati POPS orchestra was recently installed in the new School for the Creative and Performing Arts in Cincinnati. Gilbert was recognized in “Who’s Who in Black Atlanta,” the 2010 and 2012 editions, and in July, 2011 he was honored by recording artist Big Boi and the Big Kidz Foundation as one of five “Champions of the Arts” along with Academy Award winner Mo’Nique, and actress/director Jasmine Guy. In 2012, Gilbert was inducted into the 66th edition of “Who’s Who in America.”
Young is a frequent lecturer, and has been invited to speak at colleges and universities around the country including Harvard Law School, Spelman College, and Morehouse College. In 2001 he was presented with the prestigious Heritage Award for Outstanding Visual Arts at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York. In 2004, he received the Pallet Award for Lifetime Achievement in the arts during the Heritage Arts Festival in Atlanta. In 2011 he was honored with a Resolution from the Georgia House of Representatives naming him State of Georgia Artist of the Year, and in 2013 he received the Phoenix Award from the city of Atlanta for outstanding contributions to the arts as he celebrated his 50th year as a professional artist. In 2014 He was awarded the “Hero & Heroine Lifetime Achievement Award” during the Sweet Auburn Spring Fest. In 2015 the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus recognized him for outstanding artistic achievement. And this year, in 2017, Gilbert Young received a Lifetime Achievement award from the Barack H. Obama Foundation.
Young is the only artist in the world to paint a portrait of an American President that is signed by the subject. The piece is entitled, “History + Hope = Change” and was signed by Barack Obama in 2008. In 2015, the artist was commissioned by the Congressional Club of Washington to create a portrait of Michelle Obama to be presented to her during the annual First Lady’s Luncheon in Washington, DC. Young’s portrait honored Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign and was unveiled during the luncheon.
Artwork by Gilbert Young can be found in galleries throughout the United States, in select cities around the world, and in many private and corporate collections including St. Petersburg, Russia’s City Hall.