On Oct. 19, the African American Cultural Center (AACC) hosted the opening reception for their latest art gallery entitled For the Love of Art. This art gallery is the second solo exhibit of the work of Bryce Cobbs, an artist and creator, whose gallery portrays Black Beauty with different mediums in a soft and diverse setting. 

The artist, Bryce Cobbs, was born in Roanoke, Virginia, and has been painting for as long as he can remember. He studied Art Communication at Virginia Commonwealth University, began working on creative projects and putting his works in collective galleries. Cobbs creates anatomy and portrait focused art; producing each of his pieces with a different personal story in mind, however all of them made with the intent to celebrate the depths and beauty of Black Existence. 

The Opening Receptionally formally began with Isaiah Lucas, AACC program coordinator, who briefly introduced everyone in the space to the gallery’s artist. Cobbs humbly requested that Lucas keep the introduction short. Lucas began the Artist Talk portion of the event by introducing everyone in the space to the artist and his background, following with a few questions.

Isaiah Lucas:  “ So when you were thinking about curating… For the Love of Art, what was your thought process behind… the title, and then selecting these pieces to sort of work with the title?”

Bryce Cobbs:  ” …The reason I named it For the Love of Art was because thematically…the theme for each of these pieces were loosely connected, but each one of these pieces are like my favorite pieces out of like my entire portfolio… I really had to pick which ones I think I felt connected to the most, and which ones I was really the most proud of…Every single one of these are either part of a series I did before [and] they were my favorite out of the series, or they were just pieces I really just explored or just did like the best that I think I could do technically on the piece. I just think it’s important to have something that I consider my favorites or something that I consider I worked the most hard on all together. I’ve never seen these pieces hung up together before, [and]I really just wanted to see that.”

Cobbs mentioned that viewers can see the different stages of his learning process and the results of him honing in his different skills. This intentionally made his journey as an artist visible to the viewer in the gallery. He’s passionate about learning, improving and stepping outside the box. Each of the walls in the gallery presented a different one of the mediums he practices. The left side of the room was predominantly made up of his oil paintings, the back was his pencil works and the right was his digital works. 

Cobb said “When I get bored with a certain concept is when I realize it’s time to move to the next level or next step. I got bored of just doing regular portraits, I’ve done 1 million faces. [I ask myself] How can I make this face more interesting than the last? I try to do something out of the box that I didn’t do before, to me it’s like super crazy. It’s like all you did was add a triangle to the forehead; but to me, doing that like opens up new possibilities. 

The path that I’ve chosen to be an artist, taught me to trust my gut. But to a certain degree – like I made a lot of like really quick decisions to be an artist, like quitting jobs and things like that, and it taught me to be a little more patient and a little more conscious about the decisions I would make and how they affect my future, but I would also say doing that taught me to be risky.”

Prior to the start of the Artist Talk, guests were enjoying music, mingling with other guests and talking about their personal interpretations of the pieces. At one point, a small group asked Cobbs to clarify the meaning of a painting they were observing. Before answering, he first asked what they thought in a genuine tone, waited for their answer, then informed them of his intentions while creating the piece. 

During the artist talk, questions showed that this was an intentional interaction. Cobbs stated:  “If they feel something speaks to them…[I] want them to understand what it means and what it could mean, …[I] Kinda [want viewers to] come up with their own stories for each piece, I really want them to leave here and not just look at the paintings and walk away, I want them to feel something. I want them to feel connected to each piece.”

He was transparent about his processes, encouraging any questions about the journey of his career, his work’s meanings and motivations (which includes his family and friends) and inspiring others.  Much of what Cobbs’ had to say during the artist talk related to his desires of creating more space and opportunities in the world for beautiful and positive pieces of Black Art.

Cobbs wants to encourage confidence in others, confidence in general, confidence in the interpretations they hold, confidence to take up space and confidence to create spaces of their own volition.

Lucas asked about his future as an artist, and what his goals were. Cobbs’ said he has a few big, intention heavy pieces that he plans to finish up. Additionally, he wants to be able to make paintings on a bigger scale, like the mural he once did, and present his work in more galleries and creative spaces. Lastly, but what he seemed very excited about, was the idea of getting more involved with youth to inspire and urge them to tell their stories.

One of the final questions Lucas asked before opening up the floor for questions from the audience was if Cobbs’ had any advice to the student artists on campus.

 Cobb said “I believe everybody is creative and I believe everybody has the ability to create…So, I would just encourage everybody to just make art…Tell the story you want to tell it, because no one can tell that story for you. Stay passionate and find the time to create, because somebody out there needs to see your art. …Somebody out there needs to hear your story, and you don’t know who you might impact….[I] strongly advise y’all to never stop.”

The AACC will be hosting For the Love of Art on the second-floor gallery in Witherspoon Student Center until the end of the fall 2022 academic semester. 

If you are interested in purchasing any of the artwork on display, you can find that his prints and original pieces are available at ArtByBryce.com. To see any of Cobb’s additional work, be sure to check out his website and or find him on his linked social media accounts in the website’s top right corner.