Sedrick Huckaby is a busy man. The next few months will see him installing a two-person show with his wife, artist Letitia Huckaby, at Tarrant County College South; opening a solo show in New York; doing a residency at a hospital in Philadelphia; and applying for the BP portrait competition in Britain. “Yes, it is a totally busy time and I am thankful for it,” Huckaby says.
As the Meadows Museum announced this week, Huckaby is also the recipient of the 2016 Moss/Chumley North Texas Artist Award. Sponsored by the Moss/Chumley Memorial Fund, which was created in 1989 by Dallas gallerist Frank Moss and the Meadows Museum as a tribute to Jim Chumley (the two ran several Uptown area art galleries in the 1980s), the Moss/Chumley Artist Award has been granting North Texas area artists a $2,500 cash prize since 1995.
Open to artists working in any medium who have been exhibiting professionally for at least 10 years and have “a proven track record as a community advocate for the visual arts,” the Moss/Chumley Award, as Huckaby stated in the press release, “is an award that is not just based on the merit of the work, but also on the merit of the person,” adding that he was humbled for this very reason.
Although Huckaby left Texas in the late 1990s, first for Boston University and then for an MFA at Yale, he’s called the Fort Worth area home for most of his life. He’s shown work in both solo and group exhibitions throughout the country, has been the recipient of prestigious art world awards and fellowships including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors grant, and his work can be found in the collections of The Art Institute of Chicago, Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among others.
Huckaby’s is a deeply personal body of work. He gained recognition locally for his lush, impasto paintings of traditional quilts. Huckaby treats his quilts as language; he paints them as a way to preserve the rich tradition of quilting in African American culture as well as the memory of his grandmother, who figures prominently in much of Huckaby’s work. More recently Huckaby has turned to portraiture, painting larger than life portraits of his family and friends.
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He’s also been working with the people of his own community of Highland Hills, “painting them and hearing their voices” for several years now; and has shown his “quilt of faces,” the nearly 100 drawings of people he sees and comes into contact with around the neighborhood, throughout the state.
“My art has always been about the things that are interesting to me, things of concern and things that permeate my thinking,” Huckaby says. “When I was young I created super heroes, battle ships, comic books, etc. As I grew older, it became about the adult subjects that were pervasive and prevalent. For me, that includes issues of faith, family and my African American heritage.”
A strong sense of empathy informs all of the work, and if the Moss/Chumley award is intended to award both the work and the artist, the jury would be hard-pressed to find an area artist who has more consistently used his art to advocate for and “venerate” the lives of ordinary people.
“If [art] has any power at all, it is in the fact that one’s personal situation can have a universal connection with others,” Huckaby says. “It is the tension and dichotomy that captures its viewers. How it can be about my family, yet all families. Also, how it can be about abstract beauty and concrete ideas. It is and it isn’t ... that’s interesting.”