WASHINGTON D.C: Hoodie Goodies recently had a chance to sit down with local artist Tre Wilkes and speak with him about some his most recent and prominent projects. In this article, Tre Wilkes provided us with some insight on four of his favorite paintings. This is the first part of a two-part article on Tre and his empowering and inspirational artwork.
HOODIE GOODIES: Thanks for joining us today Tre! We understand you brought four pieces of artwork for us to look at and discuss today.
TRE: Yes sir! I brought four oil on canvas paintings.
HOODIE GOODIES: Wow and these are truly amazing paintings! What is the first one we are looking at?
TRE: The name of the first painting is "Queen Nzinga"
TRE: This piece is an oil on wood painting. The main inspiration for this painting is a friend who is active in art, music, and community development. Her role within the community and the impact she has made as a local leader within the community is what inspired me for QUEEN NZINGA. In this work, I wanted to portray the subject as a strong leader while highlighting the virtues of femininity.
HOODIE GOODIES: Why so much focus on the feminine?
TRE: Within the black community, the familial matriarchs are often the emotional, financial, and spiritual source of leadership and strength. Like an old, well-rooted tree capable of withstanding the turbulent storms, strong women have historically been the foundations for black movements in America. I wanted to take these symbolic ideas about the black matriarch and convey them within the subject of QUEEN NZINGA.
HOODIE GOODIES: What's up with the armor on the subject?
TRE: The use of the Roman-inspired breastplate and the columns are meant to invoke the style and motifs of renaissance classical art. Focusing on the renaissance motifs and style due to its association with being the standard of ‘high art’ and juxtaposing it with the subject of the black matriarch, I hope to elevate QUEEN NZINGA to a role that recalls for the viewer the classical works of Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci.
TRE: Classical art is, typically, dominated by subjects relating to the European point of reference and perspective; I wanted to collide that with black subjects and the black community, similar to how America actually is.
HOODIE GOODIES: What is your favorite element with QUEEN NZINGA?
TRE: To me, my favorite element of the painting is the subject's gaze and pose. I wanted to portray QUEEN NZINGA with an iconic look, reminiscent of the gaze and smile of Mona Lisa while portraying the sense of leadership, resilience, strength, and determination that leaves the viewer wondering, “What is she thinking about?”
Painting by Tre Wilkes "QUEEN NZINGA"
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WHY YOU BUGGING
HOODIE GOODIES: So what is the second painting we are looking at?
TRE: The name of the second piece is WHY YOU BUGGING?
TRE: This piece is primarily a composition of oil paint on wood medium. This painting is part of a collection called The Spike and Chill collection. The collection was created at a time when most of Spike Lee’s filmography was available on Netflix, and I wanted to make a pun out of the ‘Netflix and chill’ meme. All the paintings from this collection feature characters from famous Spike Lee films. Spike Lee’s work as a director really influenced me, especially how he pushes the limits of his films to address social issues and create dialogue. In much the same way, I try to use my art to portray stories that make people reflect on social circumstances that are relevant to our culture and community. The subject of this piece is a character named Bugging Out from the film Do the Right Thing.
HOODIE GOODIES: What is your favorite element of this painting?
TRE: One of my favorite aspects of this painting is the layering I applied to the painting. This required a lot of detail and took a lot of time to paint.
Painting by Tre Wilkes "WHY YOU BUGGING"
HOODIE GOODIES: What is the name of this painting?
TRE: The name of this painting is MOOKIE.This piece is primarily a composition of oil paint on wood medium and is another piece of the Spike and Chill collection. The subject of this painting is a character from the film Do the Right Thing. I was particularly inspired by one scene in this movie where the character MOOKIE is arguing with an Italian shop owner he knows about some of the racist stereotypes black people commonly encounter.
HOODIE GOODIES: I think I remember this scene from the movie. It's a pretty charged scene.
TRE: Oh yeah, that scene is really crazy and has a lot of critical analysis of racial stereotypes in America.
HOODIE GOODIES: Can you tell us more about this scene? I think we may post a video of the scene with the article.
TRE: Sure. In this scene, Mookie addresses his Italian colleague, who says that famous black athletes, musicians, and actors, because of their wealth and achievement, are not “black” or “n-----s”. Mookie tries to explain to his Italian colleague there isn’t a difference between one black person and another simply because of their celebrity status, and that the word “n-----r”, so freely used by his Italian associate, is degrading and derogatory. Mookie tries to bring awareness that using such a phrase to describe unaccomplished black people helps fuel stereotypes. The scene then has a vignette of different characters, of differing races, expressing racist stereotypes against each other, poking fun at the idea of stereotypes across all racial boundaries. I found this to be an especially powerful message and it’s why I made Mookie the central subject of this piece.
HOODIE GOODIES: What is your favorite part of MOOKIE?
TRE: My favorite aspect of this painting is the background with its vibrant use of red, blue, and white. I wanted the white ‘light’ of the background to reflect and almost serve as a spotlight on the character, who is the central force in the film.
Painting by Tre Wilkes "Mookie"
G PHI G
HOODIE GOODIES: This is our favorite painting! What's the name of this piece and what's going on here for our audience at home?
TRE: So the name of this painting is G PHI G and it is an oil on wood painting. This is another piece from my Spike and Chill collection. The subject of this painting is a character named Vaughn Dunlap portrayed by actor Lawrence Fishbourne from the film School Daze.
HOODIE GOODIES: This painting is interesting, it reminds me of like Hindu deities with the multiple arms. What are we seeing here?
TRE: This painting is partially inspired by the work of a favorite artist of mine, Sean Barber. Barber always tries to express or convey themes of physical expression and dynamic movement within his paintings. Likewise, I wanted to portray a sense of ‘motion’ by incorporating the extra arms. The arms are supposed to reflect the motions of the hand signs the fraternity utilizes in the film. The painting is named after the film’s fraternity.
HOODIE GOODIES: Why did you choose this character as the subject of the painting?
TRE: I chose the character of Vaughn as a subject because he is a young black student who is very aware of the political injustices against blacks and tries to educate his fellow peers to be conscious of their black identity and struggle. Throughout the film, he is at odds with the school administration and other students who believe they have achieved a good standard of equality and don’t want to disrupt the system further. As a result, Vaughn finds that his idea of racial equality is different from what he views to be a reduced and conceited perspective of the school. I feel the struggle Vaughn’s character endures through the film is resonant with the current black community today.
Painting by Tre Wilkes "G PHI G"
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For more information on Tre Wilkes check out his website at https://trewilkes.com
TUNE IN NEXT WEEK FOR THE SECOND PART OF OUR INTERVIEW SERIES WITH TRE!