J Stacy Utley

Charlotte, NC, USA

. . .born out of a necessity and desire to form a kinship, connection, and ideology of brotherhood.

Across painting, sculpture, and collage, much of J Stacy Utley’s vibrant works focus on the power of community and solidarity in the face of racial oppression. While House of Alpha portrays founding members of the black college fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha, which has played a crucial role in the social and political lives of Black men striving to improve their standing in the U.S, Can I Live expresses those struggles in direct relation to the perniciousness of police and vigilante violence towards Black men. Through collage, Utley uses visual fragmentation as a means to achieve aesthetic, and symbolic, unity. Water draws us into a greater historical scope, highlighting the  physically and spiritually sustaining role water has played in African American culture as a medium of kinship and connection. — AY

Making Kin Categories

House of Alpha
2015, Mixed Media; Tissue paper, cut imagery, paper, ink 40"x40"x1" canvas

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated is the first intercollegiate historically African American fraternity. Founded December 4, 1906, on the campus of Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, this organization was born out of a necessity and desire to form a kinship, connection, and ideology of brotherhood. This artwork was created to honor and celebrate its legacy in service, community, and the tradition of brotherhood. The seven figures in the work represent its seven founders. The initiatives of the organization—from voting rights to socio-economic, political, and racial equality—can be found in the cut imagery juxtaposed next to one another. — JSU

Can I Live
2015, Mixed Media; Tissue paper, cut imagery, paper, ink on 40"x40"x1" canvas. (In the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Rogers)

Eric Garner, Treyvon Martin, Michael Brown, Keith Lemont Scott, Philando Castile. It is important to note that these were the names of the African American men killed that inspired this piece at THAT time. There have been countless others since then. It begged the question then as does it now: Can I as a Black man in America simply live? The artwork depicts Black men with their hands raised, at the same time surrounding and protecting young Black boys who hold both truth and justice in their arms. — JSU

2017-2018, Mixed Media: Tissue paper, cut imagery, paper, ink on 80"x120". (Courtesy of the Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art)

This artwork discusses the narrative that water plays in the African American Diaspora: from the middle passage, to the escape from the South along the riverbank headed North, the water hoses used during peaceful protest for Civil Rights, and Katrina to Flint Michigan. I also drew inspiration from the lyrics of hymns,including “Old Ship of Zion” and “Like a tree planted by the water… I shall not be moved. Life given, sustained, taken, rebirth, and redemption through baptism—all these elements have a connection. The connectivity that water provides is conveyed in the intertwined historical moments. — JSU

About J Stacy Utley

J Stacy Utley is a critically acclaimed artist whose work addresses complex narratives found within the African American diaspora. Utley is limitless in his experimentation with medium, shaping his body of work through collages, assemblages, paintings, drawings, and public art that address conversant topics of the African American community that shape identities and are not always comfortable to discuss. Utley has shown nationally and internationally. He has had his work exhibited in numerous exhibitions, including the 2021 Venice Biennale Architectura for collaborative work with Evoke Studio Architecture. His executed works can be found in private, public, and university collections.



Kindred Artists