Visual Artist Cedric Michael Cox

On a new episode of Inspired By, host Rodney Veal speaks with Cedric Michael Cox, is best known for his paintings and drawings that merge surrealism and representational abstraction.

Show Notes



[00:00:29] Rodney Veal: I’m super excited. Today we’re gonna have a conversation with one of my favorite artists Cedric Michael Cox, who is an often abused phrase, abstract artist, but he is just an artist extraordinaire. I think that, that I’ve gotten to know Cedric over the last couple of years. His work is vibrant.

[00:00:48] So I’m, we’re super psych, super excited to have this conversation to talk about all things art and all things life and all things, everything everywhere, all at once. This is a, obviously a nod [00:01:00] reference to the Oscars.

[00:01:01] All right, so, Without a further, further ado, let’s have this conversation with Cedric. Hey, good morning, Cedric.

[00:01:07] Cedric Michael Cox: Good morning. Good morning, Rodney. It’s a pleasure to be here.

[00:01:09] Rodney Veal: It is really an indeed an honor. And so Cedric, I’m just gonna dive right in. And this is one of the things I just I remember I met you you’re, and I was first introduced to your work at an exhibition of your work at Sinclair a few years ago. Yes. Do you remember that? At the Triangle Gallery and I was blown away. Yes, I do remember. Thank you. I was genuinely like giddy because I was like, this is someone who has like, who’s making work in such a complete. Thoughtful, exuberant, colorful way. And I’m like, who is this guy? I mean, and so when I met you and I was like, oh, well that makes sense.

[00:01:46] It’s you, you like, you, you were the living embodiment of your work. And so I, I wanna talk, cause I, one of the things I was, and this is kinda like this is your life you, are you a native Ohioan or did you. [00:02:00]

[00:02:00] Cedric Michael Cox: Yes, I was born in actually Dayton, Ohio, in Jefferson Township. And about when I was two years old, we, we moved to Cincinnati.

[00:02:09] Rodney Veal: That is crazy. Do you realize that? That’s that’s where I grew up. Jefferson Township.

[00:02:14] Cedric Michael Cox: No kidding. Really?

[00:02:15] Rodney Veal: Yeah. I’m a jt. Yeah, I’m a JT grad, so, oh, this is really giving Jefferson Township some prop. So you, so you left at, you know, two years old. Two or three. Yeah,

[00:02:24] Cedric Michael Cox: I don’t really remember it, but, you know, my, my my dad would commute from from Dayton, our house in Dayton to downtown Cincinnati where he worked.

[00:02:31] He was a floor manager and store manager for Mercer Till stores, Alpins. And my mom taught in I believe she was teaching at the Wyoming School District. So it was like, it was a, it was a, it was a heavy commute for everybody, but they, but they, they wanted to build a house in Dayton at one point in time and, you know, they decided just to, well, this is too much.

[00:02:52] Let’s just move to To Cincinnati, Ohio, and that’s where my dad is from.

[00:02:56] Rodney Veal: That’s so crazy. We have this connection and because, cause I was looking [00:03:00] at your I was looking at your CV and the fact that you went to dap, which is the University of Cincinnati. So ex So I’m kind of curious like.

[00:03:07] Because DAP is not really known for being about the fine arts. So was there a mm-hmm. Goal? Like why did you go, why did you go with dap? I mean, I, as opposed to like, let me go to the traditional route of, you know, painting technique with a, with a bachelor’s. I mean, I’m kind of curious.

[00:03:21] Cedric Michael Cox: Well, well, you know, I wasn’t really sure about what I wanted to do, you know, end of co end of high school, you’re, you’re just kind of, just, just figuring out what you’re good at.

[00:03:31] You know, I, I played, I was kinda like a free spirit. I played in bands. I. I kind of just did my thing and you know, when, when college was approaching and applying, I was like, well, you know, I don’t wanna be too far from, you know, my friends, my band, and the things that I’ve come to love and know. So I was like, well, let’s just check out uc.

[00:03:52] And, you know, I heard about DAP. And dap even though DAP wasn’t known for fine arts, I thought maybe I could fall back into something, you know, [00:04:00] more more substantial maybe in, you know, design or something like that. But, Quite frankly, as heavy handed as I am, as as grimy as I am, as far as like my as far as my my, my technique or whatever, I, I felt like fine arts could be more expressive and just better for me.

[00:04:18] I remember taking my design courses later in my final arts career, cause I jumped around, you know, Taking a little bit of a design drawing and, you know, regular fine art drawing and life drawing. And I remember going to form class where you had to keep your hands clean for all the shaping these three dimensional paper, pristine white projects.

