Two painters have been selected for the 2023 Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship, announced this week. Jammie Holmes and José Parlá were named fellows in Art, while art historian and scholar Melanee C. Harvey was chosen as the Genevieve Young Fellow in Writing.
The $25,000 award is granted annually to two contemporary artists whose work addresses representation and social justice in line with Parks’s work, which explored race, injustice, and Black American life. Over the course of the year, recipients participate in various initiatives and programs and end their fellowship with a solo exhibition at the foundation’s gallery in Pleasantville, New York. For the writing fellowship, the foundation chooses an individual working in art history, journalism, or literature to support their research and projects.
Holmes, hailing from Thibodaux, Louisiana, and based in Dallas, Texas, is a self-taught artist. Through portraiture and tableaux, Holmes uses art to tell stories of contemporary Black life in the American South, confronting the myth of Louisiana as a “ hub of charming hospitality,” in his own words.
“Gordon Parks’s courage in capturing moments of everyday life has been a long-time inspiration to me as an artist and individual,” Holmes said about his connection to the historic photographer and filmmaker. “I am excited to explore Parks’s legacy and bridge the gap between his work and contemporary perspectives.”
Parlá’s work combines abstraction with urban realism. Born in Miami and based in Brooklyn, New York, the artist explores his interests in city life through large-scale paintings; one of his works, “Gesture Performing Dance, Dance Performing Gesture,” was the first commissioned artwork for the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Fisher building. In 2020, Parlá co-founded the organization Wide Awakes to use art for social change. The organization, which raised over $250,0000 last fall, revives the Civil War-era group that used art, song, and public rallies to push for the abolition of slavery.
Harvey’s award furthers the relationship between the foundation and Howard University, a historically Black university. The associate professor of art history will use the fellowship to further research on the social structures and religious practices shown across Park’s five decades of photography, culminating in an exhibition held at both Howard and the Foundation. The school recently acquired a collection of Park’s work from the foundation, and the institutions are working together to develop a series of programs and events.
Starting February 1, the Gordon Parks Foundation will present a show of works by last year’s fellow, textile artist Bisa Butler, on view through April 14.