Wayne Goodman shows off his work at The Art Studio, Inc. Photo by Andy Coughlan

Goodman invites viewers to become part of the art

Wayne Goodman is a storyteller, incorporating words and images into his art to tell the story of his African American and Cajun heritage.

The Beaumont native, who will be 70 later this month, only took up art in 2012, but he has already had a couple of solo shows, including this month in the Pop-Up Gallery at The Art Studio, Inc.

After Goodman left the Air Force, he earned a drafting degree at Lamar before setting into a career as a master plumber. Despite his technical training, Goodman had not harbored a longing to be an artist.

“I actually began with a number of friends with small children, and I would sit on the floor with them, and we would draw on the same paper,” he said. “And one little girl, she wanted to keep the paper and that actually started me saying, ‘OK, well, let me do a little something for the kids.’ And it’s just been snowballing ever since.”

His lack of formal training puts him in the category of “outsider” or “folk” artist, labels he is happy to wear. He draws on his experiences — his family’s roots are in New Iberia, Louisiana — and he sees himself as much a storyteller as an artist, with most of his pieces incorporating text.

One of his pictures, “Your Story,” features a variety of stick people rushing to a building.

“But everybody has a different narrative, you know? So, when one reads it, then you begin to tell your story, right? You know, it’s all about your history. (It) just kind of goes back to the individual telling the story that they perceive, that they get from images.”

“It’s actually a library and a bookstore at the same time,” he said. “And the caption at the top is ‘Your Story.’ Everybody’s rushing to get their story. You have some seniors, you have young people, you have one guy with a cape on who’s flying. He’s late and so he’s going to have to go through the sky so that he can get his copy of his story.

A drawing in progress of the Supreme Court by Wayne Goodman

His latest show is titled “Storyville.”

“It’s not a single storyline or story coming from particular entities, but everything has to do with storytelling,” he said. “The story that I announce or pronounce may be different from the story that another individual sees, and that’s what I desire, for the viewer to tell their own story in it.”

“Hair Day” by Wayne Goodman

Goodman’s family history infuses his work. “Hair Day,” one of a series of six images, draws on the women who would gather on the porch of slave quarters and tell family stories while doing their hair. The series features different stories. The text tells the story from the little girl’s viewpoint.

“…grandma tells the most exciting and beautiful stories,” the text reads. “Today, she says it’s a special story today because it’s about our people. As I listened to Grandma’s words, a voice drew me deeper into the story where I can actually touch people and walk with them….”

“Don’t Be Weary” by Wayne Goodman

“Don’t Be Weary (Me and Memo)” depicts the family’s exodus from Mansfield, Louisiana, for Beaumont. Goodman said his great aunt was run out of Louisiana in 1898. The whole family left except for her younger brother. They never discovered what happened to him. Some of the family still live in the area, and Goodman’s work is a nostalgic look at the area.

“We would travel back to when we were really little to New Iberia, and I remember it’s so clear — the dirt roads and the huge trees, you know, with the moss hanging off,” he said.

Goodman works on several pieces at once and may spend a few weeks before a piece is complete. He draws a basic template of the artwork in pencil or pe, then makes copies. He inks the image in before using a variety of media, from crayons and pens to wood stains, oils and acrylics, and even nail polish to color the image. As he works on the template, he will add different details and embellishments to make each image unique. Even when he is happy with the colors, he makes a copy and go back in with a pen to add highlights, or a fence, or different animals or people.

“I’m able again to just change –add to or take away each and every one because I have a stencil,” he said.

Goodman also was formerly a bookseller and owned a shop called Home Books, which he said suggested these books need to be in your homes.

“I’ve always loved books and appreciated books,” he said.

“Ida B. Wells” by Wayne Goodman

Reading is important, Goodman said, which is why he uses so much text in his works. Several of his images look like newspapers, which he dubs theSouthendFreePress,for hissouth Beaumont neighborhood. In his “edition” dedicated to Ida B. Wells, the tagline at the top of the page reads, “News not worth reportn from the other side of town.”

“When you have words and stuff like that, I want people to read, I want them to know history, I want them to know some things,” he said.

The piece about Ida B. Wells lends itself to the newpaper format, as she was a journalist who was herself newsworthy.

“They actually bombed her place of business and killed two of her workers,” Goodman said. “She left and went towards Chicago. She started the anti-lynching movement. She was co-founder of the NAACP, along with (W.E.) Dubois. This was the only way to present this, in my mind, in the form of a newspaper.”

The newspapers are all dated Sept. 22, 1922 — Goodman’s mother’s birthday.

Goodman said he draws on the artists and writers of the Harlem Renaissance for inspiration. “Suga,” centers around a poem by Langston Hughes. Goodman is a big fan of Hughes’ poetry, and especially “Beaumont to Detroit: 1943,” which references the race riots across America and treatment of Blacks in America.

“Emancipation Park” by Wayne Goodman

“Emancipation Park” is a scene from the park in Houston, but with a twist.

The basketball court is pink, and all the characters are girls. It was suggested by a girl who said she wanted a picture with nothing but girls, and he decided they should take over the boys’ basketball court.

“I was contracted by the little girl to say, ‘Wayne, I want you to draw a picture with nothing but girls, alright?’” he said. “What has happened, the girls have taken over the boys’ basketball court. She said, ‘I want ’em on a hopscotch, I want ’em on a seesaw, I want ’em on a jumping rope.’ I didn’t do the seesaw, but I pretty much got everything else.”

Goodman’s work is charming and humorous, but the words invite the viewer to read along.

“Storyville” is on display through Feb. 22 at The Art Studio, 720 Franklin in Beaumont.

This story first ran in the Feb. 11 Art of Living section of The Beaumont Enterprise.

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