Thomas Blackshear, II, at one of his Bay Area appearances signing his popular figurines, which are multi-dimensional portraits of Black Americans. He is seen here with Post reporter Jesse Brooks at Hallmark in San Leandro recently.
Internationally acclaimed artist Thomas Blackshear, II, known for his authentic depictions of African Americans. But he says when he set out to create a collection of figurines that would portray the beauty, elegance and dignity of African Americans, but it never crossed his mind that he would have one of the best selling figurine collections of all times.
He calls his work Afro Nouveau, a cross between Art Nouveau and Art Deco.
The Ebony Vision Collection was introduced in 1995. I know a lot of people that collect them. Each sculptures reflects unique characteristics of the African American culture, depicting a full range of emotions that are both powerful and at the same time subtle.
In 1991, Blackshear was commissioned by the U.S. Postal Service to illustrate a book called “I Have A Dream: A Collection of Black Americans on U.S. Postage Stamps.” The 68-page book tells the inspirational stories of 28 African Americans such as scholar W.E. B. Du Bois, Dr. Washington carver, journalist Ida B. Wells.
The book included a forward from Alex Haley. Blackshear says he and Haley became friends, during the project, “I still have his voice on my voicemail as he tried to reach me, three days before he died,” said Blackshear.
In 1992, his Black Heritage works exhibit premiered at the Smithsonian Institute of National Museum of American history. Blackshear tells me a new stamp will be coming in 2013.
He says it is only at the signings is that he realizes his fame, and compared to the normalcy of his life, it sometimes seem seems surreal. A born-again Christian for over 30 years, Blackshear says he knows his success has nothing to do with him, that it is only through God’s blessings and favor that he has the opportunity to use his talents to move people.