The Phifer Art Gallery: Artist-Shelia Pree Bright

As I continue to grow in life I find it very important to not only know fashion but art as well. I often attend galleries and collect paintings from local artists here in Atlanta and one of my favorite artists is Shelia Pree-Bright; known for her provocative yet large-scaled work that combines a wide-range of knowledge and contemporary culture. A lot of her work puts emphasis on challenging the perceptions of identity concerning the African American middle class suburbia. The occupied spaces—faces casually obscured, bodies glimpsed or suggested—is the narrative of class and race in the twenty-first century.....

Some disagree that her work has authority but Bright counters the extremes of media representation, and represents a largely invisible population of the African American middle class, the modern-day “Talented Tenth.” Bright is an excellent photographer, her observations are on point and her knowledge and perception of contemporary culture, while she masters the medium of photography in this provocative work.

Born in Waycross Georgia 1967, Bright received her MFA in Photography from Georgia State University in 2003 but her work goes far beyond that. This Georgia born girl made noise in a city that is known to break the weak. Showing that her photography was much different than all the rest Bright accepted the New York Photography Award
Enfoco, Inc. in1999. From that point it seems as if it was a domino effect because two years later Bright received the Bronica Award followed by the Santa Fe Prize for Photography in 2006.

Shelia Pree-Bright’s work has been featured in group exhibitions including shows at the Smithsonian Anacostia Museum, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Leica Gallery. Bright also tours with her exhibitions: Saturday Night/Sunday Morning, Reflections In Black: A History of Black Photographers 1840 to the Present and Locating the Spirit: Religion and Spirituality in African American Art. In addition to touring and exhibits Bright’s work is included in public and private collections including Clark -Atlanta University Galleries,The Paul Jones Collection, the de Saisset Museum, and the Sprint Nextel Art Collection. Understanding how race and culture can be depicted in just one photo is what sets Bright apart from any other artist. Knowing the history of white America and how blacks morals and self-acknowledge has changed. “Suburbia” was at one time synonymous with “white flight,” Bright’s Suburbia series depicts a far more complex reality. Her images are as much about the assumptions of perception as about the construction of identity, defining one’s self and one’s place class and culture.Pree’s work is catered to African Americans; she captures images in the real world stating a point; sometimes obvious or not. Pree has shot sidewalk preachers; gangsters, little girls' between childhood and womanhood in her Mothers & Daughters series; middle-class suburbanites; women posing and preening in nightclubs; African-American hair; Generation Y; and the beads of poverty in cities such as Atlanta. Brights more famous or noted work is Young Americans : "I had a dream and woke up and said, 'The American flag.'" This project centers on a generation aged 16-27 and is reared on their parents' world of war, consumerism and corruption – a generation that soon will be running the country. Bright then examines Gen Y and its complicated relationship to America, her ethnically and racially diverse subjects pose with the flag in a way they think best expresses their identity as Americans.Although Suburbia is one of my favorite collections, Bright’s other collections such as Gold Rush, which captured guys with gold teeth and how society responded to them. "And the way she captured them there was very much an accessibility, a softness, a vulnerability that you don't normally see at first blush when you meet people with gold or grills." Plastic Bodies is another collection and I was able to attend and it consisted of the faces of Barbie dolls with a multicultural array of young women's bodies. It showed the painful aspiration of women of every race to conform to an idealized vision of beauty.The authenticity of her observations, her ability to distill the interior landscape down to its visual essence, gives Shelia Pree- Bright her resonance and authority. Bright makes you wonder “How can I fit in the bigger picture of society as an African-American."?

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