Lisa Whittington lives in Georgia but is a progeny of Harlem, NY. New York instilled in her a rich sense of art, culture, experience, and drive and taught her to dream and hustle to make them a reality. Growing up in poverty, she learned firsthand how to use what she had. Tenacity was a daily meal. Curiosity quenched her thirst. High up on the rooftop or the windows of the 6thfloor tenement, her eyes would often scan the city far and wide. She could feel the vibrations of the city and it made her soul dance.
Growing up, the music her mother played was always soulful and told the stories of her life and the people in her environment.The birth of Hip Hop, gave her words of expression to fill spaces in her heart that she didn’t understand. Their rhythm and beats would later find their way into her art.
Riding the subway she would watch the expressions of people and that gave her narratives beyond her own struggles. She met humanity on their faces. The graffiti on the street and subway walls were her first museum experience with no admission ticket. She always gave pause to the colors and techniques of street artists because they colored her world and nurtured her love for words. Lisa lived in a tenement home full of people, conflict and trials. When she wasn’t looking out the window she would often find a corner to sit by herself and read, write, and make art out of any little thing she could find.
Far Rockaway High School recognized that Lisa was a Renaissance child and placed her in a Humanities Arts program where her curiosities and skills began to bud and thrive and she began to make connections between art and society. Recognized for her potential, she received a full scholarship to CW Post College.
Her New York education challenged her to spend time in museums and think critically about what she observes.
Lisa is influenced by several artists including Frida Kahlo, Jean Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Picasso, and Romare Bearden. But Van Gogh’s Starry Night painting became the ultimate fore bearer of her will to paint. She stood in front of that painting amazed that wind had color and rhythm. The painting broke the rules of traditional art. Starry Night allowed her to time travel and she loved the feeling staring into the painting gave her. In learning the history of the artist, she remains intrigued how he was overlooked when he was alive.
Her collegiate studies in the Humanities and Art History greatly helped her to see the value in documenting life, culture, history, and experience on canvas. She took a cue from Steven Spielberg who documented and packaged the history of his people in a creative film called Schindler’s List. As an artist and a African American, she felt it was important to document the narratives and history of her own culture and have them preserved on museum walls for generations to come so the stories of Black people as well as her own life are told.
Lisa's work is historic, emotional, political, and symbolic and embedded with autobiographical and spiritual references. She has evolved into a collagist storytelling painter.
She is a muse to several artists and photographers.
In 2017, Lisa was sought out by NBC News to give her conjecture on Dana Shultz’ Open Casket painting of Emmett Till and
the protest that took place at the Whitney Museum at the Whitney Biennial and to discuss her own process of painting Emmett Till. The Reece Museum in Tennessee also hosted Lisa to discuss racism and social justice in the arts.
Always keeping in mind the power of art education in her life, Lisa chose to make a masterpiece of teaching art. Disturbed by the conditions of Art Education in inner city schools, Lisa Whittington earned her doctorate at the University of Georgia in 2014 and conducted research that would improve the quality of art education for children living in impoverished communities around the nation. Dr. Whittington has also taught Humanities Arts at several universities, including courses such as Feminists Arts, Giants of the Arts, Visual and Media Literacy.
Lisa is also a speaker and delivered an inspiring TED talk entitled “What Does Art Want With You?” Dr. Lisa Whittington is a unique and passionate artist and is currently searching for the right gallery to represent her work.
Artistic Photo Credit: Erskine Isaac