Detroit Artist, James Charles Morris’ solo exhibition “Finding Value” at Norwest Gallery was a two year long process beginning during the pandemic. Utilizing his skills in photography and photo collage, he took to his computer and began gathering photos he took over the years. What initially started as a hobby turned into weeks and then months of creating a series of mixed media collages, accompanied by audio recordings, that communicated his emotions and relationships.
“I started this whole process during the pandemic. At that time, we knew everything was shutting down,” says Morris. “There weren’t too many outlets for people to sort of get into except whatever you get into at home or interactive wise. And I started utilizing my computer more and was going through a hard time with images that I’ve taken over the years. And I just started taking an interest in building collages out of it. So I understood it’s just sort of passing the time. But as you know, the days turned into weeks and weeks and months, it just became more and more a part of my day to day. And the more that I got into that I really started to think about the possibility of showcasing his work in the future.”
As a self-taught multidisciplinary artist, Morris has been engaged in the creative visual media practices of painting, printmaking, illustration, collage and photography for over 20 years. A native Detroiter, Morris has used his work to engage in various social conversations dealing with the themes of race, spirituality, history, mental balance and community. In 2008, Morris founded Definitive Style Exclusive (DSE Detroit), a brand that uses an array of visual statements and designs created with a simple yet blunt approach to touch on difficult and controversial topics within our society.
Large in scale and beaming with vibrant hues of gold and red, his varied pieces on display depict portraits of friends, family and happenstance meetings that would ultimately change his photography going forward.
Morris clearly understood his assignment in life when illustrating his connection with family, and the importance of representing them in the exhibition. Either in colorful foliage that either takes up the foreground and background of his portraits or the mentions of his upbringing, with portraits of his grandmother, Dell Pryor and grandfather, Charlie Pryor; their presence is felt all throughout his artwork. “I do try to find ways to celebrate blackness and also celebrate positivity. When we look at the portrayal of Black Americans, it’s always negative, because we’re all dealing with trauma,” says Morris. “For me, I’ve always wanted to celebrate not just blackness, but the everyday things that we experience. We just finished going to a barbecue or hanging out with family, or taking a ride to Belle Isle, or mowing our lawn.”
“(THE COLLAGES) GIVES THIS NATURAL FEEL. THERE’S A TERM THAT I CONTINUE TO USE, IT’S CALLED NATURAL ABSTRACT, AND IT’S USING ELEMENTS THAT ALREADY EXIST TO CREATE THE ABSTRACT FEELING THAT YOU ARE WITHIN THE WORK. SO IT’S SORT OF LIKE A CONTROLLED CHAOS, I GUESS YOU WOULD SAY.”James Charles Morris
To learn more about James Charles Morris, visit his website at www.jamescharlesmorris.com
Laura D. Gibson secured and conducted the interview with James Charles Morris. Laura D. Gibson is a visual and lens-based media artist and independent curator in the city of Detroit. Her work focuses on her familial ties to the city in relation to memory, storytelling, space, and displacement.