Yussuf J. Simmonds points directly to one of the copper works of art he has recently created which honors our President Barack Obama. Below the image of Barack Obama, Yussuf Simmonds smiled humbly to show me how his son Stephen Simmonds whose copper art is below the Obama portrait, has also followed his father's artistic path in the making of copper artworks. Photograph by Ginger Van Hook. June18, 2010 Inglewood Library, Inglewood, California.
An artist working with the medium of copper, Yussuf Simmonds has spent over 40 years developing his style and his talents which are now on exhibit at the Inglewood Public Library throughout the month of June, 2010.
In his artist statement, Simmonds, the artist, father, writer and community leader reveals the love of his artistic nature and his support for artists within the community:
Yussuf J. Simmonds
Master of Art in Copper
For as long as I can remember, I have always enjoyed some form of art. I started with regular pencils colored pencils and water colors, and then moved up to oil painting. I was a teenager when I met an elderly man who made pictures (raised/embossed and sculpted) from sheets of copper, and to a lesser degree, with aluminum sheets. His skill was a unique form of art that I had never seen before. To be able to draw was an asset but it was not mandatory in championing the skill. He referred to it as “copper work.”
Just watching him work, I learned the basic skills and when he realized that I was interested, he began to teach me. He taught me figures and faces (profiles), still life and movable objects. I learned some different methods of drawing and tracing via carbon paper onto the copper.
An important part of mastering the skill was making my own tools. The idea was because I made them myself, I would be more proficient using them. They would be an extension of my artistic skill. Next was heating the copper to facilitate the raising process; then cleaning the finished product with acid, water, a scrubbing-brush and ajax. Coloring it entailed two processes: oxidation (blackening it)with potash/liver of sulphur and erasing portions of the copper from dark to shades of bronze depending on the tone desired. The final act was in lacquering the finished art work to achieve a glossy and protective coating. (Painting the finished product was always discouraged as it would have defeated the purpose).
I sold my first copper picture to a doctor who told me that to refine my skills, I should travel to the University of Mexico or Paris where I would receive “post graduate” art training. This was in the mid-sixties and it did not fully register. I began to produce copper pictures “en masse” to be sold to tourists and orders from individuals and companies/businesses.
Displaying copper (work) art was relatively easy in that it triggered an immediate connection with viewers. Though they may have understood or even appreciated the subject matter, the process and the end product was/are always mind-boggling. It is unique as it is different.
Despite the fact that copper art is not as conventional as pencil, charcoal and paint, the historical significance that it generates is beyond the imagination. (The craft came with me from Trinidad back to the Virgin Islands, to New York and Los Angeles, California where I have produced pictures for over three decades.
Though I have attended California State University, Los Angeles
Trade Technical College and have taken off-campus (correspondence) courses from the University of Calif. Berkeley, and Delta College, Stockton, California, I have never had any formal academic (class-room) art training. However, on a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico in 2006, I came across some copper and aluminum art that were similar to what I do and realized that was what the doctor, who purchased my first picture was telling me 40 years ago. I have also met an African artist who does similar art work.
PORTRAITS & PROJECTS DONE (A PARTIAL LIST)
- President Barack Obama
- Thomas Bradley, former mayor of Los Angeles
- Mervyn Dymally, former Lt. Governor, State of California
- Augustus Hawkins, former congressman
- Gilbert Lindsay, former L. A. city councilman
- Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, former congresswoman
- Andrew Young, former U.N. Ambassador
- Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., Publisher of L. A. Sentinel
- Bishop Richard Allen Award, A.M.E. Church
- The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam
- Bill Greene, former state Senator
- Logos for the Los Angeles Sentinel & Brotherhood Crusade
- Torchlight for America for the Honorable Louis Farrakhan
- Centennial Logo for the City of Inglewood
- Kwanzaa Kinara for Dr. Maulana Karenga
- Coat of Arms of Trinidad & Tobago for the Chief Justice
- The Last Supper for Atty. Theodore R. Guerra
- A Hand-held Money Sack for Atty. Robert Mc Neill, Jr.
- A Large Ballroom Scene
- A West Indian Market Scene
- A Group of Steel-band Players
- Malcolm X
- A Large Drummer and many, many more for art shops and exhibitions
At present I have been writing for the Los Angeles Sentinel for the past six (6) years; it’s the largest Black newspaper on the West Coast and I am the managing editor. I am a member of the California Arts Coalition of Los Angeles and have been a guest lecturer at high school art classes in L.A. County.
The Inglewood Public Library now exhibits fine art in the lobby
of the first floor throughout the year for the public to enjoy.
Inglewood Library photos by Ginger Van Hook, June 2010
Inglewood Public Library is located in the same plaza as the Inglewood City Hall building. The landscape and architecture of the Inglewood Plaza has been designed to incorporate green space around all the buildings, with parking within the center of the plaza. Additionally, colorful blooms of flowers adorn the walkways and the bridges which join one building entrance to another.
Photographs by Ginger Van Hook, Inglewood, California June 2010.
New books arrive at the Inglewood Public Library to eager readers.
The Inglewood Public Library contains a very large variety of books to assist its young patrons with research in fiction, non-fiction, westerns, dramas, poetry, literature, new genres, and as well as young adult series and children's reading areas. Getting involved with your local library in Inglewood or your own local community in any of the surrounding areas, provides for families, children and adults the foundations of a valuable education. Most libraries are equipped with computer terminals for research and continued study, before, during or after school gets out. Learning is a lifelong achievement. Let your local library show you what's available, today!