By Hannah Han ’21
Visual artist Basil Kincaid spoke about his artwork on Sept. 18 during a Monday special assembly in the Saperstein Theatre. Later, he talked to visual arts students about his work process and answered questions about his installments during third and fourth period. An exhibition of his work was set up in the Arlene Schnitzer Gallery for students to view.
Kincaid is an African American artist from St. Louis, Missouri whose work addresses ideas of identity, freedom, family and culture.
“Freedom is my main thing. Don’t try to box me in. Don’t try to tell me what to do. I want to be me,” Kincaid said during the assembly.
Kincaid quilts, collages, draws, paints, takes photographs and builds installations, although he said he is currently most interested in working with fabric. Most of his art is made of donated or used materials, a nod to African Americans in the past who had to make a living working with scraps.
“I started walking around outside, and picking things off of the street, and making art with things I found. […] You look at the history of black people in America. We’ve had to do everything with scraps, and we’ve made amazing things with other people’s leftovers,” Kincaid said.
Kincaid said that as a child, he was bullied because of his race. He said that the only time he felt comfortable was when he was drawing and art helped carry him through all of the difficult times in his life.
“I have scars from where people would do different things to me. Throughout time, art was my refuge, and it was the place where I could belong, and my place where nobody could touch me,” Kincaid said.
Kincaid ended his speech by encouraging students to follow their dreams and never give up.
“If the only thing holding us back is the fact that we are afraid to believe in ourselves, then whatever it is you love to do, you need to do it, and you need to make a living doing it,” Kincaid said.
Middle School Visual Arts Department Head Katie Palmer ’98 originally invited the visual artist to speak at the school. Palmer and Kincaid first met at an art show in St. Louis; the Middle School Visual Arts Department Head had submitted her work to the show, and Kincaid happened to be the juror.
“I saw his [Kincaid’s] website, and it was such good work. […] He works in so many media, and I thought he would be a good fit [as a guest speaker for the community],” Palmer said.
Students said they found his speech to be inspiring.
“I really appreciated his honesty about his past experiences and his passion about his work,” Giulia Germano ’21 said.