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Arts and Entertainment

Help from friends helps artist overcome
Alonzo Adams builds a national following
Published Wednesday, November 28, 2012 10:56 pm
by Michaela L. Duckett


What do Maya Angelou, Alonzo Mourning, Gary Peyton, Andre Harrell, Kenny Lattimore and Jasmine Guy all have in common? In addition to being celebrities, they are all collectors of Alonzo Adams’ art.

Alonzo Adams’ paintings have been collected by celebrities ranging from Maya Angelou to Alonzo Mourning.

Adams, a Harlem native, visited the Queen City last weekend to host an art show at Osso Lounge. While in town, Adams discussed how a lonely childhood and a chance meeting with Bill Cosby helped him launch a successful career, which has lasted more than 20 years.

The Post: How did you get started in art?

Adams: When I was real little my eyes were severely crossed. I had two operations on my nose and all kinds of stuff. I spent a whole lot of time by myself so I got into drawing. It was my way of escaping.

God gave [this talent] to me. I’ve had all of the academic training. I have all of the degrees, but believe it or not, I’m more self-taught than anything. I went to school to get the degrees, and what not, but what I’ve got God gave me.

Q: You have been able to support yourself as a fulltime artist for the past 25 years, something many artists, no matter how talented, only dream of. What do you attribute your success to?

A: I like to believe that I’m one of the most talented brothers in the country, but Mr. [Bill] Cosby, I guess you could say, has the Midas touch. When Mr. Cosby put me through school, I was written about in several magazines [including Black Enterprise, Upscale and ESPN Magazine]. My work was featured on the “Jamie Foxx Show” and “The Cosby Show.” It kind of exposed the world to my work.

Q: How did you connect with Mr. Cosby?

A: He read an article on me in the newspaper and just called me. It was the first article ever written on me in a newspaper, and he called me.
I was 26 and working in retail [selling appliances] at the time and just painting at night. A lady came in and bought a bunch of appliances… I was able to help her save a whole bunch of money. She said to me, ‘One day in life, I’m going to be able to do a favor for you.’ Next thing you know, six months later after the first article had been written on me, her son happened to get a little role on ‘The Cosby Show.” She took the article in and showed it to Mr. Cosby. He called me up the next day, and it changed my life.

Q: How did Cosby end up putting you through school?

A: He asked what I wanted to do with my life. I said I wanted to be the best black artist that ever lived. He said, ‘No, you want to be the best artist that ever lived.’ … He said that I had the potential to be really great and told me to pick out whatever school I wanted to go to anywhere in the world and that he would pay for it. But he told me that I would have to get in on my own merit. So I applied to a whole bunch of schools and decided I wanted to go to the University of Pennsylvania. I contacted him, and he took care of the whole bill.

Q: Where do you get the inspiration from for your pieces?

A: Dr. Maya Angelou is a good friend of mine. One time, I said to her, “Dr. Angelou, I’m struggling artistically.” Her advice was to “go out into the world, and soak it up. Then come back to your studio and wring it out.” So that’s what I do. My inspiration comes from life.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish through your art?

A: I’m trying to create pieces that my children’s children can go in and see museum-worthy work [made by us.]
I want to be recognized as not just a good African American artist. I want to be one of the baddest out here. There are artists out there, whose level I want to get to, but I want to do it of [black people].



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