[00:04:38] And just like my pores just spewing out with charcoal and stuff like that. So I, I didn’t take everything in order. I was just really just. Rolling with it and experimenting, but for the most part, I, I’m very happy. While I was there, I had a chance to study at the School of Art in Glasgow, Scotland through a fellowship.

[00:04:57] And it was the last year that they actually had that [00:05:00] fellowship for uc students to go over to Scotland or for one uc student, myself, to get a fellowship to go to Scotland. And it was fun. That was my junior year. So it was a wonderful experience. I, I’m very grateful of it. And my professors, they were wonder.

[00:05:14] Rodney Veal: Oh, that is super cool and I love the fact that you talked about your gravy hands and your process, and so I, I’ve kinda, well, cause I, I’m wondering, I mean, because, you know, for those who, who. Hopefully we’ll come to know your work. I mean, there’s a lot of forms and figures and shapes and like distortion of form.

[00:05:32] Mm-hmm. And, and I’m wondering if that was a byproduct of that kind of experience dab and that this kind of led that way. Yes. Or was that always your kind of style? Do you know what I’m saying? Like this is, you know, aesthetics, so like, and so kind of curious about that. I.

[00:05:48] Cedric Michael Cox: I remember as a kid always it wasn’t about what I drew as much as the enjoyment of the shapes and the parts over layering and overlapping each other.

[00:05:57] I remember when I would draw maybe comical [00:06:00] heroes or, or or, or, or, Or heroines with very elaborate garments. You know, it would always be not so much who they are, but what they wore, the, the patterns, the shapes, the layering of line and imagery. And that would be the most exciting part. Okay, like we got the figure down, but let’s get in the groove a bit.

[00:06:19] Let’s make it visually stimulating. And I’ll always remember. There wasn’t really a contrast between foreground and background. Everything was filled to the page. There wasn’t really like a, was what, what would you call it? And, and music, you would call it a crescendo of forms, you know, you know, developing or sounds developing with me.

[00:06:37] It was just, Positive, negative, you know, it’s just like, really just turn it up to, to 11 or whatnot. And so, you know, in, in college, you know, you learn to be subtle and somewhat in some ways, but I think that all, all over compositional climax of energy is just something that naturally happened. Whether it’s nervous energy of me writing down my favorite band’s names and [00:07:00] logos on my textbook in the high school, and just having the whole entire thing.

[00:07:05] You know, to where you could not see the brown paper to where. You know, going and then you then going to art history and seeing other artists do the same thing. But of course in the museums, you know, extravagant way, you see like there’s, there’s, there’s a place for guys like us. You know, these geometric configuration of forms all over compositional, climax.

[00:07:27] I remember when I started hearing these terms, like all over compositional climax and it referring to Jackson, Paula, I started like realizing, okay, that’s my language. You know, this, that’s a definition of what I’m trying to do, and I’m already speaking that about myself, even before I was really making work like that, because I felt like, you know, if I’m gonna do this, I gotta think about how it relates verbally to the public and how it relates.

[00:07:54] You know, I don’t wanna, I, I’ll say marketing, I was branding myself. How, how do I, how am [00:08:00] I gonna make this, this art thing work when this college thing is. You know, so you start, you know, you start identifying yourself with art history and that magic and the hi the heroes of before you around you. And, and that, I guess that’s how the style developed.

[00:08:18] You know, we all have our tendencies of how we create based upon how we our mark making. And I think a lot of the work we do is based around our ability, but at the same time is based around what we. And how we can extra, how we can expand our ability and match it with what we love and our aspirations.

[00:08:35] And that becomes our aesthetic.

[00:08:37] Rodney Veal: I was thinking about that, like there were a couple of articles I pulled up and you talked about, and you said it, you talked about influences. Who were your artistic influences? I mean, I mean, I see them and, and, and it was like, and as soon as I saw it written, On paper, I was like, oh, yep, that’s it.

[00:08:53] But I think you talk about it, like who, who are your influences of why, why these were so important to you. [00:09:00] These.

[00:09:01] Cedric Michael Cox: Well, you know, it was Lionel Frier was a, was an artist from New York who was kind of like that fragmentation form, kind of cubist, post cubist kind of vibe to, to their work. You know, growing up Aaron Douglas as African-American artists, identifying with other, learning about other African-American artists in art history class made a big difference.

[00:09:20] John Biggers, Charles White. And of course, you know, you have, you know, your Terrence Corbins who was my, who later became my professor in advanced drawing. But I think, you know, you got Paul Clay, you know, you got guys like Paul Clay who just have this, this vibe where whether it’s a forest or a city scape, His squares end up becoming what he wants him to be through his imagination.

