The Black Cultural Center (BCC) has served as a safe space for black student’s on UW’s campus since its opening in the Spring of 2017. The space celebrates the history and culture of black students on this campus. This year, it has a new initiative to give exposure to a black artist on UW’s campus every month in the gallery located in the back of the BCC. This month’s featured artist is the Black Voice’s very own contributor, Dequadray White.
Dequadray, a sophomore and member of First Wave 10th cohort, is a multi-media artist, creating both visual art, music, and spoken word.
There are two different mediums of work in the gallery: paintings and books. At first glance, one can immediately pick out the similarities that exist amongst the series of paintings, they all portray young black children. Each painting appears to portray kids participating in youthful endeavors. Dequadray’s stylized depiction of the children makes the work recognizable as his own. There is a strong presence of red, yellow, and blue; primary colors, which are commonly seen as youthful colors. One piece depicts a young girl swimming in her bath tub while schools of fish swim here. Another, depicts a young black girl jumping on pieces of land trying to avoid hot lava. Both the fish and hot lava are a part of the children’s imagination, not there in reality, but seemingly real to them in their creative and unyielding minds. Dequadray attributes the inspiration for the series to his many nieces and nephews. His excerpt from his Artist Statement hanging in the gallery states,
“… As a child, your innocence allows your imagination to create different worlds and realities. I wanted to create pieces that depicted certain ideas that we (as adults) had when we were children. From our depth perception to our senses, everything was heightened at its peak…”.
In a world where all children, especially black children, are forced to grow up too quickly, facing a discriminatory world is one that no one hopes to rush into.
Across from the paintings, you will find books lined up on pillars. These books are visual verbal journals that follow Dequadray’s sophomore, junior, and senior year of high school. Each page is meticulously designed to fit the assignment given for that page. Approximately a week was spent on each page. Within the journals, you will see and feel various mediums, from paint to fabric cut from a pair of jeans. While the themes for each page varies there is a consistent them throughout all of the journals. African symbols, images of renowned black activists and celebrities, pictures of family and friends, even song lyrics from Nicki Minaj can be found in the books, clearly showing how black culture had impacted Dequadray as a young black man growing up in Forest Park, Georgia.
As an artist myself, I would personally like to thank the BCC for giving black students an opportunity to network and showcase their artwork. Artwork is a vital reflection of our experiences. Plus, it gives young black artists an opportunity to have their work up in a gallery at UW-Madison. That’s a big deal, artists can even add that to their resume. I encourage everyone to take advantage of the gallery space and visit if you ever have the opportunity to stop by the BCC.