Memphis Artists in Real TimeMemphis Artists in Real Time
Photograph by Johnathan “Malik” Martin

January 27 through June 27, 2021

Memphis Artists in Real Time

For Memphis photojournalists Johnathan “Malik” Martin and Andrea Morales, the answer may seem, at first, simple. Their job is to take pictures that tell a story to be used in digital or print journalism. In these examples, viewers experience powerful stories about Memphis during “Safer at Home” and the various crises that ensued after the pandemic began in March through the presidential election of November 2020.

These pictorial accounts reveal both the acute distress on our community and moments of deep humanity that offer hope for the future.

What Martin and Morales capture, how they capture it, and what they are thinking as they capture it, is examined here and in their own words. The powerful context of venerated photojournalist Ernest C. Withers, whose legacy they recognize in their own work, helps set the stage and remind us of Memphis’s globally recognized contributions to the field.

Studio artist Tad Lauritzen Wright’s context of artistic practice is completely different. Artistic isolation in the studio is the norm not the exception. The America portfolio, produced as a series of 25 line drawings, shows the artist’s humorous, satirical, and sobering take on current events through cartoonish, child-like drawings that drive home the often absurd nature of human experience. Nearby are several puppets from a series of videos that he produced for fun with his eleven-year-old daughter, Anna, while she attended school this spring online and at home.

These amusing videos, made together as a father-and-daughter team, helped make meaning from the pandemic in real time and formed the point of departure for America.

Exhibition Programs

Wednesday
24 Mar
2021
6:00 pm

Happy Hour with Johnathan 'Malik' Martin

Free
Event Details
Wednesday
14 Apr
2021
6:00 pm

Happy Hour with Tad Lauritzen Wright

Free
Event Details
Wednesday
21 Apr
2021
6:00 pm

Happy Hour with Andrea Morales

Free
Event Details

Artist

Curator

Artists + Curator

Andrea Morales
Photojournalist

Andrea Morales

Andrea Morales began working with a camera in college where she studied journalism. Drawn to photography as a tool for storytelling, she found the camera and the stories it could tell personally helpful in addressing the “perpetual anxiety” she felt speaking English as a second language. Morales was born in Peru and reared in Miami’s Little Havana. Since 2014, she’s been a documentary photographer based in Memphis, as well as a producer at the Southern Documentary Project, housed at Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. Andrea is also the Visuals Director of MLK50, an online non-profit news organization. While the photos on display here relate to projects she pursued at MLK50, Morales’s work also appears regularly in the New York Times and other news publications.

Morales practices community journalism, which does not prioritize the story’s intended audience but, rather, the people in the stories. Morales carefully avoids calling people “subjects” in a photograph, and prefers to think of them as collaborators in the story they together choose to tell. She favors this approach because it allows her to develop long-term relationships leading to trust and co-investment in the story being told. Ultimately, community journalism helps to create community through shared experiences. When her work becomes, at times, overwhelmingly difficult, she summons the words of Chicago organizer Mariame Kaba, “Hope is a discipline and . . .we have to practice it every single day.”

View Artist's Website
Johnathan “Malik” Martin
Photojournalist

Johnathan “Malik” Martin

American, born South Memphis, TN 1988, active Memphis

Malik Martin’s path to photojournalism is unusual and informed by various passions: sports and rock climbing, music concerts, social media, social justice, Soulsville, and superheroes, like Peter Parker (Spiderman’s alter ego). A native of South Memphis, Martin was reared by his grandmother, and began capturing his experiences with a camera as a teenager. He ran track at Arkansas State University (Jonesboro) and started creating music videos to accompany his poems. When he graduated college, he bought a tent and air mattress, and camped for six months, using the rest of his money for photographic equipment. Photographing music concerts in Memphis led to higher profile jobs:  a post-concert photo he posted of football player Odell Beckham, Jr. on Instagram brought so much attention that, just one year later, his career was thriving. An independent photographer whose work appears in MLK50 and The New TriState Defender, Martin serves as the Social Media Director for the climbing gym Memphis Rox. In December, Reel Rock, a platform for climbing movies, released Black Ice, a 35-minute film about a group of South Memphians who go ice climbing in Montana. Martin served as the head cinematographer and lead producer for the film.