[00:09:46] Right. You know? Right. And it, it is just, it’s just like, you know, it’s like, it could be a cityscape, it could be a forest if what he says it’s gonna be. And I love that freedom and that playfulness. And also that guy who went to fought in World War I with him Franz, [00:10:00] mark or mark France. I always mix him up.

[00:10:02] But you know, Juan Gre. You know, that, that, that colorful cubist and just that the whole genre, I mean, it’s, it’s, you know, I come, I’m a modernist, so I lean towards, you know, our history’s past as inspiration. But there’s, there’s plenty of contemporary artists whose work I enjoy within my realm of Artists like yourself, Rodney, I mean, you’re, you’re phenomenal.

[00:10:23] I mean, you have really exciting work and, you know, it’s, it’s a, it has a vibe to it that’s, that’s very atmospheric, but at the same time, very hard edge. You know what I mean?

[00:10:33] Rodney Veal: You’re the first person to review my work, so this is kinda like, wow. Stop. And I’m honored. So No serious. I’m dead serious.

[00:10:39] I mean, it’s this in, well, well, And when you say these things, you talk about the influences in Aaron Douglass and you know, and you talk about o other African American artists. I, I think about like, you know, because there’s a, there’s a belief system that in the abstract world of the modernist [00:11:00] world, the Black voice has been kind of for lack of a better term, marginalized or ignored.

[00:11:05] Yes. And, and, What I loved is that you’re unapologetically embracing that history, but then expanding it to now it just feels, it feels historic, but it feels current. It feels like I’m being in the presence of, and and one of the things that I find really interesting is the fact, the influences is the fact that.

[00:11:26] Earlier you said, I played in a band. I’m like, so you are a mu so you are a musician. I didn’t, I didn’t realize that.

[00:11:34] Cedric Michael Cox: Yeah, I, I played guitar in a punk metal kind of thing. Grind chord band. And we and it was just something we did, man. I mean, we, yeah, we were just, oh, yes, we, we were, yeah, man, I mean, we, we, we were really.

[00:11:49] We were one of the first in, in the Cincinnati area and our, our first real show, cuz we had a, we had various lineups and stuff like that. We weren’t [00:12:00] really, we were just playing around. You know, we had, you know, when you first start your first bands, you have everybody, you have three bass players, you have five guitars.

[00:12:07] You’re all just like two drummers. You’re all just, I’m like, yeah dude, we can do it. You know, and you just, and then after a while you kind of dwindles down to a few people who are. And then in the end when the smoke cleared, it was, you know, these three guys Steve, myself, and Carl. And, and we, our first gig was on the radio together on Wave 88.3, and we were, we were, it was 1993 maybe, maybe 91 or three or something like that.

[00:12:39] Oh, that is crazy. I was 17 and then, and then, And then we were, yeah, we were the first doing that stuff that, that really heavy grind, core stuff. And then and we just kept, kept doing it. But the thing of, an interesting thing about that stuff, I mean, my guitarist and I, I, I guess I identified with that music cause I liked the [00:13:00] volume of rock.

[00:13:01] I loved the volume of you know, I always wanted to be, I always loved Prince and I loved Rick James, but I loved the clothes that they would wear, and I loved the actual idea. Guitar as like a weapon. And I loved, you know, Conan a barbarian and stuff like that. So like the ax, the guitar. So this kind of imagery as a kid kind of made these musicians like heroes, you know what I mean?

[00:13:24] On a visual level, right? So and so then, then, but then the music, you know, the guitar and the sound. I was listening, what was I listening? Yeah.

[00:13:32] Rodney Veal: What were you listening to at that point? I’m, I’m kind of curious. I mean, yeah.

[00:13:36] Cedric Michael Cox: Oh, oh, all kinds. Well, I mean, in my teens, of course, you’re listening to all the Hard Rock and all the, you know, but we loved Parliament too.

[00:13:42] We loved all that stuff, but, I think as a kid it was just, it was just this, you know, the, the seventies rock and, and, and, you know, everything from Lou Ross to Motown. It was just, it was just, we, I had a very ec collective of childhood. My dad [00:14:00] would play vogner, you know, we would listen to there’d be classical music, chopan.

[00:14:05] I mean, so it was just, you know, we, we didn’t. It just seemed natural just to, to accept all musical forms in my household, in my life. So it was, there wasn’t any lines of division. So when I would see people, whether it be on M T V or listen to something, it would just intrigue me. Okay, what were they doing?

[00:14:24] Why did they decide to sing it like this? What from, I mean, it was just, it’s exciting, it’s fun. I just love. My generation and what we created. But the thing back to the band and I, I swore I would not talk about the band so much and give them shine like that because I’m no longer with the guys. But we would play these rifts over and over again and have these long songs that were so fast and and frenzy.

