For his latest series of paintings, Detroit artist Senghor Reid started with small studies, building a system of gestural movements that began to simulate something that surrounds us here in the Great Lakes State but perhaps can easily become taken for granted — water.
"I started painting water and I asked myself, 'What does this really mean to me?'" says Reid, a Detroit native who is an artist-in-residence at Cranbrook. "I realized that growing up in the city and being a city boy my whole life, I don't have a lot of contact with nature — physical contact, physical interactions — and especially when it comes to water. My paintings are a way for me to deal with that yearning and wanting to be closer connected to nature."
That series is collected in Distilled, which opens in Ferndale's M Contemporary Art on Friday. It follows a similar theme to the artist's past work in drawing inspiration from nature. "As an artist, every color, every form, every texture, you can find in nature," he says. "You can always find something in nature to draw from, be inspired by or to use as a catalyst or a springboard for your work."
Reid says this body of work allowed him to open up as an artist — literally and figuratively. "I got to a point last year where I felt like my paintings were a little too tight," he says. "I wanted to push the limit and really distill my process down into smaller bits and make work that is a little bit more of linear quality. [I'm also] trying to figure out how to paint water so that it becomes a part of my muscle memory. I'm trying to understand things structurally."
As Reid worked on the exhibition, he says it not only challenged him as an artist, but Distilled also opens the door for a deeper conversation. "I would like to have a bigger impact on our personal health," explains Reid. "I want my work to make people more aware of the decisions we make when it comes to our eating habits, our vices, and the way that we treat our bodies. I'm not perfect, but as I continue to get older, I'm trying to conspire against my worst habits by eating healthier, by drinking more water, or being more conscious of what I intake."
"My goal is to always inspire people to be their best selves," he says. "I always make art with bright colors, lots of movement. I want people to be invigorated, I want people to be happy and excited when they see my work."
Distilled has an opening reception from 6-9 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 15 at M Contemporary Art; 205 E. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 347-665-7011; mcontemporaryart.com; Show runs through March 9.
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