Like Andrea Morales, Martin is a community journalist, and avoids the idea of the “objective” reporter: “objectivity is a privilege,” he says. “The people who can say that [they are objective] are not a part of the community, they can disconnect. . . .  They are photographing from the side. I feel like, you know, I go harder.”

View Artist's Website
Tad Lauritzen Wright
Studio Artist

Tad Lauritzen Wright

American, born San Angelo, TX 1972, active Memphis

Tad Lauritzen Wright’s practice is informed by undergraduate and graduate art degrees [the latter from the Memphis College of Art], and characterized by experimental approaches to painting, printmaking, sculpture, and single line drawings. A native of San Angelo, TX, Wright grew up, he says, “consuming rodeo, punk rock, Playboy, cheap beer, shotguns, cartoons, farm trucks, skateboarding, Mexican border towns, and junkyard culture” [his grandfather owned a junkyard]. While his mother listened only to The Carpenters on an 8-track tape in the car, and his parents enjoyed country music records at home, Wright sought alternative forms of music, creating his own instruments out of cardboard, nets, fishing line, and also farm equipment that he would hang from nearby mesquite trees.

As he grew older, he discovered Surrealist artist Meret Oppenheim’s iconic 1936 fur-lined teacup, a strange and jarring object. Later, he encountered the seemingly child-like works of French artist Jean Dubuffet, and realized from these two artists encounters that there could be a space for his own work, which favors “discounted sources,” “basic ideas, simple plans, and rigorous daydreaming.”

Single-line drawings are a through line of Wright’s career, loosely time-based games that start simply, and grow in complexity, while involving constant risk along the way. Perhaps the ultimate inspiration for Wright’s drawings derives from childhood scrawls he drew underneath his parents’ coffee table as a child. He continues to celebrate the crudeness and distortions of children’s art and the quality of freshness and spontaneity in them that suggest some kind of authentic truth.

View Artist's Website

Photojournalist

Andrea Morales

Andrea Morales began working with a camera in college where she studied journalism. Drawn to photography as a tool for storytelling, she found the camera and the stories it could tell personally helpful in addressing the “perpetual anxiety” she felt speaking English as a second language. Morales was born in Peru and reared in Miami’s Little Havana. Since 2014, she’s been a documentary photographer based in Memphis, as well as a producer at the Southern Documentary Project, housed at Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. Andrea is also the Visuals Director of MLK50, an online non-profit news organization. While the photos on display here relate to projects she pursued at MLK50, Morales’s work also appears regularly in the New York Times and other news publications.

Morales practices community journalism, which does not prioritize the story’s intended audience but, rather, the people in the stories. Morales carefully avoids calling people “subjects” in a photograph, and prefers to think of them as collaborators in the story they together choose to tell. She favors this approach because it allows her to develop long-term relationships leading to trust and co-investment in the story being told. Ultimately, community journalism helps to create community through shared experiences. When her work becomes, at times, overwhelmingly difficult, she summons the words of Chicago organizer Mariame Kaba, “Hope is a discipline and . . .we have to practice it every single day.”

View Artist's Website

Photojournalist

Johnathan “Malik” Martin

American, born South Memphis, TN 1988, active Memphis

Malik Martin’s path to photojournalism is unusual and informed by various passions: sports and rock climbing, music concerts, social media, social justice, Soulsville, and superheroes, like Peter Parker (Spiderman’s alter ego). A native of South Memphis, Martin was reared by his grandmother, and began capturing his experiences with a camera as a teenager. He ran track at Arkansas State University (Jonesboro) and started creating music videos to accompany his poems. When he graduated college, he bought a tent and air mattress, and camped for six months, using the rest of his money for photographic equipment. Photographing music concerts in Memphis led to higher profile jobs:  a post-concert photo he posted of football player Odell Beckham, Jr. on Instagram brought so much attention that, just one year later, his career was thriving. An independent photographer whose work appears in MLK50 and The New TriState Defender, Martin serves as the Social Media Director for the climbing gym Memphis Rox. In December, Reel Rock, a platform for climbing movies, released Black Ice, a 35-minute film about a group of South Memphians who go ice climbing in Montana. Martin served as the head cinematographer and lead producer for the film.

