ST. PETERSBURG — The thought-provoking art of Everett Spruill will be exhibited at Gallerie 909, located at 909 22nd St. S., starting June 13. The exhibit will showcase two of Spruill’s mixed media series: one dedicated to reparations for slavery and one to freedom of speech.
The freedom of speech series is comprised of words and objects thrown together in a controlled chaos of color, with images of microphones, cameras, negatives of filmstrips, faceless figures with raised fists and other striking images interspersed with snippets of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. African themes are prevalent in the reparations series, as in his piece “True to Our Native Land,” which is dominated by a stark, earthy African mask surrounded by bright colors and abstract shapes.
“Both of these series are definitely abstract in the style of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg,” Spruill explained.
Originally, from Birmingham, Ala., Spruill has been an Orlando resident since 1986. A self-taught artist, he has always strived to express himself with a variety of media.
“I use everything from magazine pages to house paint,” the 61 year old admitted. “I use acrylics, pastels, I use everything!”
Some of his other works are reminiscent of abstract master Pablo Picasso, with bold blocks of colors and geometric shapes, as in his vibrant still life “Wine Fruit And Cheese For Two.” Though he has portrayed a variety of subjects, musicians are a recurring theme for Spruill.
“I’ve been inspired by music,” he said. “I’ve worked with a lot of local musicians and have done portraits of them, album covers. I license some of those pieces for Jazzfest posters, and I have a lot of requests from people to do certain musicians. It’s a genre that’s very successful for me.”
Spruill employs various styles in these works, such as the collage from magazine pages in “Blues Boy,” which depicts the faceless figure of a guitar player and the canvas giclee in “New Orleans Trio,” which portrays three striking jazzmen fiercely blowing into their horns and tapping away at the drums.
He credits both of his parents for helping him down his artistic path, as the creative environment in which he grew up provided a starting point.
“I actually grew up creating art,” he attested. “My mom’s a fashion designer, my dad was a general contractor, so I spent a lot of time working with wood, fabric, sewing, making furniture, that sort of thing. I’ve been drawing and painting all my life.”
Though he admits it is more of a hobby for him, Spruill also is adept at photography.
“My mom was also a photographer so I grew up with a camera in my hand,” Spruill said. “I still do a lot of photography. Most of the time I’ll take photos at jazz concerts and use those photos as models to paint.”
After obtaining a degree in business management, Spruill managed hotels and restaurants for 14 years before taking the leap and open his own artistic space in the ‘80s.
“I decided to go ahead and do my own thing,” he recalled, “so I opened a gallery back in 1989. And after that didn’t work I realized I didn’t need the overhead, I could just create the artwork.”
These days he has distributors and publishers that sell his work for posters, book covers and book illustrations, and have had success in selling individual works.
“I have placed a few pieces in hotels and restaurants, but the goal is to do a few thousand rooms!” he quipped with a laugh. “My real goal is to do museum shows.”
But for Spruill, the most rewarding thing is sharing his gift with people who really appreciate it, he said.
“I just did a portrait of the mother of one of my clients, and it helps immortalize people as well as add to my legacy,” he affirmed. “For the most part I just enjoy creating. I would probably do this even if I didn’t get paid!”