Guy Stanley Philoche gives the icons their flowers with a new collection

Guy Stanley Philoche gives the icons their flowers with a new collection

After 20 years of sacrifice, hard work and courage in New York, Guy Stanley Philoche gives credit and honor where it is due.

The Haitian-born visual artist had to fight to become a full-time creator from an early age. A Chile of immigrant parents who valued pensions and job security, the prospect of relying on creativity as a means of financial gain seemed unfeasible.

“I told my parents that I went to art school. And they said, “We love you, but you’re way too smart to waste your brain painting,” Philoche told ESSENCE. “But that’s what I wanted to do.”

At just 17, armed with nothing but his talent and $5,000, Philoche set out to find his own way. He obtained his citizenship, applied for student loans to pay for his art studies at Paier College of Art and later Yale University, then moved to New York to make a living as an artist.

Guy Stanley Philoche gives the icons their flowers with a new collection

“New York has been really good to me,” he says, now 20 years into his career. Although the early days weren’t the easiest – series of self-promoted paintings that were largely ignored – he learned that patience pays off.

“Sometimes I have a show where I think it’s amazing, but my audience isn’t ready for it,” he recalled. “I had a series called No comment. It was a very powerful series that I painted 15 years ago about powerful women who were in high-level positions but felt like they couldn’t advance because they weren’t part of the club of boys. Amazing portraits of women with tape over their mouths.

At the time, Philoche could barely sell or exhibit the pieces, which received comments as being a bit too controversial. But fast forward to the shift in public consciousness surrounding women’s voices in the wake of “Me Too” and the reversal of Roe V.Wadeand buyers began to see the works in a new context.

“It’s just one of those things where timing is everything, and also patience. If you believe you’re doing something amazing enough, you just have to wait because sometimes your audience isn’t everything. just not ready for it.

Guy Stanley Philoche gives the icons their flowers with a new collection

His latest series Give us our flowers, is a celebration of identity and honor for those who often do not receive the accolades the artist feels they truly deserve – from impactful historical figures to today’s culture changers and ordinary people who chart their course for themselves and the next generation. Although bright and celebratory, with black subjects staring comfortably at the viewer, it was born out of a personal tragedy in Philoche’s life.

“Last month, my good friend – he’s also my lawyer, he’s also one of my great collectors – passed away,” the artist revealed. “It really hit me hard. It was one of those things where therapy didn’t work.

“I go to the wake and it’s super crowded. The funeral is completely packed. He was loved by so many people. But I listened to what people said, and they kept praising him; “He was a great lawyer. He was so funny. And they kept saying, ‘I wish I had told him that when he was alive.’ »

Unable to shake off his growing grief through his traditional means, Philoche went to his studio and began to paint his friend’s image over and over.

“I just kept painting her portrait over and over. I don’t know why. Finally, something clicked. I thought, ‘You know what? I’m going to give her her flowers.

Painting the picture of his friend with flowers all around, Philoche began to think he was onto something. Who else died? Who deserves their flowers now, when they can still metaphorically smell them?

Guy Stanley Philoche gives the icons their flowers with a new collection

As historical icons like James Baldwin and Jackie Robinson came to mind, so did culture changers like Lena Waithe. So, Philoche was struck with inspiration by everyday life.

“I’m in Central Park, I’m going for a run. Once I was done, I sat there taking a deep breath. And I looked up and saw all these beautiful nannies with these white babies. Thinking about the sacrifices these women make, providing childcare to wealthy families, things clicked for him once again.

The collection has expanded to feature black women past and present, black children through the years, all looking peaceful, joyful, set in pastels and surrounded by daisies – a sentimental flower for Philoche.

“The reason I use daisies is my mother. It’s her favorite flower,” he revealed. flowers too by not necessarily painting her portrait, but by letting her know that I am constantly thinking of her all the time.”

Guy Stanley Philoche gives the icons their flowers with a new collection

Far from finished, Philoche has her sights set on adding Nina Simone and Dapper Dan to the series, among others.

“I just want people to see us in a good light,” he said. “I think too many people see us as just artists, and that bothers me a bit,” he added, noting that there’s so much more to our collective history.

“That’s why I made [the figures] in black and white, because I really want you to focus on the subject. But, also, I really want you to focus on the flowers, see their simplicity, see how they uplift us.

A selection of Philoche Give us our flowers will be exhibited at the Cavalier Gallery in New York from December 16. For more information, visit the website HERE.

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