The riots in Baltimore, Md. after the death of Freddie Gray changed the way Ulric Joseph paints.
Joseph fashioned his oil paintings after photos he saw from the riots.
In one, a young boy is throwing stones at the police wearing riot gear. In another, a woman is crying and praying. She is bent over, hands folded. A small candle is lit in front of her.
“I like to show these emotions in my paintings,” said Joseph, who is originally from Trinidad, but lives on the North Side and commutes to Maryland. “I want people to see the aftermath, that if you take someone’s child off this planet because you don’t like them or they didn’t do something you wanted them to do, that is wrong and this is what you have left, a heart-broken family member. We need to reach these young people before someone else gets to them. We are at a critical point in our society.”
Joseph won Best in Show at the Dollar Bank Pittsburgh Three Rivers Arts Festival’s Juried Visual Art Exhibition on Friday for his painting of the young boy called “Target Practice.”
“A lot of these kids don’t see themselves living past 21 years old. I could paint landscapes, but I want to paint something that makes people take action and creates conversation because we need change. Some of these young kids don’t have the ability to dream,” Joseph said.
Joseph’s works will be on display with other artwork at the 60th anniversary of the arts festival through Sunday. The collection is at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s gallery space at 803 Liberty Ave., Downtown. The pieces are for sale. He credits his wife, Jennie Canning, with telling him about this exhibition, which showcases exceptional new art by regional artists in various stages of their careers, and in a variety of media.
He said he is hopeful his paintings can raise a discussion.
Ivette Spradlin, Juried Visual Art Exhibition coordinator, said she was immediately drawn to the Joseph’s piece.
“I knew I wanted it to be in a place in the gallery where it would be one of the first things a viewer would see,” she said.
Spradlin said most people want to be remembered for their best qualities.
“Anger, rage, violence doesn’t usually make the cut but it is a human experience and can be productive and can drive us,” she said. “I liked this emotional conflict and acceptance in this painting. I consider anger one of our core emotions and wanted it to be at the core of this exhibition.”