Marvin Posey Jr. - Artist






Marvin Posey Jr. - Performance” artist who painted colorful works before an audience while listening to live music, who had exhibited nationwide, died Feb. 26, 2003 of a heart attack after a performance in Atlanta at age 38.

Assistant Director of Public Relations and Publications

   Posey was born Aug. 28, 1964, in Fort Bragg, N.C. His father, Marvin Posey Sr., a captain in the Army, traveled throughout the nation with his family-- son, Marvin; daughter, Angela; and wife, Annie-- before being stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky., where the family finally settled.
   Even as a child, Marvin Posey Jr. was fascinated by color, mixing different packets of Kool-Aid together to create new colors and flavors.
   "Color plays an important role in our lives," he says. "Most people take that for granted." But for him, colors "kind of evolve."
   "Sometimes it's by accident, and sometimes I just go with the flow," he says. "I can see color on the blank canvas. I'll conceive of the colors, and then I'll just blend the paint until I get what I see."
   But Posey, 32, didn't start out doing oil-based works. Intimidated by paint, he initially worked with color markers, pastel and pencil, impressing his family and teachers with his natural talent and winning many contests.
   As a student at Clarksville High School, he had an exhibit at the Knoxville Museum of Art. Teachers and fellow students nominated and awarded him with the "Artist of the Year" award. In his senior year, he was asked to create numerous illustrations in the "Teacher's Southern Association Handbook." When he graduated, he was awarded with a double scholarship: one for football and one for the arts program at Austin Peay.
   But even with all his success, Posey was reluctant to apply himself to his art. He says it wasn't because he felt pushed to be something he wasn't. "My family has always shared a closeness, and my mother and father encouraged me to follow my dream and be the best that I could be at whatever I do." Instead, Posey's reluctance stemmed from a fear that he didn't have what it takes to make it.
   After his high school graduation, he enlisted in the Marine Corps reserves and spent a summer in boot camp before enrolling in Austin Peay's graphic design program.
   At Austin Peay, he tried to follow in his father's footsteps, playing football for the University. But his heart wasn't in it. "I found myself on the (football) field, and I thought, `I'm not really into this.' I never really applied myself."
   He also wasn't into the graphic design degree. Assignments for him seemed like just another day in class. "I was too scared to pick up a paint brush," he recalls. "I was afraid of failure. I was afraid I wasn't a real artist."
   He was, however, a dancer. An avid fan of Michael Jackson, Posey would practice Jackson's steps over and over. Word of his dancing got around, and Posey was offered a chance to strut his stuff during the Govs' half-time show. He practiced for months and even lost weight so he'd look more like Jackson. The crowd of about 3,000 seemed to enjoy his performance, he recalls, adding that he's still a huge fan of Jackson's music.
   Even though the graphic design degree didn't appeal to him, Posey says the art classes he took at Austin Peay did benefit his art, by influencing how he approached a piece; how he viewed the focal point and the foreground; how he built a composition.
   At the Feb. 2 exhibit at Austin Peay, Bruce Childs, associate professor of art, was reflecting on where Posey was as a student and how far he'd come. "That means a lot to me, coming from a professor," Posey says.
   Posey also fondly remembers Max Hochstetler, professor of art, who taught him watercolor. "(Max Hochstetler) gives me good feedback. The times he's critiqued my work, he's been proficient and sincere. I'm not afraid of getting my feelings hurt because I have a lot of confidence, and there's always room for improvement."
   But Posey is speaking of today; 12 years ago, that confidence in himself and his art had yet to surface.
   In 1985, still searching for a future to hang his heart on, Posey left Austin Peay and joined the Army, again trying to do as his father had done. He spent four years in the Army as a cook, while he daydreamed about being an artist.
   Faced with the fairly basic Army food, Posey's artistic skills would not be stifled. Using everything from vegetables to fruit to coconut, he would garnish the meals to brighten them up. Stealing a chapter from his childhood, he mixed different flavors of Jell-O and garnished that, too.
   "Sometimes I would get carried away, and sometimes the food would be late," he admits with a sheepish grin. "But when the food did get out there, the soldiers appreciated it. The only complaint I would ever get is that there might be too much garnish."
   Posey got back into his art while stationed in Fort Devon, Mass., when he was challenged by a friend to do a drawing of a unicorn. He used prisma-color pencils and was impressed by the result.
   "I could see it was still in me," he says. "It was my destiny for it to blossom." But even though he began again to enter art competitions, he still refused to see it as a way of life, instead as just a way of escape from a structured Army life.
