Avon Lee Miles started painting at age four. He continued painting while attending Hopewell High School, where he met his photographer wife, Tessie, and won third place in the 1994 Congressional Art Competition. He earned an associate's degree in graphic arts and communication from ITT. Miles continued to paint while serving in the U.S. Navy as a corpsman, where he won first place in the 2009 Naval Women's Day poster contest with a tribute to Harriet Tubman and Betsy Ross.
Miles works in graphite, acrylic, and wood burning. Miles' work has hung in the Virginia General Assembly and was featured in Black Lives Matter exhibitions in Richmond and Arlington. He and his wife work and teach art classes in the Hopewell area. "Art choose me. Through art I speak my thoughts on relevant issues and create images that express the essence of life."
(Photo from and biography adapted from http://www.newstribune.info/article/20150706/NEWS/150709873 by Shelby Mertens/Mineral Daily News Tribune)
Larry “Poncho” Brown, is a native of Baltimore. He started his first business at the age of 17 as a signwriter and he has been a full-time artist ever since. Poncho received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in graphic design and photography from the Maryland Institute College of Art. His art, both fine and commercial, has been published nationally in Upscale, Ebony, Ebony Man, Essence, and Jet magazines. His art is featured in the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History books Wrapped In Pride and Connecting People With Art. His popular works have been prominently featured on several TV shows including “A Different World,” “In The House,” “The Wire,” “The Carmichael Show,” “Star,” and “Greenleaf.” Movies featuring his art include “Avalon,” “He Said, She Said,” and “Soulfood.” His work adorns the walls of the likes of Dick Gregory, Anita Baker, Susan Taylor, Ed Gordon, and Bernard Bronner. His original works are in the corporate and institutional collections of Coppin State University, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the District of Columbia Superior Courts, the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University, Howard University Hospital, and Yale New Haven Health Park Avenue Medical Center.
His earlier works were predominately airbrush illustrations. He evolved from a graffiti artist in his earlier years, to a classically-trained sign painter and graphic artist. Poncho’s early published works in the mid-1980s, like his “Black is Black” Series, were among the first to address the subject of colorism in the African American art realm. He was one of many artists often referenced as “The Popular Artists” who gained national recognition and found commercial success between 1985-2000 during a period known as “The Golden Age of African American Art,” by making their art accessible to the masses through direct participation in community art and cultural festivals, foregoing the traditional artist arrangement of artist representation, gallery representation, and art publisher distribution. At the height of this era his works were sold in three thousand galleries across the country and on the walls of nearly 500,000 homes.
In pursuing his philanthropic goals, he founded Raising The Arts, which has created over seventy images to assist non-profit organizations and African American organizations with fundraising for the past two decades. He also co-founded the Creative Quarantine, which is a collaboration with other professional artists who dedicate the entire month of January to creating new experimental works.
Admirers often site rhythm, movement, and unity, as favorite elements in his work. He primarily works in acrylic, although he uses a variety of mediums and styles to express his interests in Afrocentric themes, Ancient Egyptology and dance. Poncho’s unique style combines past and present art stylizations to create a sense of realism, mysticism, and beauty, which gives his art universal appeal. “My creations are a reflection of my personal values and pay homage to ongoing themes of unity, family, and spirituality."
(Photo from and biography adapted from theartofponcho.com.)
Paul Goodnight was born in Chicago on December 31, 1946, and was raised in Boston and Connecticut. He discovered early that he had the gift of art. After serving a stint in the Army during the Vietnam War, he returned to Boston where he decided to professionally pursue art as a career. Goodnight received his formal education at Roxbury Community College and Vesper George School of Art in Boston. He continued his studies, receiving a BFA from Massachusetts College of Art in 1975. The college bestowed him an honorary MFA in 1987, recognizing his dedicated work in the arts.
Paul has received numerous honors and awards over the years, including the U.S. Sports Academy Artist of the Year in 1996. His work is held in scores of private & institutional collections, including The Smithsonian Institute and Hampton University Museum. Since 1984, Mr. Goodnight’s work has gained acclaim with exhibitions in the Museum of Fine Art, Boston and Schomburg Institute, New York. His work is also in the Smithsonian and numerous museums around the country and abroad. Mr. Goodnight’s work has also been featured on the sets of Seinfeld, ER, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
He was also commissioned to design a stained glass window for the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. In 1996 he was commissioned to design a official commemorative poster for the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics and a 1998 World Cup Soccer poster. The art of Paul Goodnight has been featured in publications such as Ebony, Architectural Digest, Essence, People, Boston Globe, and Décor. Bishop Desmond Tutu, Maya Angelou and Samuel L. Jackson are among the many notables who collect Goodnight’s work. Goodnight works in acrylic, pastels and other media. He continues to mentor young artists. Goodnight’s studies continue as he draws his inspiration from his life of worldwide travels.
John Holyfield is considered one of the top contemporary black artists. His work has a strong Southern folksy feel, capturing the essence of rural life. His main themes are family, spirituality and culture. For much of his subject matter, he draws from his family members, childhood memories and stories from his grandmothers, which explains the repetition of women in his works. Holyfield has always been captivated by the church and often depicts images related to spirituality. Holyfield also focuses on aspects such as music, heritage and traditions that set his race apart from others, yet his use of timeless themes make the images relevant to anyone who views them.
Ernie Barnes and Norman Rockwell inspire Holyfield 's style. Like Barnes, his compositions are full of movement and his characters elongated and distorted. Holyfield's images seem to capture a snap-shot of a moment. This style of visual story-telling is inspired by the narrative style of Norman Rockwell.
