ST. PETERSBURG — Gallerie 909 featured the “Change Gonna Come” exhibit of mixed media artwork by ZuluPainter Sat., Nov. 14 as a part of its weekend Gallery Walk Series.
On a cool evening on the Deuces, ZuluPainter, aka Carlos Culbertson, greeted patrons as they entered the gallery to experience his bluesy array of visual talent from canvas murals of James Brown and Billie Holiday to mixed media sculptures with names like “Faith” and “Sacrifice.”
“I figure I’ve been a visual artist since elementary school,” said Culbertson, a native of West Virginia who has lived in the Bay area for the past 12 years.
Culbertson reminisced about getting a piece of candy and a gold star for winning a folder art contest in primary school where his love for visual art began.
“That’s the first time I remember actually creating art on purpose.”
Culbertson also attributed his love of creating art to “great teachers, mentors and tutors who encouraged” him to create and learn as much as he could. “That just gave my imagination an explosion,” said Culbertson. And the explosion of creativity is definitely evident in Culbertson’s rendering of James Brown.
“When you’re an artist, you try to go all out and do as much as you can with the time given and really dig in deep,” said Culbertson.
Culbertson really dug in deep with the mural featuring Billy Holiday. The hauntingly beautiful canvas is life-sized to symbolize the enormous blues musical genius of Lady Day. The black and white portrait of her face not only mimics the media of her time but also reveals the toil and pain that Holiday encountered as an African-American woman who was restricted to singing in only “colored” clubs.
Even more graphically mesmerizing is his close to life-sized canvas of Serena Williams completing one of her powerful swings for glory as a reigning tennis champion. In the lower part of Williams’ adult figure, Culbertson painted Williams as a child tennis prodigy under her father’s tutelage looking and aiming high. A beautiful blue sky with puffy white clouds rises to fill in the grown physique of Williams to her upper torso.
The soundtrack for Culbertson’s exhibit vibrated through the gallery walls from the courtyard outside where a local live band played soul music from the 1960s and early 1970s. Patrons leisurely strolled into the exhibit from the new BBQ restaurant and Chief’s Creole Café. Seeing patrons flow from one venue to another is reminiscent of strolling down Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
Culbertson, a family man and father of a one-year-old boy and three-year-old girl, acknowledged how his zest and love for the arts at a young age blossomed into a life-long career because the encouragement of family, teachers, and friends strengthened his motivation.
“Change will come if you commit yourself to keep on doing more,” he finished.