RIVERVIEW – Although she's a recent transplant to South Shore, Rhonda Long is already making her mark on the community with diverse artwork that draws on her ethnic heritage, her faith and her social conscience.
The Chicago native landed in Riverview a year and a half ago when her husband was transferred to the area. However, it didn't take the self-taught artist long to get her bearings. She's already had her paintings exhibited in the Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival twice – this year as a featured artist – and staged a one-woman show at Plant City's Bruton Memorial Library during February's Black History Month celebration.
Nevertheless, Long refuses to allow her race to define her artwork.
“I am a black woman but I'm not a black artist,” said Long. “I'm simply an artist who incorporates universal human emotions and experiences in my paintings. I don't like labels. My art is intended for people of all colors.”
She said she allows her subject matter to dictate the medium, whether it's the bold strokes of her pen and ink drawings of jazz musicians in post-Katrina New Orleans or her delicately detailed oil portrait of Jesus at the cross titled “Father Forgive Them.”
“I was a teacher for many years at Oliver-Harvey College in Chicago,” said Long. “In order to keep my classes interesting, I began exploring different mediums – pencil, oil, watercolor, pen and ink, acrylics and airbrush.”
Her subject matter is as varied as the tools she uses to create her art. One month she may focus on the endangered wildlife of Africa and the next month she may be consumed with portraits of children at play.
“I never paint alone. No matter the piece, I pray and depend on guidance from God to make my piece come to life,” she said. “All my pieces are intended to invoke an emotion, whether it's happiness or pain. My desire is to touch every person who views my art.”
D'Ann Lawrence White is a freelance writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.