“I can communicate through art the beauties of nature and life that others may be denied.”
Raymond Broady is a Chicago native who has a long career in architecture. He is also a painter whose primary medium is watercolors. Similar to how writer Jack London observed the world, Raymond’s impetus is emphasizing man’s delicate relationship toward his physical environment.
For Raymond that space is the African Diaspora – street scenes from Chicago’s South Side and Bahia to the stillness of rural Mississippi and Goree Island. Yet he shrugs off the notion that his skills are a gift. It’s merely a different lens in which he sees the world.
“Because of my training, I see things — some things in nature, some activities taking place between individuals or groups of individuals — in an artistic, aesthetic way,” Broady says.
“I can compose what I am able to see, hear and think into an art form that can be enjoyed and better understood by those without the practiced eye.”
Ever since his preschool days, he has pursued art. Raymond’s mother fostered his talent early on when she noticed his many art related hobbies. His elementary school drawings led his mother to enroll him in art classes at Jane Addams Hull House, the YMCA, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Boys Club – basically any venue she could find and afford.
During those years Raymond soaked in his surroundings, which influenced his identity and sense capturing how people relate to their space. He grew up in a city of ethnic neighborhoods that were different and in some ways similar to the West side housing project where his family lived. In high school, Raymond chose the curriculum that offered him the one chance to satisfy his quest for drawing – architectural. There, he began to acquire the technical skills that are so much a part of his work. So began the marriage of the creative artist’s eye and the trained craftsman’s hand.
Matriculating to Wilson Junior College and later to the University of Illinois, Raymond found classes in his chosen field of architecture challenging. Along with other students of color he formed lasting bonds as they struggled with a difficult curriculum and a less-than-promising future — in a field where success in getting commissions to design buildings was often based on the good old boys’ club.
One class he took was watercolors. An uninspiring professor advised the young Broady that he would fail the course, and that as an African-American he should seek a different career path to better serve his community. That included being a carpenter or general contractor. Raymond earned an A in the class (probably to the chagrin of the instructor) and developed a love for the watercolor medium. He received his B.A. in architecture from the University of Illinois in 1963, and his license to practice architecture in 1966.
That same year, 1966, Raymond’s first child Henri was born and he took a trip that would help to shape his artistic future. He traveled Mississippi’s Route 61 from Memphis through the Delta to Baton Rouge and on to New Orleans. His fascination with rural, residential architecture began during this four-day road trip. Quite a contrast from his urban upbringing. After that first visit to the region, Raymond produced a series of works depicting the shanties of poor sharecroppers and the remnants of antebellum mansions. Through paintings of its buildings, the artist showed the disparities between the poorest and the richest members of a society — disparities that continue from pre-Civil War days.
“I see myself in many of the subject I paint. I paint ordinary, everyday often plain scenes often in poorer neighborhoods. With a practiced eye I can see the beauty, the richness, the color, the soul in these settings that often go unnoticed by the untrained eye. I try to see and understand the relationships between nature and man, and between individuals in a particular setting. I compose a painting that represents my perspective of what is taking place.”
The artist uses shades and shadows to portray his subject matter. While maintaining a successful architectural practice, Raymond continues to travel the globe. These journeys end up as the muses for series of works that reflect the lives of everyday people. The depictions are often in hues of blues and pinks when painting straw market ladies or the warmth of the Caribbean.
But the interpretation of everyday people can also hit a solemn note. His Katrina Gallery paintings reflect the devastation in terms of human suffering of the New Orleans hurricane.
“My personal life experiences, my soul, are then reflected in the paintings that follow. I must fulfill a need for personal expression,” Raymond says. He recalls a visit to the historic district of Salvador (Bahia) in 1992, which was the milieu of his painting of a large building doorway dating from the 1500s. Across the doorsill, a homeless man slept. When Raymond returned in 2002, he found the same gentleman resting across that doorway. Political statements painted on buildings, children roaming and playing in the streets, women hanging out of windows while gazing at the street scenes, and Recife slum dwellers going about their daily routines all became his subjects.
