Richard Mayhew, Untitled, 2008.
While he is best known for his work as a landscape painter, at various points in his life Richard Mayhew was a jazz singer, a first sergeant in the Marines, a porcelain painter, and a professor. He was also a founding member of Spiral, a group of Black painters in 1960s New York, and at 99 is its last living member. Age has not slowed Mayhew down. He continues to create the abstract, vividly colored landscapes for which he is known, drawing inspiration from his African-American and Native American ancestry. “I’m painting forty acres and a mule,” the artist said of one of his paintings.
He was referring to the federal government’s infamous broken promise to freed slaves, and also to the government’s theft of indigenous homelands. Mayhew’s paintings are a spiritual reclamation of the land stripped from his ancestors. —P.P.