There will be a time, hopefully in the not too distant future, when we look back and realize that face masks and toilet paper held as much value to some people as diamonds. It's a sentiment, or commentary on life, that prompted Chattanooga-based artist Genesis the Greykid to create a new poem-inspired painting called "There was a time" that incorporates those elements.
"This is my way of processing what is happening," he said from his studio space off Main Street.
Genesis describes his art pieces as "PoAnguardia," poetry blended with avante garde painting and mixed media. This work is a 60- by 48-inch mixed-media/oil-on-canvas piece that he says is the first of a series he hopes to do with the help of London jeweler Jack Moore. Moore supplied the diamonds, as well as some of the inspiration for the piece. It was a conversation with Joe Lipsey Jr., whose dad owns the building the studio is in, that got Genesis thinking about the masks.
"We were talking about them and how hard they were to find," Genesis said. "And tissue and toilet paper."
Genesis, whose clients include actors, NBA and NFL players and musicians around the country, was introduced to Moore about six months ago while Moore was in Chattanooga delivering custom-made jewelry to a local client. Some of his other clients include members of the British royal family and Rolling Stones Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood.
The two hit it off and, about two months ago, Genesis showed him a piece he'd made using old or broken pieces of things he'd collected to make a watch. Moore loved the idea, and the two started talking about working together.
"I met him, and he'd had an idea to make this watch out of things that seemed to not have much value, and I just thought that was brilliant," Moore said via phone from his home in England. "I knew I wanted to do something with him, though I'm not an artist."
The two kept talking about the ideas of perception versus reality, and what is really valuable and how your ideas on those things can change. Both decided they wanted the piece to be reflective of the current time and situation, but to not be entirely negative.
"There is so much bad already," Genesis said. "These are the kinds of times when artists step up: How can I point out the obvious and make a statement?"
Moore sent Genesis three bags of offcuts, diamonds and diamond dust with a total weight of just over 100 carats, including 500 hand-cut round diamonds with a minimum of 17 facets cut and polished on each one. Moore didn't put a value on the collection, but said with a laugh, "All diamonds have value. The youngest ones are a billion years old. The oldest are 3 billion years old.
"I didn't want to waste Genesis' time, and I wanted to send him diamonds that would catch the light. In for a penny, in for a pound, right?"
Figuring out exactly to use those in the piece was a challenge, but one that Genesis said he had fun figuring out.
"First I tried gluing them, but you couldn't tell what they were," he said.
Then he tried mixing them in paint and applying them onto a scrap piece. That turned out so clumpy, the effect was lost. He finally devised a way to paint them directly onto the finished piece so that they sparkle when the light hits them. The text reads "There was a time ... when these ... were more valuable than these."
Genesis values the "There was a time" painting between $15,000 and $20,000 and said the plan is to paint 10 and 20 more in the series with the collaboration of Moore, who plans to move his family to Chattanooga when the pandemic is over and travel bans are lifted.
"This was a fun piece to do," Genesis said. Though he didn't know it at the time, it really started for him, he said, a few hours after boarding a train for his six-day return trip home from Seattle, back in early March. He got a call from his friend Matt McClelland who he'd just left who let him know that news outlets were reporting the first COVID-19 patient in Seattle.
Intentional about taking such trips because they allow him to think, meet people and generally be inspired, Genesis suddenly found himself isolated, if even just mentally. McClelland then told him, "Being still and resting are two different things."
"I'm a people person, and so now I'm not meeting strangers or a homeless guy I meet on the street. I had to deal with this on my own, and I had to find my own muse. But I realized that for the first time, everybody was seeing the same thing, whether they are in Israel, or Germany or Australia. We are all dealing with this."
It was later that he had the conversations with Lipsey and Moore.
The painting currently hangs among nearly 40 other pieces on a wall in the studio. Genesis and friend and curator Kreneshia Whiteside hung the pieces a week ago. Earlier this week, Genesis sat in a chair taking them all in.
"I've never seen my work all hung on one big wall like this," he said. "When I look at them this way, I see God. I always pray before I paint, and I see love and God in them."
The gallery space gives him the chance to show the pieces. He is currently setting up a way to make appointments on his website at genesisthegreykid.com.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.