I got to talk with Thurston Randall, Jr. for a bit after the Bronx: Africa show, thanks to his lovely wife Sharon. I had stopped to take a closer look at his three digital prints, whose strong, geometric composition and vibrant colors caught my eye. He shared some of his thoughts on the artistic process and spoke about two of his works.
Thurston’s artistic talent was recognized early on, earning him a write up in the New York Daily News when he was five. He continued his studies at the High School of Art & Design, but, seeing himself more as an academic rather than as an artist, he became a counsellor for people with mental illness, a profession he practices to this day. Nonetheless, he’s always done something artistic.
In his 20’s Thurston began working with the computer program Paint. He developed his own style which incorporates architectural elements and representational art, overlaid with texture and character, using colors and patterns to create a story that brings it all together. Thurston doesn’t necessarily have a preconceived idea when he starts a picture: “On the blank screen, all these elements come together to create a story; the line, color, shape and form create an awareness in the artist; you see something new every time you open up the screen – a new connection between the last color and the next one, between the last line and the next one… Composing a picture is like composing music – you start with an idea, you hear the rhythm and the patterns which create a narrative. When its done – when it has all the forms and ideas I could put in – I put on the border. The story is complete to me, the artist, and I hope it’s conveyed to the viewer.”
“We experience color every day, in food, clothing, skin, eyes and so on … it’s as important as breath. Color makes us joyful, sad or hopeful; it represents integrity, character, feeling. You can’t avoid color. It is powerful – it can transform your mind, your mood. Color is very important to me.”
“In The Four Warriors the bond between the lines and colors creates the composition; the connection between the elements creates a truth. The volumes of their bodies varies; with their crowns and spears, they are protectors. The colors are those of the sun, the day, and midnight. The borders represent the borders of the country.”
In The King and Queen of African America, I ask, ‘who are we as African Americans?’ When I was growing up, the narrative of who we were was that of slaves, Jim Crow, Negroes, then, descendants of kings and queens. Who are my ancestors? The only truth I know would be the King and Queen of African America. In this picture the king is in the center; to his right is his mother; to his left are his wife and son. Women are the foundation of the kingdom. The grandmother is the seat of wisdom: family, solidarity, community and power flow from her.”
You can see Thurston’s work in the Bronx: Africa exhibit at the Longwood Art Gallery through May 4th.