Having long followed the work of Glenn Hardy Jr, whose stunning portraits visually reminded me of the great African-American renaissance painters of the 1920s and 1930s, yet retained a 21st-century spirit and sensibility, I was compelled to extend an invitation to him to tell me more about his story thus far. Fortunately, the young and extremely affable artist graciously accepted, and the rest is history.
Glenn Hardy Jr, artistically known as Glennardo, in his own words:
How long have you been painting, and at what point did you consider yourself a professional artist?
I have been painting actual canvas for about three years now. It started with drawing as a child, and as I was entering my final year in high school and throughout college, I was painting tennis shoes. Once I graduated college, I had the opportunity to sit down and actually work on a canvas and I loved it! To be honest, I still wouldn’t consider myself a professional artist. Yes, I have had the honor to share my work with people via social media and a few exhibitions, but I still have a full-time job that I’m hoping I’ll be able to leave in the future so that I can focus all of my time on painting.
2. Tell us a bit about your background. Where were you born and raised, and what was your upbringing like?
Of course, well, my name is Glenn Hardy Jr.; I am a self-taught artist born in Washington DC, raised in Waldorf, Maryland (MD). I grew up as the youngest child and only son. I was blessed to have had both of my parents around my entire life, and I believe that played a huge role in who I am today.
3. Where do you currently live and work now?
As of right now, I do still currently live and work in MD, with plans on moving in the near future.
4. Your work today pays homage to the African - American experience, from intimate domestic scenes to the mundane and everyday. What drew you to capture these moments, and what do they mean to you?
Yes, I try to make it my duty to capture Black people in situations where they aren’t seen as either dangerous or in danger. I place these dark skin individuals in comfortable situations to show the viewers that we’re just human like everyone else. It’s like every single day there’s a new name of a Black person being harmed for little to no reason at all. Aside from that, in our normal everyday lives, we can often be looked at as a menace to society before people even get to know us as an individual. For these reasons, I try to paint the picture of Black people being comfortable, something I often call an oxymoron.
5. I noted with great interest that you are invested in the marriage between contemporary art and high fashion, which has become a mainstay of late. What do you enjoy most about the parallels between the two worlds?
While I do enjoy fashion, it doesn’t necessarily have to be high fashion for me. I love putting together basic pieces and making it look high end when it all comes together. What I enjoy most about the two is that they both allow you to be who you are unapologetically. With art, you are able to tell a story, a story some people may not understand; some people may not like or even be interested in; the same goes for fashion. Fashion is unique in so many ways that it can also tell a story about an individual, whether it be where they come from depending on the fabric designs, how they see colors, their level of confidence, and so much more. Being able to intertwine the two brings a new level of expression out of you.
6. Name three fashion brands you would love to collaborate with, and why?
If I had to choose three fashion brands to collaborate with, they would probably be Telfar, Off-White and the last one is a toss-up.
I say Telfar because myself and others have enjoyed the paintings that I created on a few of their bags. Also, it is a Black-owned company that makes bags affordable for just about everyone. I chose Off-White because I enjoy how different it is in terms of the creative aspect. I love the way certain things are constructed in a deconstructed manner that, to me, reveal things you wouldn’t normally see on an everyday basis, which is what a lot of my paintings revolve around. I also believe that Off-white should have more black creators. Lastly, it is hard to choose, but I want to say Beyoncé, and her Ivy Park line because she embodies what it means to be a strong Black woman of many shades, shapes and sizes, and I enjoy that.
7. As a young contemporary artist with great promise and an undoubtedly bright future, which emerging and established artists inspire you most, and why?
Wow, I truly appreciate the faith you have in me, that means a lot. I get inspired every day by so many things; it’s hard to keep focus on what I want to express at one given time. As far as emerging artist that inspire me, I would say: Malik Roberts, Khari Turner, Osaze, Collins
Obijiaku and Derek Fordjour if he can be considered emerging. Those are only a few of many! When it comes to established artists, I would say my inspirations are: Kerry James Marshall, Annie Lee, Ernie Barnes, Jacob Lawrence, Basquiat, Kehinde Wiley; there’s so many. However, out of all the artists listed, I will say that Kerry James Marshall is my biggest inspiration.
8. As the global art world has been impacted by Covid-19, how has the lockdown impacted your art?
I would honestly say that COVID-19 is a terrible thing that’s happened, and I send my condolences for all of the lives lost during this time. It has been very bad for a lot of people, and there’s been some light in it as well. Although the pros may not outweigh the cons, this time of stability has opened the eyes of a lot of people as to what is going on in other communities around the world aside from COVID. It allowed certain voices to be amplified and acknowledged in a way that may not have been possible if it weren’t for the lockdown. It gave me a clearer focus on my works, people’s thoughts, and how we’re perceived. It gave artists like myself a broader audience to share our feelings with.
9. While Covid-19 has taken the art world by storm, the world has also been rocked by the ongoing protest against police brutality in the U.S. and globally, as well as the recent US general election. Do you believe, as an artist, you have a role to play to raise awareness and document the times, or do you take the view that artists should not mix with politics?
Do I believe artists play a role in raising awareness? Yes, 1,000 percent. Art from a historical perspective has always been about what’s going on around the respective artists at that moment in time. Artists create to express, to portray and to speak on things they may not have the words to explain. Politics and art go hand in hand more often than not. We as Black artists are chronicles of life; being Black, Black talents, Black "comfort" and Black voice. We visualize perspective in how black people should be viewed for those that claim to be visual learners. I, personally, always say that public speaking has never been a strength of mine, but there's a lot to be said to the public. My intentions are to turn your eyes into ears so that you can hear where we're coming from.
10. What is next for you as an artist, and what can we expect in the future?
What’s next for me… well, I am working diligently to get my work in more exhibitions, shows and collections. I just want people to be able to see our story with hopes that they’ll understand or at least try to. I still have a ways to go, but I am staying consistent; I know my chance is coming.
I can’t go without saying thank you so much for the opportunity to be featured! I truly appreciate your love for my work and the willingness to reach out wanting to learn more about me.
By: Raphael K. Dapaah, Art Contributor