[00:14:50] But we would play these rifts as if we wouldn’t want the people to forget each rift, cuz we would never play it again. Throughout that one composition. [00:15:00] So we played like eight times. I mean, it was just like nuts. It was sick, but, but the thing about it is, the thing about it is it was like that all over compositional climax thing I was talking about.

[00:15:12] Exactly. It was about, yeah. Yeah. Like it was overkill of imagery. Yeah, it was just like, just just like, fill it up, fill up the picture, plane, fill it up, repeat, fill up. Not, you’re not, you’re not repetitive, but you’re just, you’re just, you’re just filling it up.

[00:15:28] Rodney Veal: There’s no, there’s no empty space. There’s no void.

[00:15:31] I mean, and that’s there.

[00:15:32] Cedric Michael Cox: Gosh, you got it. No crescendo. No crescendo.

[00:15:35] Rodney Veal: And which is, which is cracking me up because that’s, that’s like your work, there’s no like, there’s no, there’s no void. Like you’re, I mean, that’s, And, and, and I thinking myself, I always, when I, when I first saw your work play, I always thought of your work as musical compositions before even knowing this about you in the band and knowing that you were a musician.

[00:15:54] I always felt your work was musically inspired as, as a, as [00:16:00] a, like, it’s like in there, in that sort of com dispositional framing. And so, mm-hmm. I, you know, I just, I’m like, oh, now this all makes more sense. I mean, so folks, I mean, I have to tell people, you have gotta go see subject’s work. I mean, if you’re anyone that’s like, loves art and, and.

[00:16:21] And your work is out as out there. And I’m, I, I guarantee you, you will go, oh yes, you will see this. You know, you will totally see this. So we’re gonna take a, a, a, a moment to, for break, and then we’re gonna come back and we’re gonna continue this conversation about music, art, and all things.


[00:16:40] [00:17:00]

[00:17:26] Rodney Veal: So, Cedric, one of the things is, and, and digging is the fact that the, it’s. The breadth of your work. I mean, it’s like, and you’ve been at this for almost two and a half de decades, which is amazing, right? So you have this massive volume of work and but also till you’ve worked in different ways.

[00:17:47] And so I was looking at the mural work that you’ve done, but I wanna specifically talk about the work you did with the Black Lives Matter movement, because there was some really. That was an interesting timeframe. [00:18:00] 2020. Yes. So let’s talk about that, right?

[00:18:04] Cedric Michael Cox: Yeah. It was it was a big time. I mean, I felt like, I don’t know, I guess to describe it, the feeling that I was feeling about it.

[00:18:15] You know, we are, we’re in the middle of Covid, but it was the summertime and. We’ll just take it all the way back to Covid. I knew this thing was going down, this, this, this, this plague, if you will. I hate to put it, frankly. I mean, I was Well, it was a plague. Yeah, it was. I mean, so going through, you know, going to listen to NPR every day.

[00:18:36] For some reason, just listening to it every day, which I wasn’t, wouldn’t normally do. I started listening day by day, this thing spreading and spreading and spreading. And then finally I came here. The next thing you know, and this is like November of 2019, and then next thing you know I, I get this opportunity to do these, these 64 paintings for Children’s Hospital [00:19:00] and.

[00:19:00] That ended up happening in early January of 2020. And then, but this thing kept on coming and we, when rumors of shutdowns started happening, and then next thing you know, it shut everything down. And I had to go around to all these schools that were helping me create these things and pick ’em up. And then I, I was teaching at St.

[00:19:22] Francis at the time and. Pulling into the lot of St. Francis and realizing, no, none of the teachers were there. And I was like, cool. This is, this is what’s happening. So we just, and I’m the art teacher, so obviously there wasn’t really a way for us to do Zoom or everything for me. And so I just took this time, I was like, cool, man, here it is.

[00:19:40] Let’s just, let’s just do this art thing full-time. Let’s get these paintings done and just, and do it. And I was also preparing for my 20th retrospective, 20 years of re of painting retrospective. And I. And then, you know, I felt like I was in a very safe place. I felt like I was, in my own world, my own safe place, even though [00:20:00] Covid was, was running wild.

[00:20:02] But, you know, there was, I felt like I was in a safe place. And then, you know, the, the George Floyd incident happened and then next thing you know, things started, things started changing. Things started, we started getting out people. There was a lot of frustration, a lot of anger. A lot of resentment and there’s a lot of this, you know, I’m not gonna use my hand sanitizer screwed us.

[00:20:24] You know, it’s just like I’m tired of it all, sick of it all, and, and you just, you just, you just feel like something is erupting. And I got a phone call or a couple of phone calls that I missed from several people within the arts community about this opportunity. And next thing you know, I was jump put in on this On a Zoom call that happened on a Monday evening.

