Sedrick Huckaby’s new solo exhibition at the Blanton Museum features a portrait of his pupil, former President George W. Bush

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THERE IS SOMETHING ABOUT THE National Portrait Gallery Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. If you are successful, you might find yourself in the company of an American President or a First Lady. In 2016, Amy Sherald won the competition, becoming the first woman and the first black artist to receive the top prize. Subsequently, First Lady Michelle Obama chose Sherald to paint her official portrait for the Smithsonian Museum.

Fort Worth, Texas, artist Sedrick huckaby also participated in The Outwin in 2016. He did not win, but he was recognized among the best artists. “Sedrick, Sed, Daddy”, the self-portrait he entered, was “recommended”.


View of “Sedrick Huckaby” installation, Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas at Austin, May 29-Dec. 5, 2021. | Photo courtesy of the Blanton Art Museum

It turns out that Huckaby has his own connection to the White House. When former President George W. Bush left the White House, he took up painting. From 2012, he first worked on his own, before seeking professional training. Bush honed his craft with the help of Huckaby, who has an MFA from Yale, studied in France, Italy, and Spain, and is a professor of art and art history at the University of Texas in Arlington.

Bush approached the artist during one of his exhibitions at the Valley House Gallery in Dallas and asked him if he would be his teacher. Huckaby agreed and the lessons paid off. Bush’s niche is portraits and he has published two books showcasing his work: “Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants” and “Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors” (2017).

Now, Huckaby has painted a portrait of his top student and it is on display in “Sedrick Huckaby”, his new exhibit at the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin. The personal exhibition reflects key elements of his practice. Huckaby produces large-scale portraits, thick oil paintings with intense texture and colors that add an expressive quality to his depictions of friends, family and members of the local community.

Focusing on what he calls “the African-American family and its heritage,” Huckaby references African-American quilt-making traditions in his work. A monumental quilt painting, “A Love Supreme: Summer” (2001-09), is featured in the Blanton Museum exhibit. Stretching 20 feet long, the work is teeming with patterns, symbolism, and folds that showcase its dimensionality and textile characteristics.

The quilts also serve as a background in some of Huckaby’s paintings, including “Our Lamentations: Never Forgotten Daddy” (2018). Featured in The Outwin competition in 2019, the portrait of her friend Crystal Baker is a double portrait commemorating her father, a carpenter who died from complications from a spider bite. The portrait is part of the artist’s Our Lamentations series, which addresses entrenched social justice issues – disproportionately high death rates in communities of color resulting from police brutality, inadequate health care and economic disparities. .


December 2013: Sedrick Huckaby with former President George W. Bush. The artists are pictured at the Valley House Gallery, Dallas, Texas, during the exhibition “Sedrick Huckaby: Everyday Glory (December 4, 2013 – January 11, 2014), standing in front of Huckaby’s” Hallie – Welcome – Glory “, 2013 (charcoal and CelluClay on canvas on panel, 89 x 94 inches). | Photo: Valley House Gallery

At the Blanton Museum, Huckaby presents a close selection of 12 paintings. A group of six portraits, including a self-portrait by the artist, represent “The Huckabys”, residents of Fort Worth who share the same last name but are not directly related to each other.

Bush’s portrait is a well-focused head shot that gives a preview of a plain white t-shirt. He looks directly at the viewer, looking more ordinary than powerful, like the Bush that some of his critics have warmed to in his post-White House years – artist and friend of Michelle Obama – rather than the controversial war president whose both mandates were largely defined by its responses to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina.

Huckaby works with live guards. To his knowledge, the portrait of Bush is the only one for which the former president actually sat, according to Texas Monthly. (Even his official White House portrait was not painted live. It is based on photographs.) The portrait in the exhibit is one of three Huckaby made of Bush.

Despite their seemingly divergent political views, the generally “Democrat-leaning” Huckaby calls Bush “an ideal student” who is open to teaching and said he was encouraged by his dedication, “seriousness with art and how he really wanted to learn, ”according to People magazine.

Over time, his skills continued to improve, Huckaby said. Now a prolific painter, Bush’s best-selling volumes bring together his portraits of American immigrants and veterans, exploring their journeys and contributions and honoring their service and sacrifice.

“I thought it was a good thing,” Huckaby told the magazine. “It doesn’t matter who the person is – if it was a Republican president, a Democratic president, whatever – a president painting me is a good thing. What if he’s really interested in wanting to do this honestly? I thought, well, let’s see. Let’s see what’s going on. CT

“Sedrick Huckaby” is on view at the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin from May 29 to December 31. 5, 2021

LEARN MORE about Sedrick Huckaby on his website

WHAT’S ON In addition to the Sedrick Huckaby exhibition, the Blanton Museum is currently presenting “Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite”


SEDRICK HUCKABY, “A Love Supreme: Summer”, 2001-09 (oil on canvas, 92 x 240 inches). | © Sedrick Huckaby, Photo courtesy of the artist


SEDRICK HUCKABY, “George Walker Bush”, 2017 (oil on canvas on panel, 48 x 54 inches). | © Sedrick Huckaby, The Harlan R. Crow Family. Photo by Justin Clemons


View of “Sedrick Huckaby” installation, Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas at Austin, May 29 to December 31. 5, 2021. | Photo courtesy of the Blanton Art Museum


View of “Sedrick Huckaby” installation, Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas at Austin, May 29 to December 31. 5, 2021. Shown, “The Huckabys.” | Photo courtesy of the Blanton Art Museum


View of “Sedrick Huckaby” installation, Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas at Austin, May 29 to December 31. 5, 2021. | Photo courtesy of the Blanton Art Museum


SEDRICK HUCKABY, “Sonadores (Three Pieces)”, 2018 (oil on canvas, total: 72 x 72 inches). | © Sedrick Huckaby, The Harlan R. Crow Family. Photo by James Wilson


SEDRICK HUCKABY, “Filthy Rags of Splendor”, 2011 (oil on canvas on panel, 108 x 108 inches). | Photo courtesy of the artist


View of “Sedrick Huckaby” installation, Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas at Austin, May 29-Dec. 5, 2021. | Photo courtesy of the Blanton Art Museum

BOOKSHELF
The portraits of Sedrick Huckaby are featured in “The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition 2016: American Portraiture Today” and “The Outwin 2019: American Portraiture Today”.

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