Melvin Nesbitt Jr. grew up with a pencil in his hand, drawing and sketching his way through his childhood. Eventually, he embraced his calling and pursued drawing professionally but quickly gravitated to a different medium. “I thought of making tiny collages as preparatory drawings for my paintings,” he says. “But, once I started, I loved the process and results so much that I haven’t been able to pull myself away from it.”
Now, Nesbitt uses collage to tell stories based on his childhood in a 1980s South Carolina housing project, where he experienced a tight sense of comradery among neighborhood kids. “Living so close to other families meant an almost endless number of playmates and friends,” he says. “It’s a part of our story—of black life in housing projects—that’s often left out.” Despite the trauma and sense of vulnerability that African-American children can experience in these environments, Nesbitt says, “the level of joy that resides within them can be immeasurable.”
Nesbitt begins each of his works with a foundational layer that he builds upon, piece by piece. He views collage-making as a metaphor for his trajectory as an artist. “My life is made up of many different experiences, memories, and influences that I assign meaning to,” he says. “All of those fragments come together to make me the man I am today.”
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