[00:20:48] And next thing you know, we had our, had to get our designs ready by Wednesday afternoon to present to the city. And the next thing you know, I think that Thursday we were starting to line up the streets and start [00:21:00] painting that it was that fast. Oh wow. That fast. And this was,

[00:21:03] Rodney Veal: it was that fast also. And this was a response to the Black Lives Matter movement.

[00:21:07] And this is this, this, yeah. And. What was really, what was amazing to me about that is the fact that is the fact that you talk about you, cuz you described, this is your words, you, this is how you describe your as inner combustion, your art as inner combustion of your spirit and unapologetically colorful and happy, but you are.

[00:21:29] Then addressing this anger and simmering rage of the, of the African American community, you know, well, it was an anger and rage for the world, but this is very specific to our, our experiences being black in America. And, and I I, it was really interesting in the article you talked about it and it, cause I think it’s really important you.

[00:21:54] There were times, and you’ve only been, you know, you’ve been doing, like I said, two and a half decades. There [00:22:00] were conversations where people would, you would sub submit your work for, for gallery shows and exhibits, and people would say, yeah, that’s nice, but let’s do, let’s save it for Black History Month.

[00:22:11] Cedric Michael Cox: There have been situations like that with my work and, and, and, and where I’ve also been invited specifically for the month of February, and I think because my work is abstract, I’ve gotten more opportunities than rather it would be figurative, but at the same time, I think.

[00:22:31] I’ve had more experience with, with people pigeonholing me in general because of me being African-American regardless of the time in history or whatever. I think there’s expectations of what people expect or want from us as African-American artists, whether it’s our opinions on stuff or whether it’s our insight on things and I.

[00:22:53] That pigeonholing, whether it’s saving us for Black History month or contemporary art exhibitions still happens to this [00:23:00] day. So there’s, there’s a, there’s a, there’s a bigotry on both sides of the fence. There’s a, there’s a, there’s expectations and, and pigeonholes that, that people tend to put us as abstract African American artists in.

[00:23:12] And that’s another conversation we can talk about too. But as far as the poem, or there’s a poem associated with the mural. Okay. And, and, and the poem is called, we Want What You. And it was created by e Landis Powell, who was the brainchild of the black Lives Matter mural. And she worked, she selected, along with Brandon Hawkins and some of her friends, a group of African artists who execute this.

[00:23:40] So at the end of the conference call, she started, artists started picking lines from the poem that they wanted to create artwork from. And so, because, Where, because family’s so important to me because I grew up in a household that, that appreciated arts, that loved the arts, that welcomed [00:24:00] me to, inspired me to be able to walk into any room, any situation, any point in time, and feel like I belong.

[00:24:08] And I’m supposed to be there and I’m supposed to be at the table. And in every conversation the, the phrase. Poem that was given to me was to raise my family in peace. I believe that was the particular line. It had to do with family and lineage. And so my design itself for the letter E in matter relates to that aspect.

[00:24:29] And because it’s a timeless quality, I think, you know there, there’s some. Political movements or cer. There’s certain things within world culture and popular culture that become important at the moment, but sometimes do not stay relevant for various reasons political reasons, and, you know, just, just the timing of it all.

[00:24:50] And I, and, and I think the Black Lives Matter mural is in, in our struggle for representation is a, is an ongoing struggle and it’s very, [00:25:00] very real and it’s very serious. But there’s also a sense of trying to get the others, the other population, the majority, the some people refer to it as the dominant culture or whatever to try to get them to understand and empathize and to where there’s is a point where you can discuss the problem, but there’s a point where there’s a solution and, and finding that solution comes through terms like family love and understanding.

[00:25:28] And so I was very happy that I was able to, Take that line from the poem or it was given to me. I can’t remember which way it happened. Right, okay. But, but it worked. It worked.

[00:25:40] Rodney Veal: What? It worked for you. I mean, it really does.

[00:25:42] Cedric Michael Cox: It wor, it works for me visually and spiritually because that’s what I’m trying to do.

[00:25:47] I’m trying to make this connections. I’m trying to make. What I do relevant for all and, and, and palatable in my own way to to express my innermost self, [00:26:00] but hopefully through, through trying to do that, finding the more likenesses and differences between us. But but yeah, it’s, it’s a, it’s an ongoing struggle.

[00:26:09] I, I believe that you, you talked about earlier on. How sometimes the African American abstract voice is not recognized or respected. And we have been making abstract art since the dawn of time. Since the dawn of abstraction. Romeo Beardon is, was an abstract painter before he became the photo collage artist.

