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Gullah Spirit

The Art of Jonathan Green

Jonathan Green



Published: Nov 23 2021


Published: Nov 23 2021

OA Ebook
Published: Nov 23 2021


The inclusion of this book in the Open Carolina collection is made possible by the generous funding of

A celebration of the life and culture of the Gullah people of the South Carolina Lowcountry in 179 new paintings

Jonathan Green is best known for his vibrant depictions of the Gullah life and culture established by descendants of enslaved Africans who settled between northern Florida and North Carolina during the nineteenth century. For decades, Green's vividly colored paintings and prints have captured and preserved the daily rituals and Gullah traditions of his childhood in the Lowcountry marshes of South Carolina.

While Green's art continues to express the same energy, color, and deep respect for his ancestors, his techniques have evolved to feature bolder brush strokes and a use of depth and texture, all guided by his maturing artistic vision that is now more often about experiencing freedom and contentment through his art. This vision is reflected in the 179 new paintings featured in Gullah Spirit. His open and inviting images beckon the world to not only see this vanishing culture but also to embrace its truth and enduring spirit.

Using both the aesthetics of his heritage and the abstraction of the human figure, Green creates an almost mythological narrative from his everyday observations of rural and urban environments. Expressed through his mastery of color, Green illuminates the challenges and beauty of work, love, belonging, and the richness of community.

Angela D. Mack, executive director of the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, South Carolina, provides a foreword. The book also includes short essays by historian Walter B. Edgar, educator Kim Cliett Long, and curator Kevin Grogan.

Jonathan Green is an award-winning artist and among the most recognized in the American South. His work is in the collections of the Naples Museum of Art in Florida, the Afro-American Museum of Philadelphia, the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, and the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, among others. A graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Green is the author of Gullah Images: The Art of Jonathan Green.

"Jonathan Green renders in glorious life-giving color the cultural landscape and very soul of the Gullah people. Each painting captures the vitalizing quality of his own beautiful spirit and unique lyrical artistry. And I am at once reminded of W. E. B. Du Bois, who described his own majestic The Souls of Black Folk as the effort 'to speak from within—to depict a world as we see it who dwell therein.'"—Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Harvard University and National President, Association for the Study of African American Life and History

"To understand the spirit of the Gullah, you must contend with the work of Jonathan Green. The vibrancy and truth of his paintings leap from these pages, wrap a shawl around your heart, and command you to dance with them! This book is a movement unto itself, decades in the making—and will hold a center stage spot in my library forever."—Tonya Matthews, CEO, International African American Museum

"You cannot stop admiring the art of Jonathan Green. He celebrates Gullah life with such tenderness, joy and immediacy—children on swings, women in their hats, and men telling stories in the crooks of trees—that it makes you hungry for more of his genius and for more Gullah culture."—Lawrence Hill, author of The Book of Negroes

"With this book, Jonathan Green continues to be the authoritative herald of Gullah visual arts. With his unique aesthetic sensibility, bold fashion designs, and vibrant colors, Green uses scenes from daily life to deftly explore Gullah culture, family, community, and deep spirituality. The result is simultaneously a gorgeous work of art and compelling memoir."—Bernard Powers, professor emeritus of history and founding director of the Center for the Study of Slavery at the College of Charleston

"Jonathan Green's Gullah Spirit is one of the most beautiful books that I have ever seen. Every page sings: sometimes with quiet dignity but more often with delightful exuberance. The scenes and people are of the South Carolina coast — the Gullah folk seen through an evocative artist's eye. There are timeless rhythms of coastal rural life from the marshes and the beaches to the countryside. Even the quotidian parts of life — washdays, seaside strolls, church prayers, bonnets and gowns, and farming — become magical and vibrantly colorful views of memories and of enduring traditions."—Dwight McInvaill, co-author of Alice: Alice Ravenel Huger Smith, Charleston Renaissance Artist

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