Tim OkamuraLove, Strength & Soul

Tim Okamura’s "Love, Strength & Soul" at Yeelen Gallery

By Carter Jackson-Brown

Wood Tavern @ Art Basel-6586

The first thing a friend asked me when she found out Tim Okamura isn’t in fact African-American was “What do you think about that?!” As if to question why that didn’t bother me, and subconsciously insinuating that I somehow should be upset or that the artist is appropriating the image of Black Women in America. Sorry, I don’t subscribe.

Instead, I told her how wonderful it is to see women of color, particularly black women, portrayed with honesty and warmth in a compelling juxtaposition. With the richness of each brushstroke, Okamura attempts to besiege the viewer with his fluency of observation: he invites you to consider reaching out to them or to listen to their stories. I see my sister’s triumphs; my mother’s sadness; my friend’s perseverance beyond her shattered dreams. I see the love of their children in some these women’s eyes, and the heartbreak that came afterward, when they lost that someone special for the very last time.

Wood Tavern @ Art Basel-6575

The work of Okamura is an important case-sensitive vehicle in the world of contemporary art, and the hyper-realistic painter deserves to be supported for his dedication as a visual documentarian of the black female antagonist. Not as a form of escapism, but as a means to construct an evolving healthy ideology of what “Black Life” represents in all its varying complexities. Okamura’s subject matter reflects a beguiling imagery, conjuring – at moments – fleeting thoughts of a time when all lines of color and commerce have disappeared, and leaving only the wealth of image in all its glory, no matter the color. In a world that increasingly showcases negative visuals (of) blackness, it is refreshingly profound to see this hopeful glow of possibility through the artist’s eye. A combatant of visual aptitude that conjures a fuller awareness of the true “Love, Strength & Soul” of a people, and their unfettered determination to prevail against all odds.

Wood Tavern @ Art Basel-6572

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Photography By Rod Deal