[00:26:30] Exactly. And a lot of people don’t know that. And you got Norman Lewis and all these artists who are around during the abstract expressionist movement. But when we would be making art in that genre or in that, in that style, it would be considered amateur or, or. Or primitive or whatever and, and or up or not up

[00:26:52] Rodney Veal: are not to the level, not, which

[00:26:54] Cedric Michael Cox: is, you know, not to the level and it’s just, and it’s just biased.

[00:26:57] Rodney Veal: And that, I mean, it’s, it’s a, it’s a similar, it’s [00:27:00] a similar track with, with within dance. I mean I, I came up through the classical arts. I came up through classical. I mean, that was, mm-hmm. I mean, that was my jam, but every time I would say I was a dancer, the first thing they would ask, oh, modern.

[00:27:17] Because there’s a bias against the black body moving through space. I mean, I was, I, I built a little bit like a linebacker, so I, I’m, I’m a thicker guy, but it doesn’t, it doesn’t preclude a cl a line, it doesn’t preclude an ability for rhythmic movement and shape making, which I love. That’s, I think that’s why I respond so well to your work.

[00:27:37] When I see your work, I go, oh, this is my world. I’m trying to do the shapes with. I’m literally in. Right on. I stand in front of your paintings and I start. And so right on. Yes, but, but it, but that’s, that, that, that that bias is universal. This, these kind of like, yes. Okay. These are, these are very arbitrary decisions.

[00:27:56] I mean, if you let go of the bias and step back and go, [00:28:00] I see everyone’s capable of doing, you see? Oh. He’s a rhythmic, oh, he’s physically strong. He can make a line, he can touch your heart. He can do, he can act as well. I mean, so the, so that’s why I, I, and I love the fact that your parents raised you to be comfortable being at every table and that, and so tell your parents thank you because I see it and how you conduct yourself.

[00:28:25] Thank you. It, it comes through, it comes through loud and clear. And so, I just, I just fell in love with it. It’s just the fact that, you know, this kind of, you recognize that these things have occurred, but you’ve never let them be a, a, an inhibition to moving forward. Right. And so I wanna give you props for that one, sir.

[00:28:48] Cedric Michael Cox: Thank you. Thank you. I mean, thank you and, and likewise to you. I mean, if you’re gonna. You know, in this game a long time, you, you’re gonna understand that adversity comes from [00:29:00] all different shapes and sizes and colors in, in, in different time periods. And you know, and you’re gonna get it for because of who you are and what you are.

[00:29:09] And, and, and it is just, it’s just the way it is. But it’s almost kind of like you can use it to your advantage because all eyes are on you. And if you exceed past even your own expectations, you can roll the world. You know? I,

[00:29:28] Rodney Veal: I, I love that. And, and one of the things that is that, that, that you talk about that, and, and I’ve been on, I’ve been very lucky and as is to the audience, is that to be in group shows with, with Cedric and.

[00:29:43] And also to have worked in other collaborations at the, at the West Side Library in Dayton, Ohio, which you have an opportunity to see your work publicly. That’s another thing about this, is that you have this really robust career that’s work that’s being sold plus work that’s [00:30:00] being commissioned. And I’m kind of curious, is that, was that, and you, cuz you talked about covid kind of changing everything.

[00:30:07] Have you stepped away from the teaching aspect and totally focused in on art?

[00:30:11] Cedric Michael Cox: You know, I, I, I, I’ve been encouraged many, many years by my wife to, to, to, to just, just focus in and stop teaching. And so what ended up happening when we, when I, I think I came back to school for one year after Covid, and it was just tough.

[00:30:27] It was just tough taking temperatures and, and all that stuff, and it just showing up early. It was just, it was just, it was just, I mean, it’s all about safety and precautions and caring and devotion, and it wasn. Taking temperatures. I mean, there was, there was a lot of formal things that, that, that were starting to just, just burn me out.

[00:30:45] But I think what it was was the fact that I was teaching a curriculum that wasn’t based around my work. You know what I mean? I know it’s, I know it sounds very, you know, egotistical, but I like going in to these [00:31:00] schools as a guest artist. And being able to teach ’em about me and what I do and what I love, and trying to see what we can create together that is inspired by what I normally do in the studio, but taking it another step further because they’ll be working with me even though I could have done that at St.

[00:31:16] Francis and other schools in the full-time. Realm. It’s just exciting. Those short, those short term residencies and opportunities, you know, whether it’s, I’m, I’m gonna start teaching at a teens art class for the Kennedy Heights Art Center. And so I think those opportunities are one I want to gravitate to because, you know, you’re allowed for yourself to do your own work during a day, but at the same time, you’re really honing in on individuals that have a divine in.

[00:31:46] Individual arts, and I think that’s what I’m, what I’m gearing towards, you know ma making sure that I’m surrounding myself with, with like-minded youth that would want to execute and, and, and make [00:32:00] magic happen, you know?

