This month’s logo celebrates black love and the power to ‘uplift each other’
Each month we feature a new version of the CBC Arts logo created by a Canadian artist. Discover our previous logos!
Many artists have inspired Kestin Cornwall. He admires John Baldessari’s use of solid colors and the pop-art aesthetics of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol. But take a look at this logo design, and there’s a stylistic influence that obviously Biff! Pop! pow! off-page. Cornwall loves superhero comics and stories (including the former x-men 90s cartoon), and that’s what got him hooked on art as a kid.
Cornwall has his aunt to thank for that. She would buy him comics when he visited, he said. “I was spending time at her house in Michigan, reading them and analyzing the drawings.” And when he started his art practice 17 years ago, he started referencing comic book images.
“Comics are a unique place to reimagine the future of black people,” Cornwall says via email. Here he explains the story behind the February logo design, a special creation for Black History Month.
Last name: Kestin Cornwall
Residence : Toronto
Let’s talk about your logo! It reuses your multimedia work, doesn’t it? How do you call this? And what is this piece about for you?
Yes, I used parts of Melanated Monas: Ora and Labora and Monas mélané: black cake recipe. Both images are based on the love and affection of black people in general. [It’s about] the power a woman has to uplift a man if she chooses, but on a larger scale, the importance of people uplifting each other and the power of collaborative effort.
The sport had a huge impact on me and on the culture. I also love basketball, and a well-known video of a UCLA player lifting another player’s head during a tough game stuck with me. Their team was down and so was their spirit, but without wasting a moment, the UCLA point guard approached, placed his hand under the other player’s chin and tilted his head for him. . That moment at the basketball game reminded me of my mom and dad. Very different, but the intention is the same.
Why did you choose to incorporate these elements into this month’s logo? What is the concept behind the design?
I think Black History Month has value beyond what often appears as performative gestures. I think it’s a chance to shine a light on an important part of history and celebrate the accomplishments and culture of black people across the diaspora, while remembering that there is so much work to do.
Years ago a friend told me that the cardinal symbolized love, grace and nobility. I wanted to include this image in my work. I love that Cardinals stick around during the winter months. They find a way to thrive in these cold and sometimes dark conditions. It made me think of how land was taken from black Americans and Canadians, and they weren’t given land like other North Americans to build and grow, but they still pushed for progress .
I was also thinking of the Afro. It became a political symbol that reflected black pride. It was in a way a rejection of the notion of assimilation. The connection between the Afro in the 1950s and 1960s, along with some of the other ideas from that period, inspired this series of paintings and drove the idea behind the logo.
Any new projects you could tell us about? What are you working on these days?
I’m working on a new series of paintings waiting to be completed in the studio. Some of my work will be exhibited in New York at the Azart Gallery this year. I will also be exhibiting with the Philadelphia-based online gallery PxP Contemporary. Mike Whitesmith also has events I will attend once COVID is more manageable.
Dori Tunstall, Dean of Design at OCAD University, is building a team at OCAD University that I’m very excited to be part of. As a member of The Solid Black Collective design team, I am driven by the opportunity to research, design and develop initiatives for Black communities. Angela Bains, Kathy Moscow, Michael Lee Poy and I have community projects and research with OCAD U and the Solid Black Collective that we are excited about. We are looking for collaborators, so contact us!
Where is your favorite place to see art?
I only have one. Graffiti Alley in Toronto: I go there often to capture the atmosphere. Elicser Elliott has a lot of great work up there. He is prolific in the city.
Patel Brown Gallery in Toronto – or any space or project curated by Devan Patel. It is on point and is one of the best in town. I respect his work and the team of artists he has formed.
New York and Chicago are some of my favorite places to see art. The Guggenheim and the Met are hard to beat. The DuSable Museum in Chicago is also very good.
Who is the last artist you discovered online?
Bianca Nemelc, Jammie Holmes, Gio Swaby and Jon Key are all artists I recently found online. I think their work is excellent.
What work of art would you like to own?
I have a list of the top three that I’m having trouble narrowing down. At some point, I’m going to get my hands on a painting by Nina Chanel Abney from the show Always A Winner. Jean-Michel Basquiat Untitled, 1981 (Skull): I would love to have it – as absurd as it may seem, considering its price. I’d love any Kerry James Marshall painting, but to be specific his work from 2014 Untitled (Beach towel).
Where can we see more of you?
On Instagram (@kestincornwall). I will soon share new videos and pictures of paintings there! You can also view artwork and get updates on my website www.kestincornwall.com. Zoned!
This conversation has been edited and condensed.