Anwar Floyd–Pruitt graduated from Harvard University with a psychology degree and then his creative muse lead him in a totally different direction. Exhibiting in “IMITATING LIFE: Synthesizing Saneness” with painters Kevin Boatright and Mikal Floyd-Pruitt (Anwar’s brother) — this is his first official art exhibition. Possessing the intuitive approach often attributed to self-taught artists, unhampered by mainstream aesthetics, Anwar is driven to make things that are recognized as “art.” Often declaring it strange, many witnessing this art genre are perplexed. Preconceived notions and expectations that artists draw only realistically commonly prompt, “Can you draw me?”
Most likely influenced by these same expectations, Anwar confided, “My work is a way to deal with the jealousy I sometimes feel when I see other artists’ work. Saddened, as a child, by my inability to draw, sculpt, or paint figurative works very well, I decided to put time into doing what I enjoyed and exploring the possibilities outside of realism.” His revelation reminds me of the jealousy that I, as a child, felt toward classmates who received praise for drawing well.
Accomplishing a kind of conceptual folk art came with Anwar’s decision to move outside of realism as he gravitated to reusing rescued materials destined for the garbage can. “I am free from having to make sense and I love the fact that recycling creates much of my work. I also enjoy the fact that I can find inspiration for my work anywhere – like interesting patterns. As a youth, certain patterns disturbed me, and even today looking too long at a honeycomb or at images from an electron microscope create this unpleasant visceral reaction. Strangely, I am often drawn to examine these patterns further, almost like playing chicken with my nerves.”
Presently, Anwar collages the reverse sides of old marketing posters with cut up old marketing posters, cuts and/or knots scraps of discarded clothing and leather, sands and staples butt-ends of wood, pounds tacks, and sews with thread. “I give a new life to that which was pronounced dead,” he declares. “Instead of a defibrillator, I use scissors, sewing machines, staple guns, hot glue, hammers, and double stick tape.” Plus, the sound that his tools make “lets him know that change is occurring.”
With the beginnings of a new piece, he says he often fights uncertainty and fear, unsure of what the end result will be. “My work relates to the exhibition title “IMITATING LIFE/ Synthesizing Saneness” in that the process of creating art calms my nerves, soothes my soul, and provides an outlet for my pent up thoughts and emotions,” he explains. “I find that making art is a meditation of sorts. Not that anything in this sometimes – crazy outside world has changed by the time I finish a piece, but I have changed. I have increased my ‘saneness.’
Being acquainted with Anwar’s family for years, I’ve known him as my daughter’s classmate, in elementary and high school — and as my youngest patron. One of my most memorable art sales followed my slide lecture presented to his 1983 Montessori class. When Anwar requested a “large” piece of my artwork, his parents, Dr. and Mrs. Pruitt, purchased a watermelon pastel. Now 34, his early art interest and foray into collecting in elementary school has germinated. Functioning like a consummate obsessed, self-taught visionary, Anwar is well on his way to creating his 500th piece. Witnessing that journey is “icing on a very artsy cake.”
“The Passion of the Self–Taught Artist” is Anwar’s next exhibition at Blutstein Brondino Fine Art, opening on Gallery Night Friday, January 20, 11 – 9 pm. – March 10, 207 East Buffalo Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 1-800-737-3715. Receptions are also planned for January 26th and 27th.
The Terry McCormick Gallery: Contemporary Fine and Folk Art continues with his work on Gallery Day, Saturday, January 21, 12 – 5 pm at 2522 North 18th Street. For questions, call 414-264-6766 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
–Evelyn Patricia Terry