This autobiographical painting is set in the 1980s, during the artist's childhood. The artist's practice is rooted in collage, and he creates his compositions on wood surfaces—employing painted paper, recycled materials, wire, fabric and more. Seemingly disparate individual elements come together into a cohesive scene depicting the artist's youth; layer upon layer of lived experience challenge the dominant narratives perpetuated about the Black American experience. Nesbitt's works are full of joy, with bold primary colors that allude to the innocence of youth. This work evokes storybook pictures—a rare possession in the impoverished community the artist grew up in. Yet this composition emanates a continuing fondness for the artist's childhood. This work entrances all who gaze upon them with an aura of nostalgia, unity and hope. The artist does not merely construct elegant collages—he builds community.
About this work, Nesbitt says: "Rapping, beatboxing and breakdancing made for some fun times in the old neighborhood! I was still learning to dance like Michael Jackson when everyone had moved on to spinning and headstands on pieces of cardboard or linoleum flooring. The athleticism and flexibility of the kids who breakdanced was incredible! These impromptu performances always drew a crowd and often turned into block parties attracting kids and adults from all over the neighborhood. When rap music arrived it felt like my friends and I had music that was our own, made specifically for us!"
Melvin Nesbitt Jr.’s storytelling and visual arts practice is a poignant examination of race and poverty in contemporary society. In collage and mixed media works, the artist orchestrates cohesive scenes of his youth from bold saturated primary colors and seemingly disparate individual elements—including painted paper, wire and fabric. By portraying the joyful innocence of his childhood, Nesbitt Jr.’s work reconceivies the Black American experience.