Whitfield Lovell

Artists Who Collect
Whitfield Lovell, Hand XIV, 1998, charcoal, graphite and pastel on paper

New York-based Whitfield Lovell uses his various collections of personal and anonymous photographs, cultural symbols, Mexican folk art and domestic artifacts as source material and inspiration for his artwork. Lovell makes portraits by primarily drawing on paper and wood panels. His earliest drawings depicted family members and close friends, but more recently his portraits are based on early twentieth century studio photographs of anonymous African Americans Lovell collected from flea markets and antique stores.

Depicted in this newsletter, Hand XIV is one in a series of life-size charcoal and oil stick portraits on paper. The portrait is superimposed onto a hand, a symbol for Lovell of power and protection. In drawing these anonymous people Lovell strives to preserve their memory, their struggle and their heritage. Most of his collection of studio portraits is from 1900-1940, a period Lovell refers to as the "gray area" between slavery and the Civil Rights movement. Studio portraits such as these were expensive, typically only affordable to wealthy white Americans. The existence of these photographs represents the dignity of African Americans during the Jim Crow era.

The source imagery for the hands are from Lovell’s extensive collection of hand objects and sculptures from around the world. Some of the hands in this collection are cultural symbols, such as the Hand of Fatima, a symbol in Islamic societies used in charms, jewelry, cars and other places to ward-off the “evil eye.” Other objects are kitsch objects, such as 1950 era commercial molds for the manufacturing of latex gloves. The symbols Lovell uses in his artwork—hands, birds, houses and hearts—are personal symbols that also have broad meanings and allow for audiences’ interpretations.

Whitfield Lovell lives and works in New York City. His artworks are influenced by his travels in Africa, Europe and Latin America, and are inspired by memories of his family life growing up in the Bronx.




Link to Whitfield Lovell & Stefan Hoderlein worksheet