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Picture by Jonathan Green
Arts and Culture:
Gullah Culture
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Photo Essay by Jonathan Green

Some of the evocative works of Jonathan Green are shown in NOW's piece "Gullah Culture." Born and raised in South Carolina, Green's work reflects a unique world — one that may be changing forever.

Jonathan Greene narrates our photo essay of his work.

Photo Essay

Jonathan Green first found support for his interest in the arts at Beaufort High School near Gardens Corner, South Carolina where he was born and raised. When he left the state in the early 1970s to study at the Art Institute of Chicago, his acute historical awareness and propensity for documentation were already inherently germinated. Since earning the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1982, Green's work has integrated and recorded essential elements of American culture comparable to that of other master artists such as Edward Hopper, Elizabeth Catlett, Romare Bearden, and Jacob Lawrence. Recognizing his outstanding and extensive documentation of Southern culture and traditions in his work, the University of South Carolina in 1996 awarded Green an honorary doctorate degree in fine art.

The multicultural uniqueness and historical authenticity of Green's paintings, prints, and constructions are skillfully extracted from his recollections of life among grandparents who raised him and other proud descendents of the rural African American community in South Carolina where he grew up. Collectively these works chronicle the vibrant lives of his extended family and neighbors who elected to live harmoniously with the land and each other. They affirm how nurturing and cohesive are the relationships and communities of the southern culture.

The tales, stories, and rituals passed down for generations through oral traditions have been further authenticated and visually immortalized by Green's interpretive, colorful adaptations in his paintings. A monograph published by the McKissick Museum in Columbia, South Carolina declares that "Jonathan Green's work comes from the Southern experience. Out of his fond childhood memories come celebrations of life. His goal is to bring forth a story and reflect it visually in a language to which people can relate. This is why his paintings appear pure, innocent, and honest. He pulls the past generations to the present and builds a bridge between the two. In the process he emphasizes the importance of love, belonging, and a sense of spirituality and work."

In spite of the detailed contents of his elected subject matter, Green's work evidences mastery of southern history and documentation, imbued with simplicity and integrity that refrain the contributions his immediate and extended family made to advance their community traditions, replete with refinement of purpose and resoluteness of spirit.

Green's art is grounded in his real life experiences with a profound respect for the sacredness of heritage. Strong compositional skills, brilliant expressions of color and innovative use of materials reflect his mastery of modernist techniques. Love for the human figure and the placement of his subjects in harmony with their community and environment are among many of his universal strengths as an artist.

A mature artist in his forties, Green's art is noted in hundreds of reviews and publications, the most noteworthy being GULLAH IMAGES: THE ART OF JONATHAN GREEN by the University of South Carolina Press. For more information on Jonathan Green and his work contact:

Jonathan Green Studios, Inc.
316 Morgan Road
Naples, FL 34114
(239) 775-9999

All images are reproduced with kind permission of the artist.

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