Portfolio by Cy Gavin

“How does it feel to be a problem? they say, I know an excellent colored man in my town; or, I fought at Mechanicsville; or, Do not these Southern outrages make your blood boil? To the real question, How does it feel to be a problem? I answer seldom a word.

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Cy Gavin. Between Heaven and Earth, 2015. Acrylic, oil, chalk on brushed cotton. All images courtesy of Sargent’s Daughters. Photos by Nicholas Knight.

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Spittal Pond, Bermuda, 2015. Acrylic, oil, chalk, staples on canvas.

“And yet, being a problem is a strange experience,—peculiar even for one who has never been anything else, save perhaps in babyhood and in Europe. It is in the early days of rollicking boyhood that the revelation first bursts upon one, all in a day, as it were. I remember well when the shadow swept across me. I was a little thing, away up in the hills of New England, where the dark Housatonic winds between Hoosac and Taghkanic to the sea. In a wee wooden schoolhouse, something put it into the boys‘ and girls‘ heads to buy gorgeous visiting-cards—ten cents a package—and exchange. The exchange was merry, till one girl, a tall newcomer, refused my card,—refused it peremptorily, with a glance. Then it dawned upon me with a certain suddenness that I was different from the others.

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Untitled, 2015. Acrylic, oil, ink, blood, diamonds, chalk and mica on brushed linen.

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Black, Black, Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair, 2015. Acrylic, oil, chalk on brushed cotton.

“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one‘s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one‘s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”

—W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folks

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Emissary, 2015. Acrylic, oil, chalk, staples on canvas.

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To Matter, 2015. Acrylic, oil, blood, diamonds, chalk on linen.

Cy Gavin was born in Pittsburgh, PA, and lives and works in New York City. He is a 2016 MFA candidate in visual arts at Columbia University. Recent exhibitions include “Overture,” Sargent’s Daughters, New York, NY (2015); “Fugue States,” Revision Space Gallery, PA (2014); and “More Than a Place,” Roman Susan Gallery, Chicago, IL (2014). His work has been featured in ARTNEWS, The New York Times, and Time Out New York, among other publications.

Studio Visit: Cy Gavin by Ryan Chapman
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Eldzier Cortor by Terry Carbone
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“I’m fighting between control and letting nature take its course.”

Studio Visit: Nina Chanel Abney by Osman Can Yerebakan
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“Everything is equally treated.” 

James Little by LeRonn P. Brooks
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“The reward is getting through the tough stuff. And that’s what’s perplexing about the art thing. When I was going to school there were kids that could draw their asses off. There were kids that were better draftsman than me, for certain. But no one was more determined than me.”