The Contemporary Arts Network in Newport News recently featured artist Hampton Boyer, a figurative painter and self-taught artist, who creates graphics, paintings and murals.
- [Hampton] I was born in Pittsburgh.
My mom was homesick and so we moved down to Newport News.
I wasn't good at sports, so I picked up skateboarding
and through that outlet, I was exposed to independence.
Going to the skate shop it was like going to an art show.
All these different companies have different graphics.
And so that's imagery that is soaked into my mind.
My high school years when I started to go skateboard more
and the appetite of being a professional skateboarder
was like more of like, that's what I wanted to do
but everyone has that pipe dream.
Once I realized I was gonna have a hard time
I geared more into artwork.
I got heavy into painting
as if it was my job or my life depended on it.
I just hit the ground running.
And the universe kind of opened up.
My friend, John is in town.
He was like, "Yo, I'm starting to gallery."
"And I want you to be the first show."
And I just was like, so hyped.
At that time I was just the artist
who was just trying to be an artist without any
concept of art history or form or composition.
This is kind of outsider art.
I had to learn the enjoyment that you get
from seeing other people respond well
to something that you make.
And so that moment helped me
with my confidence of being an artist.
The bird was a doodle that turned into something
that I was doing like on a repetitive motion
It spoke to like birds of a feather flock together.
So I made this character that had his own crazy wings.
- [woman] I know it sounds silly dear,
but do it for me please.
- That prompts, isolation,
and feeling like you're not part of the masses
but it also promoted individuality and expression of self.
You might see a bird holding a peace pipe
or having a six-pack.
Until I realized the bird was vicariously me.
I was drawing out a lot of frustration,
how you fit in with the world around you.
I had this idea for fully-charged paradise
and fully-charged paradise was a narrative
of how the bird came to be.
My friends Travis, Chad, and Gary
sonically helped me put this vision together.
And we ended up doing an exhibition
at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center.
They performed the music.
I got in the bird outfit.
And we had dancers and it was a real celebration.
After I brought the bird to life,
I started to gravitate away from it
because I felt that it was going to box me in
as a certain type of artist.
The name of this painting is called Catapult.
We had just got a dog.
Everything was cool for a while.
And then every time we would leave the house
we would experience her starting to act kind of frantic.
And so it remind me of the feeling
of how it felt when I lost my mother.
My mom is my best, best, best, best, best friend.
She just was a huge supporter
for everything that I was doing.
She had breast cancer and then she went into remission.
And then about a year or so later, her cancer has come back.
That was like a really tough time for me
just because she knew how much I have more to learn.
My brother called me and he was like,
"Mom took her last breaths."
And I just couldn't really feel anything.
That safety net that was provided
once it was cut from underneath of me,
I had to realize where I was in the world.
After experiencing a loss like that,
I was able to cherish those moments of life.
That created a new limit for me.
I wanted all my artwork
to be gigantic in concept and execution.
I felt that I could no longer,
as an African-American artist,
do something that didn't talk about racism
and these systemic backwards mentalities that we have
and this oppression.
That body of work those were like my first real paintings.
I just had to touch on subjects that meant a lot to me.
I'm a part of an avant-garde hip-hop group
called Tunny Crew.
We're writing a new record called Black Spirituals.
Black Spirituals is a three-part project.
One part of it is a concept album,
another is a walkthrough of the album.
And then third is the film.
It's a coming to age tale
of four young black boys who are lured in
into this fantastical world,
where we look at avenues within black culture,
that we face.
♪ To get you the cash. ♪
♪ The cash that you could spend so free. ♪
We prepared the walkthrough version
where the viewers will become the first person
or the main character.
You really get the feeling of being in that space.
♪ Stephanie told me now you in trouble. ♪
To write a story like this with my friends
is something special.
Ace it, worked really hard, path, killed it.
And I feel like I grew a lot in this project.
Everyday seems so full.
Dude, I don't know whether to be the artist
or if I should curate the next show or write a new song.
Because yo, I cried and I done sweated
and I did fought for this.
And it's a dream come true.
(rap music playing)