A trip to Senegal in 1996 produced myriad works. Raymond was particularly struck by his visit to a fishing village. He repeatedly painted scenes of fishermen banding together to pull a large, colorful wooden boat ashore. An inland village trip produced works focusing on women working and children gathered around.
That same year marked another turning point in the artist’s life. While touring historically black college campuses with his teenage daughter Kristen, Raymond made his first trip back to Mississippi in more than 30 years. Father and daughter found what they sought. She chose Alcorn State University and he found the needed solace from his workaholic lifestyle as an architect. The place and the people drew him in. He often said that he wanted to do a little architecture in Mississippi to support his desire to capture its essence in his paintings.
Opening a second architectural office in Jackson, he frequented Mississippi’s back roads, continually mesmerized by the landscape. The virtually abandoned village of Rodney resulted in a much sought after painting of a tumble down house. The Port Gibson courthouse and the grand ruins of Windsor Plantation became his subjects. His daughter’s experiences in the Alcorn State University Sounds-of-Dynamite Marching Band proved fodder for the artist’s palette. The Marching Band was selected for exhibition in the Mississippi Museum of Art, while the House in Rodney was exhibited by the Vicksburg Watercolor Society. The late Dr. Clinton Bristow, president of Alcorn State University, commissioned a painting of the historic Alcorn Chapel, dating from the 1830s and constructed by slaves.
Having won numerous awards, his works were selected for the annual juried Black Creativity Art Exhibit at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry for five consecutive years. One painting received an award during the 2006 show. Raymond also served as a judge on the panel to select architectural projects to be exhibited during the 2006 Black Creativity programming.
His paintings hang in the private collections of buyers in Chicago, Oakland, CA, Washington D.C., Vicksburg and Jackson MS, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil and other cities around the world. Listed among those collectors who have chosen works by Mr. Broady are the Honorable Andrew Young and Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks. His paintings hang in the collections of the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center in Jackson, MS., and the Amsterdam Sauer private art museum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Mr. Broady’s paintings have been exhibited in Chicago’s DuSable Museum of African-American History, the Mississippi Museum of Art, and Chicago’s Museum of Science an Industry, as well as in galleries in Chicago, Jackson and Vicksburg, MS and New Orleans, LA.
Technical skills acquired from my years as an architect contribute to and form the baseline of my art. Life experiences, family, friends and community in general add the soul that helps to make me the artist that I truly want to be, Broady says.
Exhibits and Collectors:
- Federal Reserve Bank of New Orleans
- Hampton University Juried Art Show
- Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center, Jackson MS – Permanent Collection
- DuSable Museum of African-American History, Chicago, IL
- Mississippi Museum Of Art, Jackson MS, Juried Art Exhibit
- Vicksburg, MS Watercolor Society, Juried Art Exhibit
- Museum Of Science And Industry, Chicago, IL, Juried Art Exhibit (six years)
- Southside Community Art Center, Chicago, IL
- Private collection of Amsterdam Sauer, Rio de Janeiro Brazil
- Private collection of Mr. Ernie Banks, Chicago, IL
- Private collection of The Honorable Andrew Young, Atlanta GA
- Private collection of Alcorn State University, Lorman, MS
- Private collection of Mr. and Mrs. Leo Frazier, Chicago, IL
- Private collection of Mr. and Mrs. Leo Franklin, Chicago, IL
- Private collection of Dr. William and Glenda Ashley, Flosmore, IL
- Private collection of Dr. and Mrs. William Lester Sr., Oakland, CA
- Private collection of Mr. and Mrs. Keith Coiley, West Chicago, IL
- Private collection of Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Diamond, Charolette NC
- Private collection of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Johnson, Evanston, IL
- Private collection of Mr. and Mrs. Marvin Gray, Chicago, IL
- Private collection of Dr. and Mrs. John Watson, Daley City, CA
Raymond Broady’s paintings may be purchased through:
The Susan Woodson Gallery of Fine Art
5121 South Drexel Ave
Chicago, IL 60615
Phone: 773 288 6063
Stella Jones Gallery
201 St. Charles Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70170
Phone: 504 568 9050
— Natalie Y. Moore