Yahoo.com, By Ed Balint-THE REPOSITORY, Posted January 20th 2023
The charcoal and graphite images of historic Black Americans are striking — Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglass, Barack Obama, Anna J. Cooper, Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan and others.
“It’s beyond the picture, you have to look beyond the picture,” the 2002 McKinley High School graduate said, citing her drawing of John Lewis as an example. The work displays a collage of imagery, including the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where the future congressman almost died in 1965 while protesting racial discrimination in voting.
“If one person can ask, ‘Why is the Greyhound (bus) on fire?,’ I did my job, because now you’re about to learn somebody else’s history … and what they’ve been through and how they strived for excellence.”
Canton native Deseré Mayo is now an artist and education employee in Wisconsin. The McKinley High School graduate is exhibiting her drawings of historic Black Americans at the Johnson Center at Malone University through March 2.
“Black Lives Belong: Power Through the Decades” opens with a reception 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Malone Art Gallery on the second floor of the Johnson Center, 2600 Cleveland Ave. NW.
The exhibit runs through March 2. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Renderings also include Amanda Gorman, Carver G. Woodson, Ida B. Wells, Booker T. Washington, Ernie Davis and Chadwick Aaron Boseman. Groups of comedians and entertainers include Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Chris Tucker, Kevin Hart , Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry and Louis Armstrong.
“Black Lives Belong: Power Through the Decades” is a new exhibit at Malone University in conjunction with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Mayo, who also authored, “Black Excellence Means …,” was scheduled to read the book to students on Friday at Patrick Elementary School in Canton.
Andrea Ramsey, director of the Office of Multicultural Services at Malone, said she became a fan of Mayo’s work after discovering it through the artist’s mother, Lauri Stamps.
Artwork by Canton native Deseré Mayo celebrates Black historical figures, including Anna J. Cooper, who was a writer, teacher and activist who championed education for African Americans and women.
Ramsey worked with Emily Bartolone, Malone Art Gallery curator, to showcase Mayo’s work both to students and the broader community.
“She has several pieces that reflect Dr. (Martin Luther) King and the social justice movement, so scheduling the opening during the King holiday was a natural fit,” Ramsey said.
“Deseré captures the genuine and unique beauty of African Americans and tells the story of their experiences,” she said. “She depicts the gritty depth of what has built African Americans to be the dynamic and strong people that they have become despite the challenges and racism that they have had to overcome in our nation. Strength, beauty and honor are brought to the forefront through her art, and that is why I appreciate it so much.”
A new art exhibit at Malone University features prominent and historic Black Americans, including Malcolm X, Frederick Douglass, Barack Obama, John Lewis and others. Canton native and McKinley High School graduate Deseré Mayo created the works.
‘My first canvas was my mom’s Bible.’
Mayo’s enthusiasm for art began when she was a toddler who eagerly filled out the pages of coloring books.
“My first canvas was my mom’s Bible,” she said with laughter during a telephone interview.
“He’s the first artist and he created me,” Mayo said of God and her spiritual connection to art.
“I used to draw on the walls at home until I wasn’t allowed because you’ve got to keep covering it up,” she said with more laughter.
Canton native and McKinley High School graduate Deseré Mayo is shown with artwork she created. Mayo’s work is featured in her solo exhibition at Malone University, “Black Lives Belong: Power Through the Decades.”
Even so, Mayo’s mother strongly supported the child’s artistic interests.
“She’s the reason why I draw, because she saw a talent in me, which is such an example to parents,” Mayo said. “Because when you see a talent that your kids have, feed it to them. She would buy me art desks that would break just because I’d do so much stuff on them.”
Hank Aaron is among the Black historical figures featured in a new art exhibit at Malone University, “Black Lives Belong: Power Through the Decades.”
Dreaming of Disney
Love for art continued into middle school and high school, where she learned techniques still applied to her drawings today, including the use of grids and pointillism.
“I had two of the best teachers in the world,” Mayo said of McKinley High. “I wish I knew where they were. I would love to invite them to the (Malone) art gallery.”
Deseré Mayo is shown as a child and adult working on art. The Canton native is exhibiting her drawings of historical Black Americans at the Johnson Center at Malone University through March 2.
Following high school, while attending the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Mayo learned more techniques before returning to the Canton area and enrolling at Stark State College.
Dreams of working as an animator for Disney would be cast aside. Reasons included the fact she didn’t see people of her race reflected in the princesses who starred in Disney movies.
Deseré Mayo’s new art exhibit at Malone University features prominent and historic Black Americans, including Frederick Douglass, Barack Obama, John Lewis, Hank Aaron, Muhammad Ali and others.
‘Black excellence’ through artwork
Art and pride in the achievements of Black Americans eventually would converge in her drawings and literary work under the name of “Black Excellence.”
When she was 8 or 9 years old, Mayo said she saw herself portrayed in popular culture for the first time.
NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo is among the Black athletes featured in a new art exhibit at Malone University. Canton native Deseré Mayo created the artwork for the exhibit, which also includes historical figures such as John Lewis, Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglass and Barack Obama.
“My mom bought me Addy’s American Girl doll book,” she said of the Civil War-era story. “And that’s the first book where I saw me … my race in a book; it was a Black girl … and it looked like us, and I was like, ‘Wow, you can illustrate, you can be an illustrator to do stuff like that.’ I thought that’s just amazing. I didn’t know somebody could draw us.”
Civil rights in Stark:Martin Luther King Jr. brought his dream to Canton in 1964
Deseré Mayo is shown with artwork she created. The McKinley High School graduate is displaying her drawings at Malone University in the new exhibit, “Black Lives Belong: Power Through the Decades.”
Years later, as an adult through the local Urban League, she learned about Black History Month, including Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech at the Canton Memorial Fieldhouse in 1964.
In 2007, she moved to Wisconsin with her husband Larry Mayo to help start a church. They are involved with the music program at RChurch in Madison, Wisconsin.
As she progressed in her artwork, and received both compliments and commissions, Mayo began to sell prints of her images.
A new exhibition, “Black Lives Belong: Power Through the Decades” is on display at the Malone Art Gallery in the Johnson Center in Canton.
‘I am deeply moved by her art.’
Mayo also started a group dedicated to Black history, which led to her artwork being displayed throughout the entire Oregon School District in the Madison area.
“I want to keep our history alive through art,” said Mayo, who works part time for the school district as a paraprofessional who provides support and encouragement to students.
Malone University opened a new art exhibition, “Black Lives Belong: Power Through the Decades” in conjunction with the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.
Ramsey, of Malone, said Mayo’s artwork is impactful both technically and through visual narratives.
“Deseré’s work brings you into the character and spirit of the individuals and moments she chooses to depict,” she wrote in an email. “Her dedication to and perfection of the art of shading and perspective in black and white is captivating and eliminates any potential distraction from the form, mood and spirit of the objects. I am deeply moved by her art.”
A new art exhibition at Malone University features prominent and historic Black Americans, including Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns, Frederick Douglass, Barack Obama, John Lewis and others.
‘I want all races to learn about their history.’
Mayo also has rendered the images of accomplished Latinos and people of other races, including Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman to go into space aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1993, as well as Hmong American and Olympic gold medal gymnast Sunisa “Suni” Lee. Those pictures are also displayed in schools.
“I don’t just want African Americans to learn about their history,” Mayo said. “I want all nations, I want all races to learn about their history … and you need to see yourself in schools.”
THE BLACK LIVES BELONG Exhibit will be on view through March 2nd at the Malone Art Gallery at Malone University in Canton Ohio. More information is available here.