ST. PETERSBURG — In the upcoming exhibit “She Is Music,” the focus of the August Art Walk presented by Gallerie 909, artist Salaam Muhammad melds musical instruments with the female form seamlessly and sensually.
With such striking paintings as “The Viofem,” “Saxopose” and “The Balletic Tune,” Muhammad presents musical instruments not merely as an extension of a woman’s body, but as the very essence of it, creating an effective and powerful union between the curves of the violin, sax and trumpet with the natural curves of female forms.
“I basically related the instruments—the sound of the instruments—to a woman, maybe a woman’s expression,” Muhammad explained. “‘She Is Music’ was inspired by instruments. The sound of the instruments, the expression, is similar to a woman and her expression—the way she calms you down, the way her voice is like music, her expression, her soul, her heart.”
The up-and-coming artist from Plainville, N.J., is self-taught, and at only 24 has already had his work featured in such prestigious shows as the Harlem Fine Arts Show in New York. “She Is Music” will mark the first time Muhammad’s work will be featured in Florida.
Even at a young age, Muhammad found himself drawn into the world of art.
“Initially I always wanted to do something with art,” he said. “I wanted to be a cartoonist. I wanted to work with Disney; I wanted to work with DreamWorks, Pixar. This was my dream when I was younger.”
As he got older Muhammad met such established and renowned African-American artists as Frank Morrison, Edwin Lester and Kadir Nelson who ultimately inspired the budding artist to pick up the paintbrush.
“That’s what really got me on the ball,” Muhammad said. “Actually painting from my soul and my spirit.”
He calls his style as a sort of surreal realism: “Surreal being the images that are real put into other images that are real—that really have no relation of being together at that time—but have relation when you actually compare them,” he said.
Describing himself as a passionate and spiritual person, Muhammad has also produced moving works with words of Scripture depicted upon the bodies of various African-American subjects—whether it is a young woman experiencing a spiritual awakening (“Words Never Heard”), a young man facing oncoming bullets (“Justifiable Homicide”), which is focused around senseless murders, or a teary-eyed child staring straight ahead with a halo of light around his head. He hopes people can make a connection in their own lives between the portraits and the words of scripture.
“A lot of people go through basic and daily struggles in their life,” Muhammad pointed out. “When they see those scriptures in the painting, they’ll go ahead and look up those scriptures.”
Always striving to be an innovator, he believes in stepping outside the box and aims to leave his unique, distinctive mark upon the art world. But it starts at the human level. And to see the people’s reaction to his work is the most rewarding thing, he admitted, as it has the potential to change them and have an impact on their lives.
Opening reception for Muhammad’s “She Is Music” is Aug. 8 from 5-9 p.m., and the Artist Talk begins at 7 p.m. Live music and refreshments will be available. Gallerie 909 is located at 909 22nd St. S.