Like Andrea Morales, Martin is a community journalist, and avoids the idea of the “objective” reporter: “objectivity is a privilege,” he says. “The people who can say that [they are objective] are not a part of the community, they can disconnect. . . .  They are photographing from the side. I feel like, you know, I go harder.”

View Artist's Website

Studio Artist

Tad Lauritzen Wright

American, born San Angelo, TX 1972, active Memphis

Tad Lauritzen Wright’s practice is informed by undergraduate and graduate art degrees [the latter from the Memphis College of Art], and characterized by experimental approaches to painting, printmaking, sculpture, and single line drawings. A native of San Angelo, TX, Wright grew up, he says, “consuming rodeo, punk rock, Playboy, cheap beer, shotguns, cartoons, farm trucks, skateboarding, Mexican border towns, and junkyard culture” [his grandfather owned a junkyard]. While his mother listened only to The Carpenters on an 8-track tape in the car, and his parents enjoyed country music records at home, Wright sought alternative forms of music, creating his own instruments out of cardboard, nets, fishing line, and also farm equipment that he would hang from nearby mesquite trees.

As he grew older, he discovered Surrealist artist Meret Oppenheim’s iconic 1936 fur-lined teacup, a strange and jarring object. Later, he encountered the seemingly child-like works of French artist Jean Dubuffet, and realized from these two artists encounters that there could be a space for his own work, which favors “discounted sources,” “basic ideas, simple plans, and rigorous daydreaming.”

Single-line drawings are a through line of Wright’s career, loosely time-based games that start simply, and grow in complexity, while involving constant risk along the way. Perhaps the ultimate inspiration for Wright’s drawings derives from childhood scrawls he drew underneath his parents’ coffee table as a child. He continues to celebrate the crudeness and distortions of children’s art and the quality of freshness and spontaneity in them that suggest some kind of authentic truth.

View Artist's Website
Executive Director, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

Emily Ballew Neff, Ph.D.

When Neff took the helm as executive director of Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in April 2015, she hit the ground running. The museum was gearing up for its centennial celebration, which included the opening of Inside Art, a gallery dedicated to visual literacy, two new series, Rotunda Projects and Brooks Outside, and permanent galleries for the art of Carroll Cloar and native-son photographers William Eggleston and Ernest C. Withers. Neff brought experience as director and chief curator of the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma and served nearly two decades as the first curator of American Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Neff is a graduate of Yale University and Rice University with a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, and a fellow of the Center for Curatorial Leadership in NYC.

Emily Ballew Neff, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

Emily Ballew Neff, Ph.D.

When Neff took the helm as executive director of Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in April 2015, she hit the ground running. The museum was gearing up for its centennial celebration, which included the opening of Inside Art, a gallery dedicated to visual literacy, two new series, Rotunda Projects and Brooks Outside, and permanent galleries for the art of Carroll Cloar and native-son photographers William Eggleston and Ernest C. Withers. Neff brought experience as director and chief curator of the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma and served nearly two decades as the first curator of American Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Neff is a graduate of Yale University and Rice University with a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, and a fellow of the Center for Curatorial Leadership in NYC.

Program Recordings

Happy Hour with Malik Martin

Happy Hour with Malik MartinHappy Hour with Malik Martin

Happy Hour with Tad Lauritzen Wright

Happy Hour with Tad Lauritzen WrightHappy Hour with Tad Lauritzen Wright

Happy Hour with Andrea Morales

Happy Hour with Andrea MoralesHappy Hour with Andrea Morales

Resources

Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?

Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?

The American art theorist Linda Nochlin (1931-2017) posed this question as the title of a pioneering article in 1971. This essay was considered one of the first major works of Feminist art history, it has become a set text for those who study art internationally, and it is influential in many other fields.

Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? by Linda Nochlin