   It was during a tour of duty in Korea that Posey's eyes finally opened to his artistic potential. Shopping for art supplies one day, he met Maria Kohl, a professional artist, who recognized his talent and began to encourage him to do more and to work with paint. Shortly thereafter, with her encouragement, he produced his first professional art exhibit in Korea, from which several of his 15 prisma-color works were sold.
   Discharged in 1989, Posey returned home to Clarksville and opened his first Austin Peay art exhibit. More than 400 artists, students and community members attended. He realized at last the appeal of his work, and he developed a whole new focus on his style. He visited galleries, read articles and found inspiration in the techniques of the great masters like Picasso, Van Gogh and Matisse.
   In a last attempt to put his art on a back burner, he worked for a time as a Clarksville firefighter. He did some modeling and acting and appeared in a music video. But each time he tried to stray away from his art, he says, something would pull him back: a commission, a sale, a successful exhibit. Finally, he accepted what his heart already knew: Painting was to be his future.
   Now, when he's painting, he feels "complete and in my own world, being at peace with everything."
   Posey's style still is evolving, and he considers himself a student: still learning, still trying to improve his style and technique.
   When he becomes intrigued by a theme, he wants to explore it in all its facets. The type of music he listens to while he paints inspires him, and the faster the music, the faster the brush stroke. When he wants to paint a love theme, he'll listen to Toni Braxton. Someone who once caught him listening to Michael Jackson while he painted noticed that he was dancing along with the music.
   "You don't realize how much you get into it," he says, laughing.
   He knows a piece is finished, he says, by gauging its crispness and clarity and by seeing that there's nothing else to add. "I achieve the finished look by having the appearance of complete balance, dark and light contrast and, finally, color harmony."
   Posey's successes are varied and evolving at a rapid pace; it isn't easy to keep up with his latest designs, projects and shows. As of the writing of this article, he had designed an original tie for President Bill Clinton, which was to be presented to him as a gift through Posey's contacts in Washington. The design is an abstract design of Clinton playing the saxophone. Posey's work was to be featured, and a print auctioned, at a fund-raiser for Professional Athletes Association in Chicago, in conjunction with a jazz concert by Najee. Posey was to design a tie or vest as a gift for the artist.
   At the Women's Museum in Washington, he was the only contributing male artist who donated a painting for the fund-raiser. He has shown his work at the New Orleans Jazz Festival, the Chicago Jazz Festival and at his debut in Washington. Other projects: displays in a Washington, D.C., restaurant; a cover for a CD album for The Blues Doctor and the Yellowjackets; a display of a piece on Fox Network's "Living Single"; an on-the-air interview at a festival in Chattanooga. Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, Sheila E., Louise Mandrell, Charles Dutton and Howard Hewitt own some of his works.
   A look at a more recent theme of his-- portraits of artists such as Jackson, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Sadé, Jimi Hendrix and Humphrey Bogart-- reflects Posey's interest in color rather than race. He says this is deliberate.
   "I want my work to not just appeal to one race, but to everyone," he says, while admitting that other people sometimes make it an issue anyway. Some call his work "not black enough." One woman told him he had to start putting some "white" people in his paintings.
   "There are certain stereotypes," Posey says. "If you deal with black galleries, they want black images. But my area is universal. It's from my life experience.
   "The world is in many different colors. I've seen people try to separate on both sides. But everybody is equal; we're all human. I try to stress that in my work, the harmony. Some people will be offended by that, but that's the way I was brought up.
   "I've been waiting for this to happen-- to be respected as a human. To not be judged by my skin color but by my contribution."
   Told once that he tends to underprice his art, he prefers to let the galleries handle questions of market value.
   "But there comes a time when you have to make a break," he notes. "You could be a Pinto or you could be a Lamborghini. I want to be a Rolls Royce."
   Meanwhile, Posey is working hard to get his name and his work out in the public eye in as many venues as he can. He's even donated many pieces to various entertainment establishments and organizations. He donated "Heart and Soul" to Austin Peay's Candlelight Ball Feb. 22, and several pieces went to the Bourbon Street Blues Club in Nashville.
   "Donating gets your foot in the door," Posey says. "People see your work. There was a time I couldn't let a piece go. Now I see what it means to someone to have one of my paintings. It's like a piece of me on canvas.
   "This is something I'll enjoy to the day I die. I feel like this is my destiny. I won't live forever, but my work will. I'm leaving a legacy, and so I'll always be here."
   For more information about Marvin Posey's artwork, call 1-888-415-1053 or write Rod S. Wentz, Posey Executive Marketing Director, P.O. Box 10764, Fargo, N.D., 58106.


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