Whether it’s a painting, photograph, or hand-painted ceramic tchotchke from your Aunt Vera, most everyone has one piece of art that truly resonates with them. We’re putting out the call to ask, “What’s your favorite piece of art?”
Next up, Dwight O. Smith, (Major, U.S. Army Retired), an equal opportunity specialist for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in Region 7. With a storied military career spanning 25 years, Smith earned both his B.A. and M.A. in Organizational Leadership at Chapman University.
Smith is an avid collector, supporting local, national, and international artists. His collection “has an emphasis on works by women and people of color.,” he says. Smith chose a recent untitled piece by artist William Toney which he says is “my favorite piece in the collection, hands down. I like to call it ‘Newport Jesus Piece.’”
What’s the appeal of Toney’s artwork to you?
For me, it is definitely the aesthetic, but Will often has this sublime wit encapsulated within his works. You really have to be up on game to peep it. Pure Black excellence!
Is there a backstory to the artwork?
Oh, absolutely, there is! After seeing this piece at the Bare Essentials show (2018) hosted by Charlotte Street, I became obsessed with acquiring it. I’d pop into the old Charlotte Street office and chat with folks on my way home from work and they pointed me in Will’s direction. The piece traveled to Oakland, California, for a show before I was finally able to bring it home. It was pretty awesome because Will actually mounted it on the wall for me.
Describe the artwork’s nuances—or what catches your eye about Toney’s work, please.
I’ve often told Will he is my Isaac Hayes of the visual experience. His work has a succinct and very deliberate style in how it projects blackness. The piece itself is simply an enlarged photograph of an old Newport box you’d find discarded on the street, but this particular castaway is embellished by a bright orange outline emulating the chalk outline one sees on the homicide tip.
And then—in true Will Toney fashion—you see that the subject (the Newport box) and the act of being chalked out serve an even more “meta” experience with the haunting reference of the crucifixion by the overall presentation of the image.
I could go on and on about this piece especially on the impact and significance of smoking in the Black community and what it is we actually smoke—Newports, yo!