"Spiritual Self-Portrait" is a portrait of the artist by the artist. She has presented herself nude gazing boldly and directly at the viewer not so much challenging, but inviting dialogue. Artis sees this painting as a Spiritual rendering of herself inhabiting a seemingly other worldly space. Only one eye is fully represented reflecting a biblical passage: "If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light." Artis sees this as a representational portrait when she will have achieved her highest spiritual existence in the presence of God. The series of both horizontal and diagonal lines on the surface places a barrier between the subject and the viewer creating a more complex space. The creative use of color both intensely and subtly enhances an already compelling painting.
All my life I have worked on three levels of consciousness: Portraits, Social Injustice & Metaphysics In my work I strive to heal, uplift and inspire viewers and collectors to find perfection in their own being. - Artis Lane
Born Artis Marie Shreve in 1927, near an all-Black village in North Buxton, Ontario, Canada. After three years of art college in Toronto, Canada, Artis moved to Detroit where she met and married journalist and activist Bill Lane.
In Detroit Artis Lane continued her training at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Cranbrook was designed by architect and faculty member, Eliel Saarinen who collaborated with Charles and Ray Eames on chair and furniture design. Numerous creative artists who are alumni of Cranbrook include: Harry Bertoia, Florence Knoll, Jack Lenor Larsen, Donald Lipski, Duane Hanson, Nick Cave, Hani Rashid, George Nelson, Urban Jupena (Nationally recognized fiber artist), Cory Puhlman (televised Pastry Chef extraordinaire), Thom O’Connor (Lithographs), Paul Evans (Brutalist-inspired sculpted metal furnishings), Eugene Caples (small bronze images/abstract), Morris Brose (Bronze Sculptures), Herb Babcock known for blown glass) and Larry Butcher (mixed media abstract artist.)
While in the Motor City she painted and sculpted the portraits of many of the business and political leaders of the day; Governor George Romney, Ford family members and Coleman Young, the Mayor of Detroit. After her divorce, she was invited by Diahann Carroll to move from Detroit to come live in New York City where she met and married, Vince Cannon. They spent time in Texas, Ruidoso, New Mexico and traveled to Mexico City, Mexico to paint many of the prominent families in the region. Eventually she settled in Los Angeles and has recently relocated to Detroit.
Her portrait and sculpture work has depicted dignitaries like Jaqueline Kennedy, Nelson Mandela, Gordon Getty, President Reagan, President Obama, First Ladies, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, Mrs. Walter Annenberg, Nancy Kissinger, including her most recent portrait commissioned by Academy Award winner, Jaime Fox. It’s an elegant painting of Oprah Winfrey, which was unveiled live on her show. Artis Lane has sculpted Don Cornelius, Quincy Jones, Lupita Nyong’o, Lena Horne, Stevie Wonder, and Magic Johnson, and many more.
In the 1970’s, social issues became the next focus of her work, which included “Tear on the Face of America,” her civil rights statement, and “The Beginning,” a now famous painting depicting a young Rosa Parks seated in the fateful bus. Artis was honored by the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC during the installation of her bronze sculpture of civil rights leader and longtime friend, Rosa Parks. In 1999, she was selected to execute and design the Congressional Medal of Honor awarded to Ms. Parks.
“My Civil Rights images led me naturally to ideas about what and who we are outside of race.
I went from there to the most important body of work, the metaphysical images of generic man and generic woman emerging out of the ignorance of material concepts and evolving into spiritual awareness.” Artis Lane.
The bigger challenge was to create art that could symbolize and communicate certain spiritual truths that have guided Lane’s life and creative endeavors for most of her adult years and led to her Metaphysical work. She leaves the workings of the foundry: the gaiting material, ceramic shell mold, etc., (the “birthing” materials of the foundry), on the bronze to symbolize generic man emerging out of material thinking into spiritual consciousness. She then shows the work in pairs… the traditional black patina bronze, with the ceramic shell pieces as a metaphor for the moralistic/materialistic conversations that mankind has wrestled with throughout eternity.
The new millennium brought new challenges and celebrations of her work. At the age of 80, Lane was commissioned to create a 12 ft. bronze of her “Emerging First Man.” The sculpture was created for an 1100 acre private estate community in Atlanta, GA. In 2007, she was honored by The California African American Museum with a retrospective of her life’s work which included almost 100 works of art. In 2009, First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled Lane’s bust of Abolitionist and Suffragette, Sojourner Truth, which was the first African American woman to be installed in the new Emancipation Hall and is now a part of the collection of the United States Capitol.
Ms. Lane’s solo exhibit, “The Art of Artis Lane,” at the Forest Lawn Museum, Glendale, Ca in 2011, brought a thought provoking retrospective of her art to the public including the “Divine Metaphysics” series. Her bust of Arnett Hartsfield, Jr., Pioneering Firefighter & Activist, unveiled at The African American Firefighter Museum in Los Angeles in 2012. The California African American Museum in Los Angeles, mounted a retrospective exhibition entitled “A Woman’s Journey: The Life and Work of Artis Lane” in 2007/2008 and subsequently honored her with its Lifetime Achievement Award. Lane presented an official portrait of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, which was unveiled at City Hall by Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2014. All are merely a few recognition of her achievements over the decades. Lane’s History Makers interview was made a permanent part of the Library of Congress Collection in 2014. Her Artwork is displayed around the world.
Artis has been a constant presence at the openings of her artistic colleagues in the region. As one of the honored “elders,” she provides encouragement and support for the younger African American artists who strive to use their own talents to express visions of social, ethical, and spiritual importance. She is, in short a force of nature whose life and work have graced both her native Canada and her adopted United States.