Finding strength in vulnerability: How these artists are celebrating black men through portraits

One day, artist Oluseye looked at his studio wall — postered with photos to inspire his paintings — and realized that it had become a beautiful mural of black men.

'You can look in everyone's eyes and know there's a story'

"I wanted to do this as a way to give black men in this city a sense of being, a sense of belonging and a sense of knowing that they're valued" - Toronto-based artist Oluseye 3:53

One day, Toronto-based artist Oluseye looked at his studio wall — postered with photos of faces to inspire his paintings — and realized that it had become a beautiful mural of black men. He wanted to fill a room with these faces. He wanted to show black men's vulnerability and the diversity of their spirits.

Oluseye with his Room Full of Black Boys. (CBC Arts)

This is how A Room Full of Black Boys, his collaboration with photographer Jah Grey, was born. Oluseye and Grey spent two weeks photographing over 300 black men across Toronto, then postered their faces on a wall with Oluseye's signature pastel, chalk and acrylic work on top.

I wanted to do this as a way to give black men in this city a sense of being, a sense of belonging and a sense of knowing that they're valued.- Oluseye

In this video, we see Oluseye installing the exhibition at Toronto's Blank Canvas Gallery as he tells us about why this installation was so important for him to create.

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About the Author

Mercedes Grundy

Mercedes Grundy has been producing videos for CBC Arts and Exhibitionists since 2015. She is a unabashed Leonardo DiCaprio enthusiast with an educational background in photography, and produces film and theatre when not busy here at the CBC. And while her love for the arts does not discriminate, she openly acknowledges she is a horrible dancer.

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