[00:32:02] Rodney Veal: Oh, I love that. I think that’s really cool. And that’s, that’s, that’s part of the reason why I still teach.

[00:32:06] I mean, it’s just, you know, yeah. That there’s, there’s something about that. To being mm-hmm. With that, that, that youthful energy that, that, that willingness to be, To, yes. As you call it, the divine. I think it is the divine. I think it’s, there’s a spiritual capacity to, to art making and, and, and it comes through in your work.

[00:32:27] And it comes, I hope it comes through mine. I, I mean, I, I try, I, I, I really have, as I tell my parents all the time, I have, I. I’ve made this a 24 7 proposition. And so, and I think it is really kind of fu to me, it’s really amazing. Your par parents, they sound exactly like my parents. Were they like, are they, are they one and the same?

[00:32:49] I mean, I mean my, my, when I tell my parents that I was like, I was a visual artist and all of a sudden I’m gonna be a ballet dancer, they were. They kind of just went, okay, if that’s [00:33:00] what you wanna do. Yes. And, you know, so they didn’t see it as odd. And, I mean, and I think that’s important, so. So what would you tell parents?

[00:33:09] Whose children are starting to show that creative spark, that, that, that openness to I, as we call it, the divine. What would you, what would your advice be to parents who have those people in their midst, so to speak?

[00:33:22] Cedric Michael Cox: I would just encourage them even more to I was listening to Terrence Hammonds do a lecture at the Tap Museum of Art, where he has a current exhibition and, and he was talking about how his mom.

[00:33:36] Would partner up with his art teacher at the school Creative Performing Arts in in Cincinnati, Ohio, and actually take him to the art museum and have him write. Artist statements or papers or like book reports about the artist there. And I always thought that was v I mean, when they, when he told me that, I was like, no [00:34:00] wonder he has a real sense of purpose within his work.

[00:34:04] And the, and the, in the sense of the conceptualization of it and being able to put it in writing and put it in words and end up in museums. That’s the kind of devotion I would encourage parents to do if these kids are. Into it. Have them be able to write about it, have them think about the business sense of it, because that having him do a book report is the business sense of it.

[00:34:26] The writing, the proposals, it’s one thing to take an art, additional art lessons and burn your kid out. You know what I mean? Because sometimes you can get arted out, you know what I mean? Oh yeah. But it’s another thing. It’s another thing that, you know to, to, to really also encourage ’em on another level of how you’re gonna promote, how are you gonna brand, how are you gonna market?

[00:34:47] How are you gonna articulate about what you do and how, you know, the language of the arts. So I would just en just become involved if they’re interested in. Just sit down [00:35:00] with them and ask ’em why, have them talk about, why have, you know, just really get invested into it and encourage them to expand that, that, that genre of, of the arts, visual as well as dance.

[00:35:13] I mean, and, and yeah, it’s, it’s very important. They’re gonna have to make their own decisions on how bad they want it, but at the same time They can also just simply not discourage them. That’s the biggest thing. Don’t discourage ’em. I mean, the fact that your parents were like mine in the sense that they just said, yeah, that sounds great.

[00:35:31] Even just saying that makes a world of difference, it probably means more than anything. So I, that’s what I would say just in your response, just be encouraging cuz it, it makes a world of difference.

[00:35:47] Rodney Veal: I love that. And so, I mean, that’s, and I, I, I wholeheartedly agree on that. Yeah, just let ’em, just let ’em be, let them let them kind of, but I love to talk about the language being able to articulate, because [00:36:00] I think a lot of people think that the artistic process is just magic and fairy dust.

[00:36:05] It’s, it’s, it’s thoughtful. Yeah. You know what I’m saying? It’s thoughtful. Consider. And there’s a thoughtful consideration to shape and form the fact that your influences are as wide ranging as music and, and, and African American artists who come before in the abstract realm plus modernist work, plus social contemporary things that are happening in events that are happening in our world.

[00:36:28] And it all comes through in this abstraction and that vibrancy in the work. I mean, it’s there, it’s a subtext are there, and I think that’s what just makes your work so rich. The, the other question I have is because you are a artist who’s been around for two and a half decades, and when I say when you, when you used to use the words marketing and branding, the business of art, I love the fact that you’re unabashedly talking about it.

[00:36:55] Because I think sometimes there’s this tendency to when like, oh no, [00:37:00] I’m the artist in the Garrett. I’m like, wait a minute. I’m like, time out. Time out with this.

[00:37:08] Cedric Michael Cox: Well, its nice.

[00:37:11] Rodney Veal: Yeah. But, but what would you say to these artists who are using that as the thing, like the myth of art making?

[00:37:18] Cedric Michael Cox: It’s like, well, to do whatever goes with your branding.

