ST. PETERSBURG — “Rooted in Art,” an exhibit featuring the art of Anthony Burks, Sr. will open on July 11 and will run through August 1 at Gallerie 909, located at 909 22nd Street S.
Burks, a lifelong resident of West Palm Beach, Fla., said the central concept of the show will be natural beauty, with a focus on combing nature with the black female form. A large part of his oeuvre consists of the natural world, as the artist finds himself drawn to animals and birds of all kinds.
“I love nature,” the 47 year old said simply. “Animals are beautiful. All my pieces I start in the eyes, the eyes tell you the story of what the animal is feeling or going through.”
In his “Color Birds” series, Burks depicts such species as the kingfisher, the golden-cheeked warbler and the Florida cardinal. Most times in the birds’ habitats their colors are not as vibrant, he said, as it is necessary for them to hide from danger. Yet in this series Burks presents these birds with incredible eye-popping color, giving them a new life.
“I do a twist on that,” he said. “You know, change the colors, make them my own.”
Another winged creature that figures prominently in Burks’s work is the butterfly, which the artist sees as “eyes of Mother Nature.” He describes his “Mother Nature” series as a “combination of nature and our black heritage,” and the pieces in this series feature not only a central female figure enmeshed in the natural world but such archetypical images as the sun, moon and trees. Each of these works includes a female form and butterfly, among other things, and the female is all the more striking as she is depicted ostensibly without eyes.
“The eyes of the woman are not there,” Burks explained. “They are in the butterfly.”
Though he uses pastels, watercolors and acrylics, Burks estimates that 75 percent of his pieces are done with colored pencils. He got his start early in life coloring, and gives much credit to his upbringing. As his mother had helped raised her siblings, Burks explained, one of her pastimes was to color in coloring books.
“But when she drew in coloring books, she took it to another level!” Burks pointed out. “What she could do with a crayon was amazing! I used to watch her perform. It got me going.”
The artist affirmed that he doesn’t have a style you can pin down, as he is always striving to be different.
“One thing I’ve done over the years is always try to focus on really newer things,” he said. “Trying to do something that the other artists are not trying to do.”
Burks enjoys the rewarding feeling of seeing people appreciate his work firsthand at events and exhibits, and especially loves to see youngsters appreciate what he calls his gift, and that it is able to cheer them up or make them happy.
“One thing I do is if I see a kid or a child that’s interested in my art,” he said,
“I always feel like I have to give them something—give them one of my pieces or something—because they admired it. It gives me joy.”
To reach Frank Drouzas, email firstname.lastname@example.org