BY SHANNON WILEY
Multimedia artist David Brame spoke on Thursday about his Salisbury University Downtown Gallery exhibit, explaining how racial diversity in the media, or a lack there of, shaped his life and his art.
“I got tired of none of the people in the media that I was reading or participating in looking like me and having, I would say, a history that’s close to mine,” he said. “I wanted to create the media that I wanted as a kid, and that I think is relevant for even now because there’s still not a lot of it.”
The exhibit, entitled “Dusty Funk: An Afro-Future Space Opera,” exhibits art, poetry and prose from his in-the-works comic.
During his speech, Brame said that he is tired of seeing only archetypal black characters, plot lines and background stories in the media, and that he is frustrated that options to put black actors and actresses in primary roles is too often a question of whether that person would do justice to the role instead of a questions of their qualification.
“I created Dusty Funk as a reaction to the current role of the Afro-consciousness,” he said. “The future black, meaning black people that exist in cinema, comic books, novels and TV, is often portrayed in subservient, subordinate and minority characterization…Afro-future consciousness is largely left unexplored.”
Likewise, Brame noted that in a lot of science fiction work, he often saw the “bad” aliens or species reflecting non-caucasian races, exposing the underlying racism in society.
When it comes to movies like “Big Mama’s House,” the “Madea” series and many more works by Tyler Perry, Brame said that he dislikes those, as well because even though they primarily feature black people, they only show one idea or stereotype of the black experience.
“They’re awful,” he said. “They’re perhaps one of the worst things ever created. I’ve always hated them.”
To combat all of this, Brame said he works to keep all typical “black” archetypes out of his work. In fact in this comic, many of his characters change colors throughout the plot.
“I got tired of waiting on somebody else to create it for me, so I decided to make it myself,” he said.
The title of the comic reflects his art’s mission, as well. While calling the comic a “Space Opera” defines the sub-genre of science fiction, designating it “Afro-Future” describes the purpose.
“I think there’s sort of a movement going on right now with this idea of ‘Afro-Future,’ ‘Afro-Futurism,’ which is kind of what I’m doing,” he said, “creating African and African-American identities in spaces that they don’t exist.”
Many who saw the work felt compelled by the message he was sending, including the directors of the gallery.
“He takes those really heavy subjects, and certainly very personal for him, and turns them into this fantastical world that he creates with his illustrations that perhaps give another window into these issues that we’re all kind of familiar with,” Gallery Director Elizabeth Kauffman said. “(It’s) a different way to see it and perhaps maybe taking race and identity and putting it into this fantastical world that he creates helps us see it in a different way than we normally would.”
Observers also marveled at the uniqueness of his work, as well as what it means in the face of mainstream media.
“I love in particular with the drawings the neon color,” SU junior Alyssa Rhynalbs said. “They’re very bright and there’s a lot of detail and the characteristics to each drawing that I see. It’s very unique and different and out of the box.”
The most popular piece of the exhibit was one not originally included in the gallery, but instead one that Brame drew spontaneously across two walls when first came into the gallery to set up.
“I just think it’s really interesting how he did the work right on the wall, you don’t really see that a lot,” gallery intern Patrick Duff said.
More information can be found on SU’s website under University News.