[00:37:21] I mean, some of these, that, that’s part of their branding and not, not mention it. They have a branding. I mean, and I totally get it, but it, it’s, for me it’s, it’s, it’s to, it’s to, you know, to, to be honest, I, I can’t, I, I was asked by the ta, museum of Art, You know and you can see the response. If you go on Instagram and you’ll see the little interview they asked me as an abstract African-American artist, if I ran into some hesitation or some biased by, you know, from, from.

[00:37:54] From other people, from whether it be my own community or the other community. [00:38:00] And, and one of the things I said in my response, I used the word marketing and I said, you know, I can’t tell you word for word what I said, but I said something like, there are certain expectations as us as African American artists about what we should be creating.

[00:38:14] And knowing that when I decided to decide I was gonna become an artist, I was very conscious of my branding and wanting to make sure that people would respect me, would want me to make art based upon the fact that I was African American. So I was very aware of maybe pursuing that and me using the word branding.

[00:38:33] I’ll, I, I asked my wife, I was like, should I used the word branding? Should I used the word branding? But honestly, that’s the truth. I mean, you, you, you’re out there putting your work in museums. You’re out there putting your work in galleries. You’re out there putting your work in, in these, in, in booths, in these, in these places where you’re retailing your work and, and you’re branding is how you shape [00:39:00] who you are.

[00:39:01] I mean, and it, and it, and it sounds very, it sounds very kind of a commercial. It’s the truth. It’s, it’s just, and it’s another word for presentation, it’s another word for grooming, combing your hair. It’s just the same thing. It’s just, it’s just how you present yourself. Marketing, branding, I don’t know the way to express it.

[00:39:20] You know, you can say your expression, my, my, my what. I’m protruding out. But I, I just, branding. I mean, that’s, that’s all it is. I think we all do things that are important to us based on how we feel, but what we decide to purchase and buy and to put around our bodies, it’s branding. It’s it’s just what it is.

[00:39:39] It’s, it’s, you can change, change it.

[00:39:41] Rodney Veal: And that’s, It and it’s you, you, it, it’s you. When you talk about brand, it’s you. And I love it cuz you used the phrase, you said, it’s the authentic o honest you is the brand. Yeah. So you may be the person who goes, oh no, I don’t, I don’t deal with the business side. I just, [00:40:00] you know.

[00:40:00] That’s great. That’s lovely. That’s who you are.

[00:40:03] Cedric Michael Cox: But don’t, but that’s your branding.

[00:40:04] Rodney Veal: But that’s your branding. Yeah. And, and, and there’s room for everyone’s. I guess it goes to the point of there’s room for everyone’s.

[00:40:13] Cedric Michael Cox: In the Exactly. Exactly. And it’s not one way to

[00:40:17] Rodney Veal: do it.

[00:40:18] Cedric Michael Cox: There isn’t that you, oh, go ahead.

[00:40:22] You gotta be open. You gotta be open. You have to be, you know receptive to other different ideas and thoughts and other ways that others are going to to you know, express themselves. And at the same time, You have to understand that what you have is your own unique thing that you can bring to the table that’s just as important, just as masterful and just as, just as valid.

[00:40:46] Picasso was a master brand master at branding himself. You know Andy Warhol, you know, a lot of, I mean, the, the list goes on of great artists that paint what they feel, but also [00:41:00] know how to. And there’s, and then one thing my professor said, he goes, when art’s in the studio, it’s in the studio. When it be, when it leaves the studio, it’s a business.

[00:41:13] That’s it. That was Terrence Corbin, you know, he was also the professor of Kevin Harris, you know, a friend of ours, and

[00:41:21] Rodney Veal: Oh, yes. Oh, you know, you know, I’m a fan of Kevin, so, yeah, yeah, yeah. Great guy. And so that’s it. That’s ultimately the end of the, that’s the essence of it. It is a business. It’s like dance.

[00:41:32] It’s like I may be in the clouds guards, but it’s an industry. It’s a business. I have to show up prepared to do. Bree vole. I have to show up. Being able to lift a girl and partner a girl in a tutu, I have, you know, that’s the business. Exactly. As soon as you drop her, you are not dancing, you’re not partnering.

[00:41:52] Anyway, let’s put it that way. You’re not partying if you drop her. So you gotta be prepared for it. I love it. I am it. Exactly. So, [00:42:00] Cedric, this has been awesome. I am so glad that people are, are, are hearing your voice and getting to know you because, and I’m saying this to everybody who’s. Go check out his work.

[00:42:10] You will. You will be invigorated and you will sense. Thank you. Yeah. That life is worth living after seeing his work. Amen.

[00:42:21] Cedric Michael Cox: Thank you.