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Local Artists Live: Curbie Toles
February 27, 2021; 10:45 AM–11:15 AM CST
Artist Curbie Toles’ compassion for others and his desire to celebrate Black culture does not just inform his art—it resonates through it. How did this artist’s life growing up impact his creative vision and practice? Continue reading to find out, and be sure to tune in to Local Artists Live for Curbie’s feature on Saturday, February 27th at 10:45 AM CT on Instagram.
Originally from “the country,” Curbie’s upbringing allowed him to be outside often, spending time with nature and finding joy in connecting with others during friendly play. The little exposure he did have to television—only one TV in his family’s home had cable connected—was cartoons and, serendipitously, The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross. Curbie’s creative interests were strongly encouraged by his family, with his mom and grandmother hanging artwork on the refrigerator, proud of his accomplishments, and his father requesting drawings of specific things.
Curbie passionately feels that the arts should be accessible to all children. He recalls visiting the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts when he was a student at Brewbaker Primary School. That field trip, he says, has stuck with him all these years, with the hope that his art would someday hang on the walls and be admired. He is aware, however, that not everyone is able to visit museums or see art shows, and he believes that exposure to art should be brought to communities, to be shared with all.
In adulthood, Curbie’s youthful memories of enjoying the outdoors, connecting with friends in meaningful ways, and having access to art, shine through in his life’s work as well as his artistic creations. Curbie is now a Mason, and spends a lot of his time volunteering, helping others, and giving back to the community. Likewise, his paintings often reflect those vivid landscapes he explored growing up, while simultaneously addressing social issues such as domestic violence or celebrating the beauty of African American life.
This program is part of the series:
Meet the Artist
What is your favorite thing about life in the South?
My favorite thing about life in the South would be, compared to bigger states or cities, being in the South allows you to be more close-knit to your family. People in the South are more family-oriented.
Who is an artist with works in the MMFA’s collection that inspire you, and why?
An artist with works in the MMFA’s collection that inspire me is John Kelly Fitzpatrick. His style of art—I really love everything about the designs.
Which piece of art that you have created is your favorite, and why?
My favorite creation would have to be Bubble Fro Queen (pictured right, top). That piece really helped me take my talent to the next level I think. It got people more interested in my work, almost like a coming-out party for me.
Do you have an all-time favorite work of art, and have you seen it in person? If you have, how did you feel in that moment?
I do not have an all-time favorite.
Tell us about your most preferred place to be on Earth. What role, if any, has the energy of that place helped shape you as an artist?
My preferred place to be on Earth is in New York. I’ve visited there twice and I must say, the bright lights really do inspire you. It’s a different feeling; fun and energetic.
What drives your creativity? What drives me?
That’s a tough question because the want, the urge to be recognized for my work is strong. The urge to improve and hopefully become a full-time artist or to work in a museum is a life goal. Things took a turn for me on July 6, 2020. One of my best friends was killed due to domestic violence. She was inspiring to me, [she was] goal-driven and would always tell me to branch out—that my work is good enough for profit. She wanted me to see where it would take me and really put effort into becoming a full-time artist. So every step forward I take now is in her name, and her name is Tanisha Pughsley. (An artwork to honor Tanisha and bring awareness to domestic violence is pictured right, bottom)
What is your preferred medium?
I don’t really have a preferred medium, I like exploring new things or whatever will work best for what I’m doing at that time.
Do you listen to any particular music when you create?
Not really music. Most of the time I watch youtube or anime when I’m creating.
What advice would you give to beginning artists?
My advice to other artists would be to feel free to be yourself. Your work will never be exactly like someone else’s, so take what you do best and perfect that, and your work will be 100x greater.
What actions might we take in the state of Alabama to grow our appreciation of art and encourage creativity in our youth and for the future?
The actions I would take would be to have more public events in schools or boys and girls clubs to inspire young artists’ minds who may never visit a museum or public art showing. Bring the art to them and donate supplies to help them jump start their careers!