Jonathan Green (BFA 1982) vividly depicts the culture and landscape of the Low Country through his narrative paintings.
Born and raised in the Low Country of South Carolina, Jonathan Green (BFA 1982) initially came to SAIC to pursue fashion design but instead concentrated on painting and drawing. In an interview with the San Diego Union Tribune, Green says, “What I found missing (at the Art Institute) was there were not that many people that looked like me hanging on the walls.” The prolific African American artist has worked to change the landscape of mainstream museums, portraying African American life, culture, and history.
“I’m telling stories and giving a sense of the history so that people will know where these paintings come from, and who those people are, and that those people are connected to the artist,” says Green. His narrative style of painting tells the stories of the Gullah community—descendants of enslaved Africans who live in the Sea Islands of South Carolina—as well as the landscape he calls home, which for Green is “the most beautiful place on the planet.” As the first Gullah painter to receive formal art training, Green takes great pride in depicting all that his African American culture encompasses, such as the significance of rice culture to the marshland area.
Rich and vivid in color, Green’s paintings are distinctly Southern and African American, important aspects of his identity. His brightly colored paintings have appeared on calendars for the past 25 years, originally as part of a fundraising effort for Penn Center, an important African American cultural and historical institution on St. Helena Island, South Carolina.
Green who lives and works in Charleston’s island town, Daniel Island, has been active in the building of the new International African American Museum in Charleston, set to open in 2018. The museum intends to communicate the largely overlooked history of African Americans in the Low Country of South Carolina.
Green’s paintings are in the permanent collections of numerous institutions, including the Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, Naples Museum of Art, Naples, and Museum Würth, Germany, among others.