Art, music is the heart and soul of ‘Joshua2’

Joshua Brittingham in his Somers studio with his original vessels and paintings. Abby Luby photo

Perhaps he sings the blues so soulfully or skillfully paints his large canvases or shapes his uniquely shaped vessels.

Every creation by artist and musician Joshua Brittingham seems to go straight out of his soul, out of an inner space that informs him of an abundance of emotions that develop from social inequalities and worldwide painful discrimination into a transformative place where negative vibrations are positive will. Brittingham’s art and music stay with you.

Brittingham, 60, a tall man with glasses and a hearty smile, goes by the professional name of Joshua2, a name he gave himself after a traumatic, life-threatening experience made him forgive his parents for having him named after his father.

Brittingham and his wife, Holly, have two grown children. The couple moved to Somers five years ago after living in Harlem because “needed to get closer to nature”.

As a teenager, Brittingham grew up Pentecostal and sang gospel.

“We were hard-working blacks who worked in what I call factories in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, a step above the great migration from the south,” Brittingham recalled. “We knew this land was not good for us, would not help us, but we held onto Jesus Christ. It was incredible to embrace the religion of your persecutors. I can see that now. “

Many of Brittingham’s paintings have bold gestural strokes, bold angles, thick lines, vivid cubist shapes, and deep, rich colors that reflect the fear of unlawful enslavement. The undeniable message in much of his work is about the black diaspora from Jim Crow South, where racial segregation was legal.

His mother was from Alabama and his father from Mississippi. He was one of eight children and the family settled in Delaware, where Brittingham’s grandfather served as pastor.

Brittingham’s original paintings range from $ 12,000 to $ 18,000, and giclee prints range from $ 750 to $ 4,500. Its rich symbolism includes thick, loaded nooses and large-eyed, crowned figures of Jesus and the cross. Many surfaces on the canvas are overlaid with pages of text.

“It’s my way of denouncing the scriptures,” Brittingham said. “If people really read the Bible, it’s not a happy book. My use of Scripture Pages means warning people to really study and understand Christianity. “

Brittingham sees religion as a movement that takes advantage of inequality.

“You see great stone cathedrals in poor places all over the world, like in South Africa, a church that offers refuge for the poor,” he said. “But this great church keeps people poor.”

Brittingham not only restricts his creativity to two dimensions, but creates large, organically shaped vessels, delicately inclined vases or lotus bowls, all of which exude a lively presence, especially when you stand by or hold them. From recycled and reused glass bottles, he reconstructs the shape from reconstituted, hand-made paper, which is processed into a thick, structured pulp that is applied, layered and painted on the bottle.

As an accomplished musician, Brittingham sings regularly with his band. They performed in Harlem, Delaware and abroad in New Zealand, Germany and Amsterdam. He performs locally twice a year outside of his Somers studio. His last concert in September welcomed visitors to his gallery.

Brittingham’s rock ‘n’ roll and blues songs may sound familiar, but he often rewrites the lyrics to “tell the story of our people and thank those who actually wrote the lyrics and composed the blues but penniless in one small hut died while others paid tribute and “became famous.”

Brittingham has its own version of the song “Strange Fruit,” composed by Abel Meeropol and recorded in 1939 by Billie Holiday about lynching. The song compares sacrifice to fruit hanging from trees.

Whatever language Brittingham chooses, each is a commentary on religion, the current state of racial inequality, and healing. As chairman of the Black Student Union while studying at the University of Delaware, he recalled countless protests, arrests, beatings and repeated imprisonment. His take on the current Black Lives Matter movement is that it doesn’t go far enough.

“I appreciate what BLM is trying to do, but it’s on the surface,” he said. “I want to change the laws that are still on the books that say discrimination is legal. There are still Jim Crow laws in place that say you’re black if you’re 15 percent black. We also need to change the laws that legally allow a person to lynch black people, ”he said, referring to the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was murdered by two whites in Georgia last year.

Brittingham is currently embracing Taoism and incorporating symbols from Eastern philosophy into his visual work.

“The Tao tells us about peace and love, and that is exactly what the scriptures lack,” he said. “My family were all healers and I create from the heart.”

To learn more about Joshua Brittingham and his art and music, visit https://joshua2studios.com.

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