Painting While Black: Exploring Racial Identity through Iconography

Blake Morton

I constantly experience external pressure to make identity-related art work in response to the ongoing racial-reckoning occurring in the United States.

Initially, I was concerned with the pitfalls of creating identity-art. One of which being pigeon-held as a Black artist— whose sole function is to share my vulnerable experiences —and be commodified and diluted for superficial consumption. A Black artist whose work would only be valuable when institutions needed to satisfy a diversity quota, a Black History Month initiative or to conduct damage control after being “canceled.”

All of which may very well still happen. I’ve utilized this project to work through my anxieties about contributing to the “woke economy.” I am more interested in developing my visual vocabulary for discussing racial identity. A visual vocabulary to explore and critique the very structures that bastardize the voices of Black artists.

Blake Morton is a visual artist based in Atlanta, Georgia. He is studying art and philosophy as a dual-major at Claremont McKenna College. His current interests include race, identity and memory. The nature of his practice is confession realized through traditional and digital media.

He expresses appreciation for Professor Tia Blassingame and her invaluable support throughout the semester, along with Professor Kasper Kovitz, Professor Nancy Macko, Professor Amy Santoferraro and the faculty of Scripps’s Art Department for their encouragement during his time at the Claremont Colleges.

You can see more of Blake’s work on Instagram @blakedmorton