Redaction(s) by Courtney Minor
Mixed Media Collage & Painting

You mentioned before that people like to put everything into boxes, especially in the art world. How do you feel about the question, “What’s your style?”

To be honest with you, I don’t like it. I don’t like people putting anybody in a box, people are multifaceted, and I’ve talked about this with many of my friends. One of my friends, for instance, she’s a designer but she’s also a photographer, and an interior designer. But people don’t seem to understand that, they want you to be just one thing. Even with art, when I thought, “Okay, when I say I’m a collage artist, clearly that means that I’m going to do more than one type of collage,” what I found is that people get known for one style of work they do. But I’ve been in my friends’ art studios, and I know they do more than that.

For example, you see my portrait collages, and I’m sure you’ve seen my typographic collages, the ones with the words, two different styles of collages. And then I have some that are just pure analogue, very simple. Every now and then, I go and show one and people go, “Oh, this is different from you,” and I’m like, “It’s really not.” Clearly, when I know doing these portraits, I know how to do analogue, and I probably enjoy doing something where there isn’t a message, where I just want to make something. To be honest with you, Nina, it drives me crazy, sometimes! (we both laugh).

And I know, as creatives, we think differently, we are different from a lot of people and people just struggle to understand us. I somehow get why they try to put us in a lane, but the reason why I make art is, so you don’t put me in a lane. I just want to be. Appreciate that I am a collage artist, a visual artist. I might pop up one day and say that I want to decorate baseball bags with one of my collages, and that’s still one of my collages. Don’t tell me I shouldn’t do it!

I somehow get why they try to put us in a lane, but the reason why I make art is, so you don’t put me in a lane. I just want to be.

Baby Boy by Courtney Minor
Mixed Media Collage & Painting
Bright Eyes by Courtney Minor
Mixed Media Collage & Painting

When reading through submission opportunities, or advice for applying to open calls, I often read that it’s recommended to submit only one style, one body of work (in case the artist works in different techniques).

I remember one time I submitted to the same open call, but two different entries. I did one with my typographic, one with my portraiture. The feedback for the portraiture was like, “Oh well, we see a lot of this in in Black Art.” Now, first of all, my art is art, not all my subjects are black. Secondly, I’m a black artist, it is a part of me, but that doesn’t define me. So, I was like, “First of all, stop trying to put me in a box!”. And then, full circle turn-around, they said, “We love your typographic work, we’ve never seen anything like this!”. And I was like, “Really?” (we both laugh). The way I’ve fixed that, and I’m sure other artists do the same, is to say, “You like this lane of me, then you show these types of works at your gallery for that lane of me.”

I have galleries that only show my typographic work, they are street art galleries, they are graffiti galleries, and they only like my work where it has words, and dripping, and is very emotional. I have other galleries, like the one in Harlem, they prefer this style (Courtney points at one of the paintings next to her).

Sometimes I will alter the actual photograph and it’s just altered photo, nothing major, because I don’t consider myself a photographer. But so, I submitted this kind of work one time just to see, and they were like, “Oh, we love your photography!” And then I thought, you know what, the art world, man! (we both laugh). I think that you either can get mad about it or you use it in your own favour, and I’ve chosen to do the latter. That’s why I haven’t become exclusive with any one gallery, because if I become exclusive that means that I have to stay in one lane. But I’d much rather show at galleries that specialize on different themes, and people will see my whole portfolio- to the dismay of some galleries.

For every acceptance that you get, you have 7, 10, 15 rejections, that happens all the time. I’ve gotten rejections this week, for example.

Let’s talk about your Blue Series now.

Absolutely, and it’s easier I show you. Here’s a few of pieces of the series. (Courtney shows me paintings of her Blue Series through the phone camera.)

Crazy Girl by Courtney Minor
Mixed Media Collage & Painting
He Loved That Hat by Courtney Minor
Mixed Media Collage & Painting
Grasping on Straws of Hope by Courtney Minor
Mixed Media Collage & Painting

So, these all started because my father and about other 4 or 5 people passed away. It really started off as Art Therapy because I know the way I relax is by painting and by creating and making stuff. The first few months, it was just agonizing pain. I had been through all in 2021: I had 3 surgeries that year, I was really sick, and I knew my Dad was sick. My brother’s mother-in-law died of cancer, my brother’s best friend died a few months later and one week later, our nephew was killed. And I kept thinking, this year can’t get much worse.

I’ve been making different works, off and on, and I promised my sister-in-law that I would paint her mother, which is that painting there (she shows it to me via the camera). And then, I was off to have my third surgery and the day of my surgery, I happened to call my mum. While on the videocall with her, I looked at the background, and I realized my mum was sitting in the hospital, and so it turned out that my friends and family had been lying to me, because they knew my Dad was my heart and was one of my best friends, and they didn’t want to tell me that he was gravely ill because they knew that I would cancel my surgery and come to see him. So, I had the surgery, because I was literally going into the operating room when I had the call, and then, two days later, I flew to Texas. I looked crazy, I looked like a mummy, but there was nothing in the world that was going to stop me to get to my dad. And I stayed with him for about one month, from November 10th to December 10th, and he passed away.

The Blue Series started off as Art Therapy because I know the way I relax is by painting, creating and making stuff.

Follow the Plan. I Will Pop by Courtney Minor
Mixed Media Collage & Painting
Dream of a Better World by Courtney Minor
Mixed Media Collage & Painting

To deal with the grief, I made those paintings that I initially showed you and that became the beginning of my Blue Series. And although all of my paintings are a little erratic, because I’m a little erratic (laughs), I’ve tried to make an effort to make sure that the paintings of this series are as beautiful as I could make them. I found old photos of my Mum and Dad when they were young, and I mixed the old photos with some new photos. Each one I painted and altered myself, then photographed them. Then, just last week my aunt died and so, as I was in the process of making a combination portrait of all those who had passed away, I quickly added a tribute to my aunt here (Courtney shows me where on the piece).

During talking with my therapist, I realized we focused on the pain and the negative of losing someone, but that someone, they will want you to live your life. Not focus on making their death beautiful but remember them in the most positive light and acknowledge the pain. So that’s what the Blue Series is about, with its tears of gold. It is a sad series. It’s about those who have died, it’s about our reactions to their deaths. But it’s also, I’m hoping, a series that honours them and honours handling grief.

I realized we focused on the pain and the negative of losing someone, but that someone, they will want you to live your life, to remember them in the most positive light.

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