An artist whose family hails from Montenegro honors Black culture through art
grew up as the only American-born child in my family, which had migrated from Montenegro (part of the former Yugoslavia) to Detroit in 1968. My parents raised us in a close-knit Montenegrin community and kept us insulated from an American counter culture they feared.
Although television became my window to the American pop culture, I was strongly discouraged from being a part of it. But the bold aesthetics and beautiful imagery of African Americans and people of other cultures caught my eye.
Saturated technicolor TV and the funkadelic fashions of the ’70s became visual stimulation overload, which I could only seem to express through art. Street savvy characters, coupled with vibrant colors and urban swagger began turning up in my artwork at a very young age.
This inspiration has only become greater in my adult life. In order to represent individuality, I try to create strong subjects with iconic and soulful mannerisms. In an effort to capture the retro vibe, I paint with a pallet of the most vivid colors I can find. I believe these early television influences and exaggerated interpretations continue to find their way into all of my characters, regardless of their ethnic background.
Currently, my work can be found in several permanent collections. “Fight like a Girl,” a piece I created to raise breast cancer awareness, is in the Michigan state capital building.
I have painted more than 50 murals for Ford Motor Co., including “Plant Life-It’s Our Future,” featuring an African-American labor hero planting seeds outside a historic Ford building.
I have also created a series for the Motown Museum, including a Jackson 5 painting entitled “I Want You Back,” a piece featuring a young Michael with silhouettes of his brothers dancing in shadows. Most recently, the “Prince of Motown,” my take on Marvin Gaye inside Studio A is in an exhibit celebrating his life and legacy. It runs through September.
On April 28 at 7 p.m., my work will be featured in an event called “Scotch & Cigars” at 1701 Cigar Bar and Lounge, located at 140 Cadillac Square in downtown Detroit. There will be a live performance by the Bob Mervak Trio, and scotch tasting and cigar sampling from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
I am proud to say that the majority of my collectors are African American. I hope art lovers enjoy the honest and very personal vignettes of multicultural America through my eyes.