Over the span of his career, Holyfield's works have been featured on the sets of TV shows, as well as in literature, text and children's books. His art has been exhibited in galleries and frame shops across the country and adorned the walls of thousands of art collectors. Holyfield's mission has always been to exhalt the beauty of the black experience through imagery that celebrates the African American spirit.
(Photo and biography adapted from holyfieldart.com.)
George Hunt was born of humble beginnings, and over a lifetime of living, learning, watching, growing, creating and translating his visions into paintings, he has emerged as one of the most important African-American artists in the South. Hunt has made a significant mark on not just African-American art, but American art as a whole. Hunt was born in rural Louisiana, near Lake Charles, and his grandmother noted early in life that he had a special power to “see things.” Hunt spent his childhood in Texas and Hot Springs, Arkansas. His mother-in-law owned a jukejoint in Helena, Arkansas called the Dreamland Cafe. There, Hunt listened to blues legends like Sonny Boy Williamson and watched the patrons dance, drink, eat catfish, court, sport and score. The visions for Hunt's art have been steeped in the music and life passages of blues people. After high school, Hunt attended college at the University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff on a football scholarship and studied art as a career. He did postgraduate studies at the University of Memphis and at New York University. Mr. Hunt spent three decades teaching art education and coaching at George Washington Carver High School in Memphis before dedicating full time to painting. He now works in a studio overlooking world-famous Beale Street.
In addition to large doses of indigenous music, one of the things he saw was the civil rights movement and that experience became a painting in 1997, which in turn, became a US Postage Stamp issued in 2005 as part of the United States Postal Service series, “To Form A More Perfect Nation.” Hunt was honored for his painting, “America Cares/Little Rock Nine,” at ceremonies in Little Rock and Memphis. The painting was originally commissioned for the Central High School Museum, but first spent five years hanging in the White House in Washington, D.C. First Lady Hillary Clinton, in a personal note to Mr. Hunt, wrote, “we are grateful that our visitors and staff have such a powerful image of hope and freedom to greet, inspire and inform them.”
In 2002, the U.S. Congress brought attention to America’s indigenous music by officially declaring 2003 as the “Year of the Blues.” Hunt was named the Official Artist for the “Year of the Blues,” and he created a new body of work for a national tour. The exhibit, ‘Conjurating the Blues, The High Cotton Tour,” consisted of 26 large paintings that depicted the history of blues music in America. The title painting proudly hung in the grand lobby of Radio City Music Hall in New York during the opening tribute show for the Year of the Blues as Martin Scorcese filmed the documentary movie, “Lightnin’ in a Bottle.” The exhibit continued on to Seattle at Experience Music Project, Chicago, Memphis, Helena, AR (King Biscuit Festival) and Clarksdale, MS (Delta Blues Museum.)
George Hunt appeared at great length in many segments of the 13-part “Year of the Blues” PBS radio series telling vivid stories of his experience with blues music, rooted deep in the rural south. Later in 2003, the Blues Foundation bestowed a coveted “Keeping the Blues Alive” award on Hunt. Ninety-nine percent of what George Hunt paints come from the Southern African-American experience, especially the folk tradition, civil rights movement, the mythic heroism of Black manhood, and of course blues music and culture.
(Biography adapted from georgehuntart.com. Photo from Memphis in May Twitter.)
Frank Morrison started his journey as a graffiti artist in New Jersey, tagging walls with spray paint. It was the opportunity to tour with music artist Sybil as a breakdancer, an influential high school art teacher, and a visit to the Louvre Museum in Paris that opened him up to new artistic and creative avenues. Early exposure to hip-hop culture can be seen through Morrison’s work, which has been dubbed a mash-up of urban mannerism, graffiti, and abstract contemporary, and reflects deeply on the lost of human stories from past eras.
Morrison strives to capture people as they are, translating emotions through his paintings and leaving a memoir of our life and times today. His work depicts African-American livelihood in a way that is both familiar and comforting to those who often feel histories have been forgotten and culture has been usurped.
Citing both Ernie Barnes and Annie Lee as forebearers of this tradition, Morrison remarks on his practice, “My work dignifies the evolution of everyday, underrepresented people and places within the urban landscape. I seek to both highlight and preserve the soul of the city through the lens of hip-hop culture and urban iconography. I want people to experience the visual rhythms that choreograph life for the average, everyday person.”
Morrison’s work has been featured at Art Basel, Scope Miami and Red Dot art fairs, and shown at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (sponsored by ESSENCE ART and Toyota) and Mason Fine Art Gallery (Atlanta, Georgia). His solo exhibitions include “Frank Morrison: Live, Love and Jazz” (2013) and “Graffiti” (2014), both at Richard Beavers Gallery (Brooklyn, New York). The private collections of art patron Peggy Cooper-Cafritz and athlete Derek Jeter include work by Morrison. He has also been commissioned to create works for recording artist, producer and art curator Swizz Beats, and Emmy Award-winning writer and producer Jordan Peele’s film “Get Out.”
An acclaimed illustrator, Morrison’s work can be found in numerous award-winning children’s books including Coretta Scott King, John Steptoe Award-winner Jazzy Miz Mozetta, NAACP Image Award-winner Our Children Can Soar, and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honoree Little Melba and her Big Trombone. His literary client list includes international book publishers Penguin Books, HarperCollins, Hyperion, Random House, and National Geographic Kids. Continuing to celebrate the teacher that changed his life by insisting he visit his first art museum, Morrison signs each of his works “TTD” (“Thanks to God”) to also show his gratitude for God’s plan in positioning him where he is today. “I know where I am is not by accident. I want to just be able to continue doing what I do.”
Frank Morrison lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife and five children.
(Photo and biography adapted from frankmorrisonart.com.)