Former NBA all-star, author and artist Joe Barry Carroll explores his memories on canvas
Our perceptions of the world usually derive from our lived experiences, backgrounds, and upbringing. For former NBA all-star author and artist Joe Barry Carroll, height was also a factor.
His new exhibition at the Hammonds House Museum, “My View from Seven Feet,” explores the mystical quality some might assign to a person standing seven feet tall.
The show is on view through Sept. 18, and Joe Barry Carroll joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom along with Leatrice Ellzy Wright, senior director of programming at the Apollo Theater in New York and curator of this exhibition at Hammonds House Museum.
How curator Wright sees a story in Carroll’s art:
“Not only is it bold – I mean, the pieces are large, and the colors are just bold and draw you in – but the storytelling is what really drew me in,” said Wright. “I grew up in Delaware, but my mother is from Alabama, my father was from Florida, and Joe’s work took me back to those summers in Alabama and those visits to Florida and those Southern Black communities. And that’s where his work carried me, and each time I look at any of the images, I see the people that he depicts in these images. I remember them from these neighborhoods… There’s an authenticity to the work that I really, really appreciate, and to the storytelling.”
“How we have grouped them is in the way that he tells a story,” Wright explained. “When you walk into the museum and come into the first gallery, it’s the people that he knew there. It was Ms. Vai and Rose and people that he knew in his world growing up. And so we first get a look at the people, and then when you walk into the second gallery, it’s a little bit more of the experiences. Over the mantlepiece in the second gallery is a piece called ‘Dandy,’ which is a well-dressed gentleman sitting in a chair, which indicates in his growing up there, these men in his community, they were well-dressed. They may have worked on the railroad or in all these different ways… When that was done, they put on their best clothes and stepped out.”
An art experience in multiple mediums and senses:
“Joe was a collector of quilts. His father gave him his first quilt, and so that quilt was too delicate for us to bring to the museum, but we sent a photographer over to shoot it. But out of that quilt, Joe has created a number of pieces that are based in that quilt, and along with those pieces also come recipes, because as he was creating his ‘Green Maiden,’ he was thinking about collard greens,” Wright said. “So we have also paired the recipes with the artwork so that people will have an opportunity to get a snapshot of those recipes and go home and try them.”
On sharing joy and humanity at any elevation:
“Although people think that it just happened like I just stepped in a puddle of tall and here I sprang, and it was a big deal kind of thing. It’s a much bigger deal to the observer than it is to me, and matter of fact is, the title is just me being the smarty-pants to draw people in,” Carroll admitted. “But once they get in there, they realize that it’s really nothing specific to seven feet tall because all of my experiences are just out of humanity. I’m experiencing the same life as everybody else. “
He later reflected, “I think it’s unfortunate if all that we can do is create with misery. Misery’s gonna come soon enough. Hardship will come soon enough. Perhaps we owe it to ourselves to spend some time with the better parts of life, because at root, the love that a man has with his woman, or parents have with their children, or a person has with pets… that’s really the larger part of what life is for, is made of… I’d like to celebrate what life looks like more consistently every day, and that’s us going about our lives, enjoying the foods we eat, the company we keep, and that type of thing; and that other stuff will take care of itself.”
The Joe Barry Carroll exhibition “My View from Seven Feet” is on view now through Sept. 18 at the Hammonds House Museum in Atlanta. Tickets and more information are available here.