The West Virginia Division of Culture and History will unveil its Black History Month exhibit, Billy Clemons: Outsider Artist/Inner Views, on Friday, Feb. 10, in the Balcony Gallery of the Cultural Center, State Capitol Complex, Charleston. An opening reception to meet the artist will be held on Friday, Feb. 17, at 5:30 p.m. The reception is free and open to the public. The exhibit will remain on display through March 5.
Clemons, of Huntington, grew up in a family of 18 children and was raised by his great grandmother who taught him how to garden, clean house and encouraged his gift of dance. In his early years, he developed a strong will and had trouble dealing with authority figures, particularly in school. This culminated in the 11th grade, when he won a major art contest but was denied the prize because of his lack of respect for school officials. Against family objections, Clemons dropped out of school and traditional society.
Clemons traveled the East Coast and continued to paint, giving away most of his work. Ending up in Atlanta, he opened a volunteer art class for inner city kids. In collaboration with other artists, he began giving lectures in business schools to teach people how to succeed in the art world. He also worked in Washington, D.C., and Chicago where he had galleries in people’s homes and taught physically challenged children. Since returning home to Huntington in 1998, he has continued to be involved in community empowerment programs.
According to Clemons, “I tried to find myself in my art because it tells me where to go since I have been by myself since I was a little kid and learned how to survive in the jungle of life.” His paintings reflect this journey. They are emotional artworks with a very developed design component and lively use of color. They utilize patriotic, spiritual and African-American symbols. The show is comprised of 15 works in oil.
For more information about the exhibit, Billy Clemons: Outsider Artist/Inner Views, contact Richard Ressmeyer, director of arts for the Division, at (304) 558-0240, ext. 721.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. The Cultural Center is West Virginia’s official showcase for the arts. Visit the Division’s website at www.wvculture.org for more information about programs of the Division. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
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Director of Public Information
West Virginia Division of Culture and History
The Cultural Center
1900 Kanawha Boulevard, East
Charleston, WV 25305-0300
Phone (304) 558-0220
Fax (304) 558-2779