Newbold - Black is Beautiful

Stephen C. Newbold, Jr.
College of Fine Arts - Art Education (PhD)

Black is Beautiful

Stephen C. Newbold, Jr. is a native of Miami, Florida, artist, educator, and PhD candidate in the Department of Art Education at Florida State University. He is a soon to be three-time alumni of the College of Fine Arts at Florida State University. He earned a Bachelor of Art degree in Art History (2006) and a Master of Science in Art Education (2020). Stephen’s seventeen-year career in K-12 education, recent work as an adjunct professor, and curatorial intern appointment at the Smithsonian: National Museum of African American History in Culture (2022) continues to fuel his desire to motivate and move people through art for social justice.

His work on the Black male’s experiences in K-12 learning spaces—both as student and teacher—has inspired an inquiry on the blues, and the relationship between trial and triumph. In his dissertation research he wrote “The blues is a function of Black culture that describes facing emotions of sadness and melancholy with emancipatory responses to transcend and overcome those struggles (Herschthal, 2023; Merriam-Webster, n.d.). Ellison (1964) referred to the blues as an impulse to keep alive painful reminders of life’s brutal encounters. Resilience is a method of navigating challenges and adversity while achieving positive outcomes (Dever, 2009; Masten, 2001) like lyrical traditions in the blues that describes facing emotions of sadness and melancholy—met with emancipatory responses to transcend and overcome those struggles (Herschthal, 2023; Merriam-Webster, n.d.).”

Artwork Description:

This piece illustrates notable figures of the African diaspora—whose historical narratives in Africa, America, and abroad—exude resilience and persistence. Painted from left to right are Nina Simone, James Baldwin, Nelson Mandela, and W. E. B. Du Bois. The application of oil and acrylic paints on canvas fashions the beauty of Blackness—Black faces, and Black voices. The title of the piece, Black is Beautiful, is a love letter to Diane Carter Williams—former 4th grade teacher who recently joined the ancestors when she passed in 2023. Whenever she would hear a student call another student “Black” (as an insult) she exclaimed “Black is beautiful, but ugly is to the bone.” This lesson followed me into my adulthood. Being Black is not a deficit; it is not an insult; it is beautiful.

This art reflects Nina Simone’s beliefs that “an artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.” It is inspired by James Baldwin’s words on the power of art to “illuminate that darkness, blaze roads through that vast forest, so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose.” My work aims to provoke thought and challenge perceptions. Like Nelson Mandela, I believe that “art is one of the most powerful tools for dialogue, understanding, and transformation,” and I am committed, as W. E. B. Du Bois envisioned, to using my creativity to “strive for excellence, to reveal truth, and to uplift the soul of humanity.”